Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Laughing George: A Triangle of Blessings: Amish, Writing, and Reade...: A guest post from Sarah Price I was first introduced to the Amish when I was only eight years old. It was my grandparents who took m...
Monday, 10 September 2012
I would like to extend a warm welcome Gay Balliet to my blog. Without further ado I will hand you over.
Hi, friends. My name is Gay Balliet. As a guest blogger for Taylor Sky today, I have my own version of an African-sun adventure. It’s an excerpt about Sonny, an elephant stolen from the jungle and cruelly enslaved into several traveling circuses in the United States. Sonny is a character from my yet unpublished manuscript The Celebrated Pet: How Americans Memorialize Their Animal Friends.
I write creative narrative nonfiction about animals and veterinary adventures for adults and young adults. My first book, published by New Horizon Press in 1999, is entitled Touched By All Creatures: Doctoring Animals in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Then, Lowell: The True Story of an Existential Pig, a story about pot-bellied pigs, came out in 2000. In 2004, RDR Books put out Lions & Tigers & Mares—Oh, My! Pet and animal lovers laugh out loud as they read about veterinary medicine, a la James Herriot, in the fields and barnyards of the Pennsylvania countryside.
My latest tome is in ebook form with Trestle Press Publishing: There’s a Bear in the Basement- Vol. 1. Find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and upload it to any ebook device. In a few days There’s a Bear in the Basement—Vol. II will be out: more stories of tending horses, turkeys, sheep, cats and dogs in the small towns and fields of eastern Pennsylvania.
The following is an excerpt from the story of Sonny’s kidnapping from his African home:
The killing of Sonny’s elephant herd in Zimbabwe in 1983 resulted in the annihilation of his family and his sense of security. In the settling dust along the river’s edge where the grand animals had been grazing one afternoon, eighty adult elephants, some shot through the head, others wounded in their legs and bellies, lay slowly dying. The African bush glowed with fire-blood, and the river frothed tomato-red. Though mortally wounded, a handful of bull elephants still struggled to rise in a last attempt to defend the youngsters. Sitting on their haunches, blood streaming down their sides, they trumpeted in weak but insistent voices as other adult elephants shot in the throat and chest lay fighting for breath, barely able to answer the yearlings’ calls for help. Most of those eighty adults had been luckier than those expiring by the river’s edge, for the humans’ aim had hit their targets well. Shot in the heart or brain, most had dropped--stone dead--Sonny’s mother and many of his aunts among them.
While the year-old elephant struggled to make sense of the chaos around him, the second phase of the attack began. After the adult elephants had been eradicated, hundreds of two-legged creatures ran, yelling, jumping, and spitting like hyenas at the forty scared young elephants. They leapt and charged Sonny and his brothers and sisters with an arsenal of hooks, spears, heavy chains, and ropes the diameter of grape vines. Sonny feared this enemy more than those of the African bush. Though he had never liked the lionesses as they eased, slinking, past his herd, their eyes watching intently for the sick amongst them, he knew they were seldom a threat. Circling around him and the other yearlings, the adults, especially his mom and aunts, of which he had ten, had only to stomp their feet at the lioness and trumpet a warning. Then she crawled away in search of easier prey.
The predator that had Sonny’s legs tied with heavy ropes was nothing like the lioness. Unlike the solitary, hungry feline, these things killed in packs, like the wild dogs in the bush. They maimed in large numbers--more lethal than a single large cat on the hunt. And these comparatively small but agile creatures wielded weapons he had never seen before; their tools as sharp as the tip of a split branch, and when he got in its way, his skin ripped as easily as an elephant tearing a limb from an acacia tree. When Sonny charged one of the two-legs, it flung something at him, and a shock of pain rippled along his back: a deep gash in his trunk gaped like a hippos’ mouth, and it leaked blood onto his front feet.
These small nimble creatures, mostly black, some white, also knew how to use big moving steel things the size of Sonny himself. Four round black things under each box, rolled, turned, and moved the steel compartments on top in any direction. Those boxes could move as slow as a sick, elderly antelope, or they could dart as fast as a cheetah. They were nightmarish--those walking, rolling vaults--and they slowly crowded him and his cousins, surrounding him, pressing them, into a tight circle.
Sonny leaned against the other young, panic-stricken elephants. At least they had each other. But Sonny longed for his mother. She had always defended him against the other ill-tempered bull elephants and charged hungry lionesses. Where was his she? Why wasn’t his mother helping him?
The yearlings, pressed together, trumpeted balefully; some fell to the ground gasping, their trunks limp with exhaustion, and tears streamed down their skin-cracks. This wily predator was tenacious. Soon the baby elephants’ calls slowed, weakened. Defenseless without their elders, they massed together as one—alone and without any will to fight. As the baby elephants leaned into each other, rigid with fear, the two-legged enemies disappeared inside their boxes—silent and staring with piercing white eyes.
In two hours the young elephants found themselves huddled together inside those same dark containers, four elephants to each of the caravan’s ten boxes. As each dark cave began to move, Sonny and the other yearlings braced themselves against its unforgiving metal sides. For what seemed like days, the terrified animals hunched together to keep from falling, leaning against each other for balance as well as for courage. The only sound was the rattling of steel beneath them and, inside, the gentle weeping of the elephants.
I hope all those who read and enjoy Taylor Sky’s African-themed novels will find time to explore my animal adventure books, too. Thanks.
Please visit and share: website: www.gayballiet.com
Sunday, 2 September 2012
What and who influenced you to become a writer?
I was raised by a mother who was a TV writer and was always surrounded by TV scripts and tons of novels. So, I was mostly influenced by all the great authors I had the joy to read while growing up. During my teen years I read a lot of Ray Bradbury and I fell (and hope) his writing helped shape mine to come. I didn’t think of becoming “a writer” until I was about thirty and had an idea for a novel. Once I wrote that first novel I realized I really loved that form over the poetry and short stories I’d written and so just kept going.
Tell us about your very first novel and the process you used to write it.
Interesting—I’ve never been asked that question. I didn’t have a lot of “formal” training—meaning I hadn’t gone to writers’ conferences or read books on the writing craft so I winged it and relied on the models I found through my own reading experience. I wrote a lot of notes and ideas, and really, my methods going into novel #13 are not all that different. I brainstorm a lot to develop plot and characters and once I have the story down, I start writing. I did that with my first novel as well, although it’s structured so badly and has so much narrative and a lot of personal exposition that I will never publish it!
Has your process changed or evolved over the years?
On that same note, now that I know so much more about structuring a novel, I take the next step after brainstorming ideas in a much more structured manner. I usually create charts, timelines, and index cards for all my scenes and put the whole (or a god part) of the novel down in a way that I can just pick up an index card and write my scene for the day, knowing the book has been well plotted out.
I’ve been browsing your website and you are a very busy woman. Writing, editing, mentoring, guest speaking! How do you find the time for everything?
I don’t. And I often feel like I get little done! I don’t have any kids at home, only a pesky dog, so I do have more time, and I’m disciplined—get up at 6, run two miles, do an hour of email and marketing, then dig in to my editing jobs. I edit mostly full-time, and I try to teach workshops and help other writers as much as I can. I believe in giving and helping and doing what I can to see other writers succeed. It’s very satisfying. But I have no time to write!
I see that you’re also a writing coach. What does a writing coach do? What are the benefits of working with a writing coach?
I wish I’d had one 25 years ago when I started my first novel. A writing coach teaches you lots of tips and technique to save you years of making stupid mistakes. One client told me he learned more from my four-page sample edit than he learned in four years of college English and writing classes. I am very encouraging to my clients but I’m honest and make them work hard to make their book the best it can be. Many of my clients have gone on to get agents, publishing contracts, awards, and movie deals. I highly encourage new writers to have a writing coach or editor to help them—preferably a published novelist, if they are working on a novel. Many editors and coaches don’t write fiction or don’t really know much about structuring a novel.
When you’re not working on your own projects, what genre do you read?
I love fantasy and sci-fi. I love good contemporary fiction of all kinds. I try to read a lot of highly touted best sellers to see why they are so successful. I like mysteries and crime/thrillers. I will even read an occasional Western. I do not, however, read romance or chick lit or anything overly fluffy. I like to be affected, changed, moved, inspired by what I read. I mostly read what friends recommend to me. I’m very picky and a snob, I’ll admit, for there are not a whole lot of authors or books I like, and I often can’t get past the first chapter, or even the first page sometimes. I also hate seeing tons of copy errors!
What are you looking forward to in the next year? (New projects? Speaking engagements? Conferences?)
List of Books/Genre:
Someone to Blame: contemporary/general fiction/inspirational
Intended for Harm: contemporary/general fiction/inspirational
Conundrum: contemporary/general fiction/women’s fiction
Innocent Little Crimes: psychological mystery
A Thin Film of Lies: suspense/crime fiction
Time Sniffers: YA fantasy/sci-fi/romance
The Gates of Heaven fantasy series (for adults):
The Wolf of Tebron
The Map across Time
The Land of Darkness
The Unraveling of Wentwater