Monday, April 23, 2012

Myth of the Golden Woman

Chances are you’ve heard of the elusive Golden Woman. Or, perhaps you have not. Either way, questions remain. Who was she? A pioneer? The fashionista of her day? Maybe a goddess? The fact is there is little known about the urban legend that is Golden Woman.
            There is one who claims to “know” her. This person, who wishes to remain anonymous to the point that even sex cannot be revealed, will be referred to henceforth as Terry. Terry claims to be an ancestor of an ancestor who was extremely close to the family of the neighbor to the legendary Golden Woman. You can imagine the excitement of the Gold Man Review team…a window to her soul?

GMR: Who was she?
Terry: She lived, she breathed, she existed.

            Okay, so that’s a bit ambiguous.

GMR: Why the mysterious answer? Do you know who she was or don’t you? Do you have photos? When did she live? How did she die?
Terry: I’m afraid I can only answer one question at a time. And if you knew the story behind her existence and death, you would understand why she still haunts Salem and why my answers lack clarity.

            Okay. So this guy… or gal… could be a politician.

GMR: What is the story of her existence and death?
Terry: I’m not at liberty to say.
GMR: You called me. How can you not be at liberty to say?
Terry: The truth must come with understanding.
GMR: Right. You could tell me but then you’d have to kill me, is that it?
Terry: I’m afraid I don’t understand the reference.

            Of course not. Perhaps politician isn’t the right description. Can you say loner, misfit… ahh, serial killer?

GMR: Let’s step back. Why did you call me?
Terry: You had questions. I called. <Long pause>
GMR:  But you’ve yet to answer any questions.
Terry: I’m sorry you feel that way.

            Okay, a different approach…

GMR: What question should I ask to gain truth and understanding?
Terry: <Nods> Now you’re asking the right questions.
GMR: Thank you. <Again, long pause> You haven’t answered the question.
Terry: Haven’t I?
GMR: No, not at all.
Terry: I answered the question you were really asking.
GMR: Which was what?
Terry: <Head shake>
GMR: What can you openly tell me about Golden Woman?
Terry: She existed, she still exists, and you have to open the eyes of your mind to truly see her.

            That pretty much concluded the interview.

Learn more about Marilyn Ebbs at Marilyn Ebbs's Page.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Breaking into a Gallop (a.k.a. manipulating dialogue.)

I write a story. It has a great plot, complex characters, punchy dialogue, and a captivating setting and it puts my critique group to sleep. It plods. After they awaken, between the sounds of deep sighs and stifled yawns, I hear their comments, “it’s coming along,” or “keep up the good work,” or “interesting” (ha. Interesting. A euphemism for I’m trying to think of something positive to say). Red-flag words for “boring.”

No matter how well one writes or how engaging their characters and plot, if it plods, it fails to engage the reader, and leaves the writer wondering why.

The question becomes, I believe, how to write in a way that pulls the reader in and incites the reader to relate to the characters conflict and plot in such a way that she not only wants to finish the story, but is also satisfied with the read.

Part of my writing MFA program involves reading a variety of fiction and analyzing the various techniques writers have used to make their stories “work.” My initial reaction to this aspect of the program was why? And, so what? And what does that have to do with me? The answer is that reading good literature and studying what works and why, is a proven way of improving one’s own writing.

Sandy McDow is a new Editor to the Gold Man Team. Keep checking back for more from Sandy and the rest of the GMR team. Also, check out to learn more about Sandy McDow and the mission of GMR.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Self-publishing is not new. After several companies who made print-on-demand substantially cheaper, self-publishing has seen an increase in popularity since the 1990’s. In addition, the popularity of the Kindle, Nook, and iPad, has made eBooks more desirable and also decreased the price for a self-publisher to distribute his or her product. For the next several weeks, I will provide several important factors for readers interested in self-publishing.

Editing: With a little bit of willpower and forward thinking anyone can complete the tasks of a publishing company. Primarily, proper editing is fundamental to be taken seriously. This doesn’t mean having your mom read your work; she will not give you the critical aspects you will need to make your work perfect. Unfortunately, this service is not free. However, there are hundreds of companies and independent contractors who can provide the independent and unbiased opinion and editing of your work.

Critique groups: There are a number of critique groups in most towns and cities. Just show up with sections of your work and have the group edit your work for free. Most groups are free and open to the public.

Distribution and sales: Remember that the companies that will help you edit, print, and distribute your book will have their fees upfront, before you even sell your first copy. Unlike the traditional publishing company, that pays the costs upfront for you to later collect through book sales. You are paying to set up your own print distribution, which is surprisingly cheaper than would be expected.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Perspective of Distance by Sam Hall

I recently finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett, her best-selling novel about three women whose lives are intertwined on both sides of the racial divide during the 1960s. Perhaps you’ve seen the movie or read the book.

The author, who grew up in Jackson, MS tells us in an afterword that she wrote the story while living in New York. She said it was probably “easier than writing it in Mississippi, staring in the face of it all.” She said “the distance added perspective.”

Ms. Stockett’s departure from her home to better see the story was probably a good move. That idea made me reflect on the concepts of connection, of family, of belonging. I believe connection—to places and persons—is a universal need, almost as essential as the air we breathe. Without some kind of relationship, we lack the ability to understand and measure the worth of our efforts, our goals, or even ourselves. This is the talk of a country boy and that is what I am.

I’ve probably made 50 or more trips from my home in Oregon to go back to western Oklahoma to visit my family. Each time, my pulse quickens when I spread the strands of a barbed wire pasture fence and wiggle through to meander across the rolling prairie. Memories, compelling and almost sacred, stir at the call of a meadow lark. The smell of sagebrush tells me I belong there. I am at peace. I feel an immediate connection. Wordless, my brothers and I are bonded anew by our common appreciation for place—the place of wind and temperature extremes beneath the cloudless bowl of heaven.

As a writer, I gain perspective by having gone away and then returning.
There are many things that might stimulate human connection and sense of belonging. Certainly, family and friends are the most common sources for relationship. For you, it might be culture. One website I ran across appeals to Arizona retirees of Dutch ancestry.

Besides economic strata, worldview, a shared faith, similar positions on hot-button topics (think NRA or social issues), your elementary school or college, hobbies, and meshing personalities, which of the following might define the deepest connections of your protagonist—or even of yourself?

--shared hardships
--fighting for the same cause
--a shared history
--mutual accountability
--a common enemy
--a common savior
--mutual recognition of each other’s value to the other’s wellbeing
--relationship between rescuer and the rescued
--survivors of a collective oppression
--sharing the same roots
--shared secrets
--intellectual equality/challenge
--membership in an exclusive organization or social group
--mutual trust and/or admiration
--shared life objectives
--acceptance by a group
--steadfast support from writing group, neighbors, church or family
--you’ve sacrificed for one another
--or perhaps even been partners in a risky or illegal activity...

We are all different, yet so alike. Let us remove our masks and pause to look fully into one another’s souls.

Samuel Hall is an editor for Gold Man Review. To read more about Samuel Hall go to Samuel Hall's Page.