2nd Day in China

Second Day in China

By: Leo N. Ardo

 

Beijing. After breakfast we trekked over to the subway station about a mile from our hotel. Getting on at the first station was relatively easy, but getting off required some effort as the train filled with people going to work. The second train was packed, but this was China—there was always room on transportation. We pushed and shoved to help those ahead of us get inside the doors. (We had adapted to the requirements of no personal space.) When the next train arrived, those behind us helped squeeze us into the train.

A short walk from the last subway station put us at Tiananmen Square where, on June 4, 1989, a young man in street clothes challenged the military in tanks.

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A couple of interesting facts about the Forbidden City: It is symmetrical, and there are 9,999 each of certain items. The reigning emperor cannot have as many of those items as the previous emperor who enjoyed 10,000 of the same items in “heaven.” The list of 9,999 includes total rooms inside the city walls, doorknobs, lucky brass knobs decorating doors, steps, fence caps, protective carvings on roof corners, dragon carvings, etc. We did not count them, but after a couple hours of photography, it became a challenge to take a picture without some of the 9,999 pieces in the photo.

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Walking through the entry gate took us to an earlier time of emperors, dragons, legends, and privilege. And yet, we were still reminded of our place in time with several thousand people posing or taking pictures in the extremely large courtyard. Photo opportunities were abundant: marching soldiers, statues, architecture, friends, family, and a basketball court. We joked for several minutes if it was original equipment.

 

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A pattern began to develop where my wife and I kept falling further and further behind the rest of our group. We were taking pictures so fast we had to let our shutters cool down (not really, but it adds some fun to the story). Our delays became a concern of our tour guides who provided us with a cell phone.

 

 

At about this same time, two others from the group decided to rest. We would circle back for them later. We were about half way through the Forbidden City—according to the map. For the second time in two days, fast walking through an ancient Chinese shrine became a race against the clock.

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It was a Keystone Kops episode as we fast walked to the next point of interest, took pictures, fell behind—again (maybe we have shorter legs), arrived at the end of Forbidden City, fast walked to last location of our resting friends, discovered they were not there, and briefly considered we were lost. The cell phone rang. “Where are you?” “At the exit?” “We will be there soon.”

A quick bus ride to an open-air market for mid-afternoon snacks: fidgety scorpions, bugs, Chinese tacos, Chinese gyros, meat on a stick, etc. The girls practiced their negotiating skills and bought more souvenirs. The smartest among us purchased a pair of Nikes.

Returning to our hotel—the busses were really crowded. Four stops ago, I was the last of our group to get on the bus. Now, the guides warned us to get off at the next stop. I checked and located the nearest door three feet behind me. A few seconds later, the bus stopped. I pushed, cursed, and wedged my way through forty bus riders, and I was out the door as it closed. I was relieved to be off the bus but surprised by the terrorized look on our guide’s face. My wife and business partner were holding the far door open. “Where is he?” “He’s still on the bus.” “Is he lost?” A few moments pass before it was clear: I was “he.” I ran toward the rest of the group waving my arms.

Before going back to the hotel, we ate at a Korean barbeque and cooked our own food at the table. The restaurant had three forks—lucky us, we needed three forks. Propane bottles, old fiber hoses, open flames, and charcoal—all the makings of a late night news report

It was a great ending to another wonderful day in China. We survived separation in the Forbidden City, scorpions, bus packing protocol, and were blessed with no leaking propane. Plus, we enjoyed a good meal with good friends.

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Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                                        Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.

Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. Jon Hersey, the hero, battles terrorism on American soil. He must be a ghost to accomplish his goals.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1,000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in, I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl of my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Leo

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories   

 

© 2013 Leo N. Ardo.

All rights reserved. The original material may be copied online for non-commercial use only, but may not be reproduced in print or on a CD-ROM without written permission from Leo N. Ardo. All or partial use must be properly identified as copyrighted by Leo N. Ardo, title of material, copyright date, and LeonardoStories.wordpress.com (blog address).

 

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes

What I Learned from Jack Bickham’s The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

Book Review by: Leo N. Ardo

 

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The stars have aligned, and you want to become a published fiction writer. Your dream is only 60,000 words away from an editor’s approval. Writing club members, family, and friends “really like your story,” so you dedicate extra time to writing. Your book is complete. Pride oozes from your soul as your manuscript is mailed to publishers. Then the rejection letters begin to appear in the mail. What do you do?

A suggestion is to read The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them), by Jack M. Bickham (1930–1997), an accomplished author and journalism professor at the University of Oklahoma.

Jack M. Bickham published seventy-five novels—some under the pseudonym John Miles, Jeff Collins, and Arthur Williams. Two of his books were turned into movies: Apple Dumpling Gang, and Baker’s Hawk. Bickham also wrote seven instructional books about fiction writing.

He was an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma beginning in 1969 and achieved full professor standing in 1979. The University of Oklahoma recognized him with their highest honor for teaching excellence: a David Ross Boyd Professor.

“In more than twenty years of teaching courses in professional writing at the University of Oklahoma, I think I’ve encountered almost every difficulty an aspiring writer might face. … So, despite the fact that I’ve chosen to write this book from what seems a negative stance, telling you what you shouldn’t do, please don’t fall into the trap of thinking negatively, or backwards, about my writing. … But my message is positive—always.” (From the Forward of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes)

“Bickham chose the word ‘Forward’ to replace ‘Foreword’ to emphasize two vital points: All good fiction moves forward; all good writers look ahead.” (From the Forward of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes)

This well written, well organized, and to-the-point book is a great reference for any writer. A sampling of the thirty-eight writing topics includes:

            – Writing vivid compelling characters

            – Getting started

            – Writing to readers

            – Patience

            – Perseverance

            – Using “said”

            – Conflict

            – Avoiding coincidence

            – Clarity for readers

            – Point of view

The chapters cover everything from getting your project started to preparing a manuscript package for an editor, and finishes with encouragement to start writing and keep writing.

Several entertaining chapters deal with character development: “Don’t Use Real People in Your Story”, “Don’t Write About Wimps”, and “Don’t Duck Trouble.”

Bickham offers guidance on who to seek advice from:

“But to ask a club member, relative or friend for criticism is mostly a waste of time for at least two reasons: they won’t be honest; they usually don’t know what they are doing anyway.” (Chapter 30, pg 85).

“A good writing coach is not just a teacher; he is an advisor, handholder, slave driver, critic, friend, psychologist, editor, even inspirational guru.” (Chapter 31, pg 89).

The chapters are one to three pages in length, and concisely describe common writing mistakes, and correct methods. Bickham has filled the 112-pages with valuable information, exercises, and examples. The book is a great addition to any writer’s reference library.

“Where are the problems? Editors rarely take the time to map them out, so Jack Bickham has. In this book, he spotlights the 38 most common fiction writing land minds—writing mistakes that can dynamite story ideas into slush pile rejects.” (From Back Cover of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes)

I think “minds” is a typo, but it works well—much like the use of “Forward” for “Foreword.” “Minds” emphasizes that good fiction is born from the application of the writer’s craft, quality, knowledge, and understanding.  As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, good fiction is in the skilled mind of the writer—and reader.

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 ImageHoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                                        Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.

Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. Jon Hersey, the hero, battles terrorism on American soil. He must be a ghost to accomplish the goals of: culling terrorists from the company’s employees, maintaining employment, ensuring that products ship to the armed forces, and eliminating the shipments to the enemy.

Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl in my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Leo

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories