Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fathers in Fiction

When it comes to Father’s Day, a common “Dad icon” the media looks for are the dads we see on television. Mike Brady, Ward Cleaver, Al Bundy, Archie Bunker, Steven Keaton, Cliff Huxtable, Sheriff Andy Taylor, Howard Cunningham, Jason Seaver, Charles Ingalls, Homer Simpson and Danny Tanner. But what about the dads we read about in novels? There may not be a lot we remember, but there are many fathers in fiction I think are worth mentioning.

One father in fiction that stands out is Atticus Finch, the widowed father of two children in To Kill a Mockingbird. I love this novel and I can still remember how Scout’s father often patiently and lovingly talked to his children about the things they were going through and especially the things going on in their lives. The children tried to understand the reasoning behind the hatred spewed at a black man put on trial, and I thought Lee’s portrayal of Atticus during his role as a lawyer and as a loving father were straight on.

Another father in fiction I liked reading about was Denny Swift in Garth Stein’s unforgettable novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain. Denny is an up-and-coming race car driver, and after his wife dies, his in-laws fight him for custody of his little girl. I had to admire the mature and intelligent way Denny handles this situation, even going so far as to encourage his daughter to stay with his in-laws so there won’t be any conflicts while custody rights are being handled in court. I was impressed with how he handles himself even after his in-laws set him up for a sex crime, all in their attempt to make him look like an unfit father in court.

In The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, Padraic “Paddy” Cleary is the firm, loving and hostile father all wrapped into one. The one thing I remember from this novel (and the made-for-TV movie) is the hostility between him and his adopted son, Frank. (Frank doesn’t know Padraic is not his real father until later in the story.) Despite his flaws, Padraic works hard to support his family and keep his family together during hard times.

It’s not just dads who became fathers the usual way I enjoyed reading about in fiction, though. There are the men who became dads after marrying a woman who already has either a child or children. Take, for example, Bernard Fine, in Danielle Steel’s novel, Fine Things. Bernard is enchanted by a little girl and falls in love with the child’s mother, Liz, who is recently divorced. The two marry and welcome another child into their small family, but tragedy strikes when Liz is diagnosed with cancer and later dies, leaving Bernard to care for the two children himself. Even though Bernard does seek out another wife, he is still a devoted father to the children, even taking the time to talk with his daughter who is angry that her mother is being “replaced.”

These are just some of the dads who come to mind when I think about fathers in fiction. There are also the dads in books I have had the privilege of reviewing: Howard Walters, the comically paranoid former NASA-man in Leanna Ellis’ Once in a Blue Moon; Joe Tucker i
n Carla Stewart’s novel, Chasing Lilacs, who calls his daughter, Sammie, “Sis” and struggles to keep the status quo in his home despite Sammie’s mother suffering from aLink severe case of depression; and Michael Seymour, the wise and gentle father in Lisa Samson’s novel, Resurrection in May, who acquiesces to his college-age daughter’s insistence on staying at Claudius’ farm after surviving a horrible ordeal in Rwanda (can’t say I don’t blame him, given his wife’s failing health and his need to care for her more than his daughter).

I especially think about fathers in fiction on this Father’s Day because, at this point, I am editing the last part of my novel, Shadow of Samhain. I think of how two fathers are portrayed in this story: Pearsons Ratham, the father of my main character, Malissa, and Dean Charleston, Malissa’s husband. I modeled Pearsons after my own father and Dean after my own husband. (They are NOT exact replicas, however. These characters just have bits and pieces of these two men in my life. I thought that, given this novel is based on actual events in my own life, it was appropriate to do so.) I am especially thoughtful about this given the part I am at now, where I had to go online and ask a bunch of dads, “What would you do if your daughter was missing and you suspected a psychic had kidnapped her?” Quite a few dads replied on how they would react and what kind of actions they would take. This contributed to how I ended up writing that scene (thanks, dads!) but I had to really wonder over how these dads sounded VERY protective of their daughters and some of them even said they’d get medieval with the psychic if they suspected the woman had harmed their child. I know we parents must set good examples for our children and try to live a life free of violence, but I could really see how, when it came to protecting one of their own, these dads were ready to roll up their sleeves and physically fight for their families.

Thanks, real-life dads, for stepping up and doing what dads are supposed to do for their homes and families. Thanks, TV dads, for making us viewers take a moment to thank the good Lord we don’t have a goofy dad like that or appreciate how our own dads were patient, whimsical and understanding like that. And thanks, fictional dads, for helping us readers analyze how your portrayal in fiction shapes our views and expectations of fatherhood, and how some fathers out there can reflect on just the kind of dad they, too, want to be.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

This "book review blogger" thing

Several years ago, when I was reviewing books for Crescent Blues E-Magazine, I started communicating with an author named Irene Watson. I wrote up a review of her book, The Sitting Swing, yet unfortunately Crescent Blues ceased publication before her review was posted. Irene and I kept tabs ever since and I’ve been a reader of her Reader Views newsletter for quite some time.

Her most recent editorial in Reader Views concerns book review bloggers. Being one myself, I read it with interest.

She pointed out how some authors should
do some background checks on book review bloggers who ask for free copies of books to review. I totally agree with this suggestion. As an author myself, I’ve heard from people saying “I’ll post a review of your book on my blog if you send me a copy!” but that never happened, even months after I sent them the books. At that time, I didn’t check out these so-called “reviewers.” I just said “sure!” and sent them a copy. Then I heard nothing.

However, ever since I started being a little more careful with which reviewers I send books to, I have actually seen results. I normally ship a copy of my new books to my friend and fellow reviewer, Carolyn Howard-Johnson. She reviews books for MyShelf.com and has a newsletter. A title of mine has been mentioned in her newsletter a time or two. And I have done reciprocal reviews with other authors I know.

But for those who I don’t know, yes, I have looked at their sites. I have seen if they post their reviews elsewhere. If things don’t add up, it’s a good idea to pass on sending those people a review copy.

I must note that, as a book review blogger, I never ask for free copies of books. Sure, I receive some voluntarily from people I have networked with in the past. Peter Bowerman has me on his mailing list just for this reason. And sometimes authors on Twitter who see my tweeted links of books I have reviewed ask me if I’ll review their books. But I don’t go around telling authors, “I’m a book review blogger! Send me free copies of your books!” I don’t do this because my own book review blog is just a hobby. Something I do in my spare time. I don’t make it a “side thing,” which is why I don’t use SEO as a way to attract followers. Sure, I post the links of reviews on Twitter and Facebook, but I’m not DESPERATE for an audience. Also, I may take a while to read a book, because I already review books for Night Owl Reviews and The Dabbling Mum where I DO have deadlines, so I don’t want to get angry emails from impatient authors wanting to know where my review of their book is at.

As to reposting reviews on Amazon and B&N, to be honest, I hadn’t thought of it. I think I should start doing that. Wouldn’t hurt. I used to do that on Amazon, with books I bought from there, but stopped after I created the book review blog. Now my reviews go there. But maybe they should go elsewhere, too. If it’s allowed, anyway. I inform authors who have personally contacted me when the review is up and I give them all the green light to repost my reviews of their books on their sites, blogs, etc., as long as they include the link. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to do the same on Amazon and B&N.

This journey as a book review blogger has been a learning experience. Perhaps someday I’ll start using SEO. Perhaps someday I’ll get around to spiffying up my book review blog to make it appear more professional. Perhaps someday it will become a side thing, rather than a hobby. And I can open the doors to more authors getting reviews by inviting them to send along their review copies. But until then, this book review blogger is going to use her blog only as an outlet for sharing my thoughts on books and indulging in my joy of reading books at leisure.

Here is the link to my book review blog and more book reviews.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Payment due

Ah, one of the downsides of being a working writer. You put in the work that you are under contract for and, come payday, dutifully send an invoice to your editor or client. You get ready to take on more work for that client, or you plan new article pitches to send to that editor, until everything comes to a screeching halt because said editor or client has an issue about paying you for your work. Or, they can’t possibly understand how in the world they owe you what your invoice says they owe you. You haven’t been working for them that long. Or doing that much work. But, oh, could you please do this extra work for me while we sort this silly “payment” business out?

Um, what?

Yes, the idea seems a little crazy. An editor or client expecting you to do more work for them while the money they owe you is still up in the air. But this is something I have had to deal with in the not-too-distant past.

And I have one firm policy in handling such a situation: No more work until what is owed is paid up.

Believe me, I’ve dealt with deadbeats in the past. I have had too many experiences of NOT being paid for my work to have anymore patience for more such experiences. As an attempt to avoid these situations, I made it a policy to NEVER work without a contract.

But a contract won’t keep away the nonpaying editors and clients. Which is why I have a second policy in force: All future work ceases until previous work has been paid for. I don’t care when your meeting is or when you have to have something out. The issue of payment for work performed must be resolved first.

Thankfully, I have not had to deal with a nonpaying editor or client recently. Just someone who took issue with how much was owed. And while that matter was being worked out, this particular person wanted me to do some MORE work. I made it clear that I would be happy to take on some more work, but only AFTER previous work was paid for.

Working writers and freelance editors need to do what they must in order to avoid the headaches of deadbeat editors and clients. And they must be firm with those people who see something wrong with an HONEST and AGREED-UPON fee that is the sum total of all previous work performed. Shying away from trouble and avoiding conflicts by relenting to a lower fee or forgetting about what is owed for an article only sets the writer or editor up for more of this kind of treatment. Don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of like that.

Be firm about getting paid for the work you have done. Remind the editor or client about the terms in the contract and state that all future work ceases until the matter is resolved. If they respect your work enough (and value their reputation as an editor or professional), they will be willing to honor the invoice and pay what is owed. But if not, then it’s time to move on.

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