If story lacks tension, add some wiggle to it

I’m learning a lot about tension as a wanna-be fiction writer. Most all of my mentors, i.e. people who have been “published,” tell me I should keep my readers on the edge of wherever they’re sitting if I wish to hold their attention.

“You need tension in every sentence,” Elizabeth Engstrom reminded Willamette Writers members in Eugene, Oregon, during a March meeting.  She is a fiction author and a board member of wordcrafters in Eugene, a literary community. “You want the reader to worry about the protagonist’s challenges,” she said during her presentation.

I realized that the novel I had just written needed an infusion of tension. That meant rewriting. Dang it. I hate to rewrite. It’s like going to the dentist to have your teeth cleaned.

This wake-up call led me to rewrite sections of “Deadlines,” a romance novel set in Oregon during the 1950s. For example, I realized that my protagonist’s experience in driving a car from Kansas City to Central Oregon read like a ho-hum travelogue.

So, I added a bit of tension.

As he nears Denver, Andy recalls the fishing trips he and his father took to western Colorado during the past decade. One trip, however, remains forever etched in his memory because of his fear of rattlesnakes.

HAPPY SNAKEWhile picking his way along a narrow path between the river and a towering rock cliff, something made a buzzing sound on the rocks above his head. Instinctively, he jumped. Seconds later he found himself treading water while holding his fishing rod overhead. It was a story oft told around the table during festive occasions in his Kansas City home.

I chose the fear of rattlesnakes not only because I don’t care to meet Continue reading If story lacks tension, add some wiggle to it


As forest fires race across the Pacific Northwest, I am reminded of the summer of 1949.

I had just finished my undergraduate study in Missouri and traveled to Montana to work with the U.S. Forest Service.

A crew of mostly college guys spent much of the time stacking limbs cut imagesfrom pine trees that had been harvested for lumber. The piles of brush would then be burned during the winter.

We also were responsible for fighting forest fires. As a result, we never were given time off to travel 25 miles from a former CCC camp to Libby, Montana, for some R&R. Life became rather routine and monotonous.

That changed when the crew of two dozen men was sent to fight a forest fire. Unfortunately, we had little training and no protective gear other than the GI jackets, caps and blue jeans that most of us wore on the job during the day.

Fortunately, we spent most of our time cleaning up mountain fires controlled by smoke jumpers. Fortunately, that is, until we piled out Continue reading A FIERY SUMMER INITIATION WORKING IN NORTHWEST


I just completed writing a book of advice for my great-grandchildren. The problem wasn’t in the writing. It’s about finding a publisher.

Oh, sure, I could self-publish another book, but this one needs some help. Illustrations, for example. If my nine great-grandchildren wereNEW_MAN SMILING old and skilled enough, I would assign the work to them. They might find it fun.

The book also should be in a larger format than the traditional 6×9, and it should be hard-cover. Maybe published in time for the Christmas sales rush. At this point, however, it wouldn’t be Christmas this year, but probably sometime after I have wandered off into the sunset, met my maker, etc.

I like the book because I had fun writing it. All 43 chapters, each in the 500-word range. Publishers like symmetry. I like that length, too, Continue reading YOUR ADVICE FINDING PUBLISHER WELCOMED


The Speed Graphic camera sat on a shelf near where I was being interviewed for a weekly newspaper job in 1954. I had traveled new SPEED GRAPHIC imagemore than 1,500 miles from Missouri to Oregon with my wife and two small children, and I needed the job.

The interview with the publisher and print shop foreman dragged on and on, and I could tell they weren’t convinced that I could be successful despite my experience of editing four weekly newspapers and six years of college during which I specialized in journalism.

Even though I was 25 years old, I looked like I was 18, which I blamed on an inherited “young” gene.

On a whim, I stood, walked to the shelf, took down the Speed Graphic, named the parts as I field-stripped and reassembled the camera. “This is a good camera,” I said.

I was offered the job a few minutes later.

I was introduced to photography a few years earlier because I needed a class — any class — to fill my semester requirements at the University of Missouri. I ended up in Cliff Edom’s beginning Continue reading SPEED GRAPHIC CAMERA HELPED CLINCH THE DEAL

Author Critical of How Clintons Became Rich

By Dean Rea

Track the money is the cornerstone function of journalists who perform the watchdog role of government as members of the Fourth Estate.

Peter Schweizer assumes that role in his new book, “Clinton Cash, The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Amazon Book CoverBusinesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” especially while Hillary made her first run for the presidency and later while she served as secretary of state.

Two things are at issue: The Clinton Foundation, a charitable organization, which was formed after Bill completed his presidential term, and Bill’s payment for speeches he has made since Hillary’s ascendancy in public office.

The Clinton Foundation raises money for charitable work around the world and deals with such issues as economic development, climate change, health and wellness, especially in combating AIDS worldwide. Bill, Hillary and their daughter Chelsea are officers. Schweizer contends that it is difficult — often impossible — to learn how the money is allocated and spent.

Claims of questionable ethical practices have been rebutted by Hillary and other sources, who contend that her actions as a public official always have been in the best interests of the country. Other critics of the book contend that much of the research was “sloppy” and many of the statements in the book are inaccurate.

As Hillary begins her second quest to become president of the United States, every citizen should consider reading Continue reading Author Critical of How Clintons Became Rich