Category: Storytelling

Interview with Historical-Fiction Author John Buzzard

Christina Slike talked with John Buzzard, author of the new historical novel, That Day by the Creek, which is a Foreword Indies Book of the Year Award finalist.

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Here, in Q/A form, is their conversation:

CS:  Hello, John. I’m wondering what inspired you to write a novel based on the events of the infamous Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 Colorado?

JB:  I’ve been interested in the story since I was a child and saw the painting by Robert Lindneux in a book. Even at that young age I could tell something was wrong with Indians displaying the American flag while being attacked by American troops.  About five years ago I read Stan Hoig’s 1961 book, listed in every bibliography of Sand Creek publications. I couldn’t help but wonder what was the reaction of the Christian community in America at the time, especially the missionaries sent to the Cheyenne reservation.

CS: You blend fact and fiction skillfully. What offered you the most challenge in writing That Day by the Creek?

JB: Early on I realized I was writing an incredibly violent story for a Christian publisher and wondered if the climactic event of the massacre would survive the editing process. To Cladach’s credit everything remained intact. The atrocities I describe all came from eye-witness accounts and what is there is only a mere fraction of what occurred. Not to include the horrific acts would not do the story justice.

CS: Well, you weren’t graphic in your depictions. As you say, it is what happened. You balanced the tragedy with lighter fictional characters and scenes. That brings me to my next question: Which fictional character do you wish was real?

JB: Porcupine Pete, of course. It would be great to sit around a campfire some night with family and listen to his tales of living with the Indians and trekking through the Rockies. Surprisingly, he was an easy character to come up with. I didn’t want to just throw Josh out into the wilderness by himself. I don’t think he would have lasted out there too long.  Having a mountain man who is like a fish out of water while around government bureaucrats and politicians, but perfectly comfortable in the formidable mountains, seemed a natural choice. That’s how I came up with Porcupine. I am kind of curious how he survived wrestling that grizzly bear on a cliff edge.

CS: Porcupine Pete is my favorite character, too! What fun it would be to listen to his stories. … Then, of all the historical characters in That Day by the Creek, which would you choose to talk with, and why?

JB: I have two answers to that question. First is Making Medicine. During my research I found his biography, a real gem. I would love to hear his story and look at his artwork. Second is Silas Soule, even though he had a tragic end. Anyone who has been in the military knows what a serious offense it is to disobey an order from a superior officer, especially in the heat of battle. He was essentially ordered to murder women and children, and he refused, and ordered the men under him to do likewise.  In the end it cost him his life.

CS: Did you bring any of your own life experiences into this novel?

JB: I wasn’t sure how to describe the wedding between Josh and Sunflower, so I used details from my own. My wife Eva and I had a simple Catholic wedding in the Philippines at the hotel where we were staying. Afterwards, friends and family members brought in dishes of food and we had a real nice potluck.

CS:  Do you have plans to write more novels? Maybe a sequel?

JB:  Of course. I’m about four chapters into a historical novel about the Pleasant Valley Cattle War that took place in central Arizona in the 1880s. If Cladach Publishing asked me to write a sequel to That Day by the Creek I would certainly be interested.

CS: Sounds great. Here’s another question: Where do you write? Describe your writing space. What helps you focus and stay inspired?

JB: I have a spacious office at the house here in Tucson, aka “the man cave.” A large, L-shaped desk holds my computer and other accessories. Shelves are filled with books, CDs and DVDs. One shelf holds Bibles and concordances. The room also has a TV, stereo, and a hide-a-bed couch for overnight guests. Often the stereo is tuned to K-LOVE to keep a sense of spiritual peace in the room. The door to the rest of the house is always open, so my wife Eva or our German shepherd Rocky can enter at any time. I can’t stay focused on a writing project that starts to get boring. If it’s boring for me to write, it will be boring for someone to read. When the pace starts to slow, I add another element to keep things interesting, which usually keeps me inspired.

CS: Do you have any upcoming author appearances online?

JB:  Yes, I recently gave an in-depth interview to fiction writer Faith Parsons on her blog.

CS: Thanks, John. Readers can know you a little better now. We look forward to further stories and inspiring plot twists coming out of your time in the writer-man cave!


Christina0407Christina Slike assists in editing and marketing at Cladach Publishing.

Periodic Sentences

Colorado Marsh

How does the writer effectively pull in the reader, take hold of his hand, and keep him reading? How does a writer achieve her goal of changing her reader’s thinking, of painting pictures in his mind that give pleasure, insight, and hope? The writer’s success depends largely on how she arranges her words in sentences.

In my previous post I mentioned periodic sentences. This sentence-writing technique places the most important, impactful words at the end. This arrangement is effective for two reasons: 1) The last words you read or hear are the ones you remember best. 2) When the entire sentence leads up to those final words, the reader doesn’t want to stop reading. He anticipates; his mind and emotions engage;  he wants to find out where this is leading.

In each of the following pairs of sentences, the first sentence gives you the punch words at the beginning, and the second sentence saves until last the juicy words.

♦     ♦     ♦     ♦

Did he notice the teeming wildlife—snapdragons, butterflies, cottontails, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds—when he looked out across the meadow?

When he looked out across the meadow, did he notice the teeming wildlife: snapdragons, butterflies, cottontails, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds?

 

Eating is his favorite activity and snickerdoodles are his favorite food.

He says his favorite activity is eating, and he especially enjoys snickerdoodles.

 

We got big, pink snow cones and we rode the merry-go-round when Grandma took us to town.

Grandma took us to town to get big, pink snow cones and ride the merry-go-round.

 

Driving a fire truck is what I’ve always wanted to do.

All my life I’ve wanted to drive a fire truck.

 

We heard the computer keys clicking so we knew she was working in the next room.

We knew she was working in the next room because we could hear the computer keys clicking.

 

We drank our last ounce of water before we had climbed up the mountain halfway.

Halfway up the mountain we drank our last ounce of water.

 

Come to the Father when life makes no sense, and you don’t know what to do.

When life makes no sense, and you don’t know what to do, come to the Father.

 

I assume you mean “Suggested Retail Price” when you say “SRP.”

I assume “SRP” means “Suggested Retail Price.”

 

Feeling his arm around me gives me more consolation than anything else.

Nothing gives me more consolation than feeling his arm around me.

 

I’d spend a week in Paris with you if I could have anything I wanted in the whole world.

If I could have anything I wanted in the whole world, I’d spend a week in Paris with you.

 

I love you, Lord, for who you are and for all you’ve done for me.

For who you are—and for all you’ve done for me—I love you, Lord.

 

Listen with the ears of your heart when you listen.

When you listen, listen with the ears of your heart.

 

Keep an open heart when you say your prayers.

When you say your prayers, keep an open heart.

 

Are you already consciously using periodic sentences? Do you think your writing would improve if you consider each sentence with your reader in mind, and rearrange words?

For the Love of Words and the Living Word

Are you a writer or a reader who loves words?

Then perhaps you, like I, have “a love affair with words.” You use words but take care not to abuse them. You like to play with words, but you also take them seriously. You cherish them, listen to them, pray over them, respect them, have faith in them, and you know when to release them.

Words are a writer’s tools, the building blocks of our stories, articles, blog posts, tweets and books. Words have power. With words we instruct, entertain, woo, influence, write and speak.

God spoke the world into being. Jesus is the Word become flesh. Spoken words matter. Written words matter. Every word matters. They matter because they enable us to see the unseen, to know the unknowable, to grasp the undreamed of.

The well-chosen correctly-used, creatively-connected, ingeniously-employed word has power. If your words fit that description, and they are prayed over, respected, understood—then these words may form a piece of writing that is Christ-infused, Christ-honoring, and Christ-giving to a church or a world that needs the living Word.

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