Write what you know. I know me and I'm talking to you, reader, in the first person, not the anonymous third person, because when I write I write about me and the world that thrives around me.
I wrote decent poetry in college, I couldn’t get the hang of short stories. I finished my first novel so many years ago writers were still sending their works to publishers instead of agents. My first novel was rejected by everyone I sent it to. The most useful rejection, by a Miss Kelly at Little, Brown, said something like this: “You write beautifully, but you don’t know how to tell a story.” Since then I've concentrated on learning to tell a good story. The writing isn’t quite so beautiful but it will do.
Life intervened. Like the typical Berkeley graduate, I went through five careers and three marriages. Since the last I've been writing like there’s no tomorrow. I have turned out twelve novels, a smattering of short stories and a little poetry. My latest novel is the third in a series about a man who is not my alter ego, he’s pure fiction, but everyone he interacts with, including the women, are me. My title for this trilogy is The Libertine.
Writers who have influenced me include Thomas Mann, Elmore Leonard, Albert Camus, Graham Greene, Kurt Vonnegut and Willa Cather. I don’t write like any of them, but I wish I did.
I'm currently gearing up to pay attention to marketing. Archery isn’t complete if there’s no target. I've neglected readers because I've been compulsive about putting words down on paper.
Today the balance shifts.
on July 16, 2011 :
Since you are reading this review on Smashwords, you like me, are partaking in the ancient art of storytelling in the most modern format. So, I expect like me, stunned will be an apt description of how you feel when you scroll down to the last line. It never occurred to me before how profound a difference the format on line presentation makes. Without a book weighing in my hand, I had no clue I was at the end. I wanted to shout at the screen, “Tell me more!” Thus, again, Angus Brownfield proves his mastery with the stroke of the pen; or in our modern era, the keyboard.
In my undergraduate studies, I worked in the animal research labs studying nutrition. These were the labs that helped answer the question of how to re-feed the millions of starving who survived WWII. There were some things you could not do to conscientious objectors. I knew the eventual fate of the animals and at night the images would haunt my dreams, but our work went on. This was long before PETA.
Brownfield takes the experimental mice, mixes them with a well intentioned researcher who inserts human genes, first to give them thumbs, then to give them speech. But, much like the Gary Larson cartoon where confused white coated scientists stand next to a chalk board on which the phrase, “Hablo Espanol?” is written over and over again while dolphins try to communicate with them from a near by pool, our esteemed researcher fails to understand her success and orders the now verbal mice destroyed. The “Great Escape” becomes part of their oral history.
In our evolution, no one could predict when the first human visualized a wheel or when the first marriage ceremony was sanctified. Among our intelligent mice, who would know when emotions would emerge, so powerful that they would cause one very special mouse, Dorothy, to break the “Prime Directive” and expose the species to the destruction they escaped so perilously generations before. Dorothy tells the story of her tribe, in heavily accented English the first generations learned from the Scottish lab assistant whose empathy set them free. She moves beyond most of her kin by learning to operate the computer and even how to read handwriting in her quest to understand their beginnings and their fate. What would Homo Sapiens do if they learned another species shared their two most distinguishing evolutionary features: the opposable thumb and language?
That I could be spell bound by this talking mouse and empathize with her struggles, reiterates Brownfield’s skill in dialogue and character development. Pool of Tears is a total deviation from any of Brownfield’s other works, some of which I have previously reviewed on this site. There is a short period when the comings and going of all the creatures is a little confusing, but it is worth scrolling down. The action quickly picks back up. You might find comfort when you get over being stunned; as in an end note Brownfield announces that book two is ready for publication. I eagerly await it.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on July 13, 2011 :
Angus Brownfield, one of the more versatile writers to emerge in this eBook revolution, has done it again. “Pool of Tears,” a literary fantasy novel, tracks the adventures of a clan of talking, reasoning mice—for your willing suspension of disbelief, say “gene spliced mice”—whose life paths force their interactions with certain humans: good, evil, ambitious and just plain nutty.
Our mice-friends, who live in the recently established colony known as Subdivision, derive their Scottish accent and their broader cosmology from an almost religious oracle, “teevee,” which is surreptitiously viewed in the homes of their human hosts. Language is reason is language is reason… and both expand as the Talkers move forward from Day One of their history. They deal with a sad but psychopathic adolescent human who would happily kill them all. They face down a band of fascist mice in the old country, (known as Secret Chambers, which fortunately lies far away across Wide Boulevard). Their lives are made more interesting by the bohemian mice at the beach, who are known as (what else?) Scapists.
There is love, courage, sadness, birth and death. It’s all quite real. We believe it and feel it. Why must we humans, upon occasion, view the animal world to discover who we are? Brownfield doesn’t pose such questions. He’s far more interested in telling a riveting tale and telling it well. If we choose to excavate an allegory, we’re welcome to it, but he doesn’t smear it all over us.
Give this book a try. Apparently it’s the first of three—and because my life is longer than a mouse’s life, I’ll probably get a chance to read the next two as well.
(reviewed the day of purchase)