Monday, December 28, 2009
Now that Christmas is a memory and a new year is sneaking in, I wanted to say hello to my favorite internet friends and wish you only the best for 2010. Dream big and don’t let the world snatch them. Like snowflakes in south Texas, your dreams and wishes are rare and beautiful, something to be honored and cherished. Whatever they are, hang onto them no matter the odds. We’ve heard about the stinking odds, a million times over. But I’ve never been one to listen and I hope you don’t either. I’m rooting for each and every one of you this year. Hang on tight to your dreams. It’s going to be a lush ride!
Speaking of snowflakes, we recently had some in south Texas, which made many smiles appear. My daughter Grace and I ran outside and twirled in the stuff like crazy white women. When we ran out of breath we pulled chairs together and let the snow powder our hair white. I’ve lived in Texas for twenty-two years and have only seen this amazing sight twice before. In honor of that special day, and our dreams, I wanted to share a poem I wrote.
One day in south Texas snow came
Like silvery white stars, aching to fall,
On conifer branches and girls twirling,
Dark hair frosted white, the aroma of wintergreen,
Down from heavenly places
Slipped quietly through the sky,
Flakes bursting and descending,
Shimmering on rooftops, glittery, glittery snow,
Like silvery white stars.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Has anyone seen the new show HORDERS? At the suggestion of a friend, I watched it for the first time last Monday evening on A&E. Frankly, it made me cry. And made me a bit queasy. The crying part because it was hard to believe people actually lived this way and queasy because it takes a stiff stomach to see the filth these families live in. I thought of all the children who grew up and are still growing up with a parent or parents with obsessive cravings to collect and horde junk, to the point of floors and ceilings sagging with mountains of trash. Families literally backed into corners with bottles, papers, clothes and junk. Stuff, mind you. These children don’t have friends over for sleepovers. They grow up not knowing where anything is.
Mom is not in the kitchen baking cookies because if she could still find the oven she wouldn’t be able to locate the ingredients. Did you know three million people live this way? Like pack rats on steroids. The people depicted on the show are at a turning point, a divorce, no contact with family members, being evicted, etc. In some cases their homes must be condemned.
Like those with addictions, a horders drug of choice is possessions. They put things before anything else, including those they love. Not only is it a harsh way to live but it’s costly too, in money and relationships. Because they can’t find what they’ve previously purchased, they buy the same things over and over and over again.
You know what I did after watching that show? I cleaned like a scrappy mad woman. I thought of garage sales and simplicity. I like things as well as the next person but my rule of thumb is this: if I see something I want for the house, if I can’t mentally place it, on a shelf, the wall, a nightstand, I don’t buy it. The only exception would be books. Don’t get me started there.
Ma Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie comes to mind; her simplistic cabin in the woods, smoke twirling from the chimney and the little curio on her mantle. The cheese-ball in me loved Ma. Oh I know she was fictional, but a solid, homemade character. I have to wonder if the good ole days were healthier for people. There was no extra money for hording.
Now I love Christmas as much as the next gal but I really can’t think of one thing I need after watching that show. Okay, maybe a bottle of cologne. My Chanel No. 5 is running on E. Oh, and a pair of multi-colored toe socks. Yep, those would be charming. Meanwhile I’m going through what extra stuff I have and giving it away. Anyone need a dried sunflower arrangement?
Friday, December 4, 2009
Now I thought this might be a little tricky, but my fellow beautiful bloggers, Ronda, at Ronda's Wonderland and Elizabeth, at Ramblings On Life, have walked away easy and breezy with it. If you haven't checked out their delightful blogs, please do yourself a favor and stop in. I did try to add links here, but for some reason my links are not cooperating. Darn links! Maybe it's just me. Any advice here would be appreciated.
I also have another winner, G-Girl. You can find her in the new Writer's Digest Community, along with many other fab writers. If you haven't checked it out yet, stop in and sign up. It's a fun, informative place to be.
I enjoy and appreciate y'all so much. What a blessing it is that you take time out of your busy day to stop in and not only read but comment. You guys are the best!
Congratulations, winners! Please shoot me an email with your address to: email@example.com. and I'll get a little Christmas holly jolly in the mail.
Monday, November 30, 2009
“Where are you? It’s three a.m.”
“I’m upstairs in bed, mom. Why the heck are you calling me?”
She was mad.
“Sorry.” I hung up before she could sting me with her sleepy words. I then peered out the front window again and spotted her car, winking in the moonlight. The bushes had obstructed the view. My eyes had been a bit blurry when I’d checked.
Okay, so first you go through the baby stage, waking at all hours to rock and feed the soft sweeties warm bottles. Then the toddler stage, when they are out of the crib and sometimes wander about the house at odd hours. I once found my front door open in the middle of the night, my OLDEST (once again)across the street in the neighbor’s bushes, sitting and staring at the stars. She was a sleepwalker.
After years of sleep deprivation, parents get a slight break, a reprieve to rest back up for those teenage years. As those of you with kids who drive know, you get very little shut eye until you’re sure they are safe at home in warm beds. Even when they do text or call, a mother still sleeps with one eye open until they’re home. Now the two oldest are out the door, living their own lives, and I don’t worry what time they get in, because if I did, I’d be a walking zombie. But our youngest will get her drivers license soon, and the hoopla will begin all over again.
Joy to the world.
But really, thank God for cell phones. They’ve saved me time and worry, but certainly not money. Really though, can you put a price tag on piece of mind? Just ask a mother.
Here’s another thing I like about cell phones: the ring tones. You can pick something totally original and annoying. My first ring tone was Michael Jackson’s, Thriller, which inspired me to break out in the moonwalk whenever someone called me. I did that once and got it out of my system. Because I like dancing way too much, I changed it. Let’s see, I’ve had Kiss From A Rose, by Seal, Don’t Stop Believing, by Journey and Clocks, by Coldplay.
I’ve recently come up with something new, mainly to entertain myself. If you can guess what it is, I’ll send you a little gift from Texas. No armadillo’s, I swear.
Here are two little clues in the song: COLD and STAY. Good luck!
Btw…what’s your ring tone?
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Thanksgiving will be here soon and Christmas won’t lag far behind. It’s the hap, happiest season of all. That is, if you’re not half-dead from shopping, decorating, entertaining, Christmas card writing and baking by the time it arrives. Oh, never mind. It’s the happiest time of the year, dang it! I’ve learned to trim and not stress. Get an early start.
Yes, I say this every year, but this time I really mean it. The older I get, the more sense this makes. They didn’t call the wise men wise for nothing. I’m actually very thankful I can shop and bake and share. So many this year will need all the extra everything we can give due to the economy.
Here’s something cheap and lovely. Ribbon candy. Not only is it yummy, but I love its jazzy looks. I’ve been known to dangle the candy on our tree branches, which mysteriously disappears, one piece at a time. It’s also dazzling in a glass bowl. If you don’t snatch it early, you’re not likely to have it, though. Hint: you can find it at Wally World, that colorful, shiny candy in pretty little boxes.
Now, I don’t make the stuff. It looks like a job for Martha S. She could not only whip that candy up, but sell the heck out of it, too. Thankfully, people expect a lot less from me, and I’m quite charmed with that. Christmas cookies are easy.
These pumpkin cookies with ginger cream cheese frosting are one of my Christmas favorites. I make them every year, giving them to neighbors, friends, the mail man, and on and on. One year the waste management guys even left me a new trash can lid the day I left the cookies out for them. It might sound stupid, but I was so excited to get that lid. I really needed one. Anyway, the cookies look right special wrapped in clear cellophane and dolled up with curly ribbon.
Homemade gifts are the best kind. Please raise your hand if you’d prefer a lovely package of homemade goodies over something you don’t need or want, let alone remember what you received a month later? Me, me, over here!
Okay, then. Tis the season to share.
This recipe calls for raisins and just in case you don’t know how to plump them, it’s easy. They do add pizazz. Here’s how: Boil two cups of water and add however many raisins you want to add to your recipe. Boil for about three minutes then drain with cold water. The raisins will be so soft they’ll melt on your tongue. Promise.
Now to the cookies.
Pumpkin Cookies with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting
This recipe makes 4 dozen cookies.
2 ½ cups flour, ½ tsp. baking soda, ¼ tsp. salt, 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed, ½ cup granulated sugar, ¾ cup butter, softened, 1 large egg, 1 cup canned pumpkin, 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 cup raisins
In medium bowl, combine first 4 ingredients. In mixer bowl, combine and mix sugars, then add butter and beat well. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix again. Add egg, pumpkin and vanilla. Mix until light and fluffy. At low speed, blend in the flour mixture. Add raisins, mixing only until well blended. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until cookies test done when touched in center. Cool before frosting.
Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temp 4 tablespoons butter, room temp 1/8 tsp. ground ginger 2 to 2 ½ cups powdered sugar 2 tablespoons- or more- milk
Beat cream cheese, butter and ginger together until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and thin with milk to proper spreading consistency. Spread on cookies and eat!
Friday, November 6, 2009
And the sign said long-haired freaky people need not apply, so I tucked my hair up under my hat and went in to ask him why. He said you look like fine, upstanding young man, I think you’ll do. So I took off my hat and said imagine that, ha, me working for you. Sign, sign everywhere a sign, blocking up the scenery, breaking my mind, do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?
Remember this song? Just in case you’ve forgotten, I’ll jolt your memory. Signs, by the Five Man Electrical Band.
This is the time of year when we get pinched with nostalgia, or NOS-TA-LODGE-Ah, as my daughter used to pronounce it. Old pictures are good for that, and so are the holidays. Oh, the luck, or not, to have stumbled upon these pictures right now, tucked in a dusty book put together by my mom long ago.
My daughters said I looked like a hippie. Yeah, I see it. Slap a ring of daises round my head and deck me out in bell-bottoms and you could have tossed me smack into Woodstock. My name might have been Milky Way or Sunshine Rose. I still can’t believe I missed that. Man, I shoulda been there. Cool bands. Flower power. A bad moon rising. The whole she-bang.
I would have been a fab hippie. Peace out.
No psychedelic drugs for me. I’m partial to natural highs. It’s cool, man, it’s all cool. Most likely I would have been the hippie making sure all other hippies were well fed and didn’t wander off looking for Alice in Wonderland. “Nice fro, dude, nice fro. Now get the heck back over here, you’re missing Purple Haze.” I would have said something like that.
Okay, so I was too young to go. And my parents certainly didn’t drag us there. I really do love them for that. I hated getting dirty even at a young age. Woodstock rain and mud would have given me fits. My white vinyl Go-Go Boots would have never survived it. I shined those suckers every night and propped them next to my bed, sparkle, sparkle, pretty.
So,the other picture with the shorter hair. That was a year later, and, yes,I cut my own hair! Something about my shirt screams nerd bomber. And the Monkees when they sang, Daydream Believer. Didn’t they wear tan shirts with that type of collar? Never mind, it's not important. Even though I wouldn’t have won any beauty contests, it’s fun going back in time, yes? Somewhere in the closet, or under the bed is your own box or book of memories. Maybe it’s time to blow the dust off and tip-toe back.
Meanwhile I've got to go get my membership card to get inside..Hu!
Sunday, November 1, 2009
An adventure filled life. Don’t we all want that? I don’t know about you, but when growing up Jonny Quest was high on my Saturday morning agenda. I’d sit glassy-eyed in front of the TV watching the Quest team explore the globe, using Dr. Quest’s particular brand of scientific genius to flush out Monsters and madmen. Remember Dr. Benton Quest, ten-year-old Jonny, Race Bannon, mystical Hodji, and the extraordinary adorable Bandit? Maybe, uh hem…if you are old enough, we shared those same lazy Saturday mornings.
This cartoon never played down to children. You could sit cross-legged in heart or bunny pajamas, climbing up sharp mountains of political intrigue in places you only drooled about in history books.
Now I’m not saying you must be a globe-trotting world explorer to snag adventures. My thoughts on this are as ordinary as a summer’s day, which isn’t ordinary at all when you really experience it. Every day is a adventure as long as you’re alive.
Sigh… now isn’t that great news?
Now if you do happen to be a writer like me, who has yet to visit most of the intriguing places the Quest team frequented, the news is not horrible. We have harnessed something that doesn’t require the almighty dollar or the tick of time to claim. As kids we already figured this out. Writer or not, if your imagination is keen you still travel right alongside Jonny, holding your breath when Bandit barks at shadows. You are right down the Nile River, fighting off unseen watery forces. A blooming imagination can and does take you places. And don’t look now, but one day, when you have college tuition payed off, and if you’re lucky enough to still see, hear and walk, you might visit those places yet.
What I’m really getting at here is we make our own adventures. When we’re knee deep in dishes and laundry, kids rampaging through the house, or sassy pants teenagers claiming we know zero about life, all while spending our last dollar for clothes, flat irons, etc… it’s hard to yank up those adventures. But I swear, if you examine things closely enough, you’ll find them right smack in the swirl of activity.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
As writers we take our shots where and when we can get them. A recent adventure to the Austin Film Festival proved to be just the inspiration I needed. If you are an aspiring screenwriter, or writer in general, this was the place to be. First I must mention one of the classes I took was called A Shot of Inspiration, and as the class was in session, Daniel Petrie, Jr. writer of Beverly Hills Cop, The Big Easy, and Shoot to Kill, passed around shots of whiskey. Liquid inspiration, he called it. Of course we had our own cups. No swigging from the bottle. I’m notorious for giving myself away with facial expression alone, and I must have made an eye pop, combined with gape-jawed surprise, because the next day a fellow writer found me and said my expression at the mention of free whiskey was priceless. I really don't drink much. And just so you know, that whiskey scorched all the way down.
Seriously though, the four day event was nothing short of amazing. Not only did I meet other splendid writers, but plenty of directors, producers, etc. Here’s a few I got to take panels with and also meet: Marcia Nasatir, Tom Skerritt, Herchel Weingrod, Pat Hazell, Cheryl Hines, Gayla Nethercott and Peter Hodges, author of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, a personal favorite. Like I said, these were just a few.
Ron Howard was there, and I especially enjoyed his tennis shoe style. He is the original nice guy who just happens to be extremely talented and well known. Watching Apollo Thirteen, the movie he directed, with him and astronaut Jim Lovell in the audience was a real treat as well.
Classes, or panels ran from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and then there were plenty of independent movie screenings to watch. And if you were still fired up, parties to attend. We saw Serious Moonlight, directed by Cheryl Hines, Precious, Apollo Thirteen and several others.
The best part for me though was spending time with my oldest daughter, a screenwriter, and watching her get such a kick out of the events and movies. If you haven’t attended this event, please put it on your must do list.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
As writers we ride many trains over the course of careers. As Deanna, from across the holler at The Life of a Working Writer Mommy can attest, sometimes we just need to switch it up and try something fresh. She never believed she was suited for fiction, but here she is, writing great fiction. Go, Deanna! We never know exactly what we can do or what we'll enjoy until we give it a shot. In writing there are so many different trains yet many times we end up taking the same one over and over, not knowing which might serve us better. And lets face it, learning something new can be exciting.
So...tomorrow I'm getting off the fictional novel train for four days and hopping on the screenwriting train. My oldest daughter, Candice, who writes screenplays, talked me into going to the Austin Film Festival
Award winning filmmaker Ron Howard will be speaking about The art of Storytelling. Okay, I won't lie, I'm pumped about that. From what I understand he is a great guy, and certainly a talented producer. And who could forget him as the charming little Opie Taylor on the Andy Griffith Show? And then on to Richie Cunningham in the TV series Happy Days.
I'll be back around next week to share the adventure, but meanwhile, by all means, go take yourself a train ride!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Ohhh...that was my reaction when I saw this picture. What came to mind was romance. I mean, they are rose petals. Thousands of them. But then I thought of ideas, strewn like petals down the long pathway of life. Also, soft kindnesses which have been sprinkled by friends as we go.
I'm interested in your ideas. Your creativity. What comes to your mind when you see this picture?
Saturday, October 3, 2009
A backyard fire pit, snappy sparks, red lit, flying. Moonlight whispering through trees, grass, skin, eyes, oh the eyes we love, sending silent messages bigger than a Texas sky. Leaves turned cinnamon and amber, quivering and curling on limbs like tiny, arthritic hands. More eyes, laser sharp, peering through woods, raccoons or possums or skunks, perhaps, noses rising in tribute to lowly hot-dogs, sizzling and blistering on sticks. And a Cherokee fiddle. Might be all that’s missing, but no, night composes its own music.
Fall nights like these are a dozen a dime, but won’t last forever. Here in Texas we’ve only recently stepped out from hot summer shells. Four long months of broiling and we’re cooked. Ready for frosting, the frost on the pumpkin, fall frost. Time to snap out blankets, throw them on the ground, lie on backs, and wonder with dreamy eyes at the heavens, spitting out stars, swirling planets, strobe-like, suspended. I count each twinkle, never knowing how many, many, many stars, knowing never. Nights like these are a dozen a dime, but won’t last forever.
This time of year brings me back to long ago hay rides, fuzzy sweaters, snuggling, cutting through a black Mark Twain National Forest, dirt from roads settling in our hair, our smiles, carrying us right through the hard flinty winter when reflection sets in corners like mute guests.
Camp-outs too, dancing under a moon stuffed with promise, breeze in hair. And strolling beside a tinseled river with the girls, making up crap that scares them silly. And then pulled from the tent later, dead asleep, they say, “Come on, mom, come and tell stories. Our friends haven’t heard them. Oh please! We want to hear them again.”
So I do. Spin tale after tale, sleepy-eyed yet happy that ears listen.
I remember barn dances, doing the two-step, feet moving like hot grease on the griddle of floor. Pumpkin carving too, cinnamon sprinkled under the lids, spicing up night. The kids and friends jammed into our house, costumed to high heaven, watching Charlie Brown, a blanket of candy on the floor, and still trick-or-treaters banging down the door. Wanting more. And, yes, this yet goes on.
Fall in bloom.
What are your fall favorites?
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Top secret- these words alone can perk up eyebrows. They conjure up all things unseen and unheard. Loosen the grasp on your chair because there shall be no secrets unearthed here. And if I gave you one, I swear you’d hit the snooze button on the ole alarm clock and get back to me. No doubt, though, everyone, including me, has at least one family or personal secret that’s a tad spicy or horrifying, or just plain odd. Odd, I say. But whatever they are, secrets have power over people who keep them. Decisions and behaviors tiptoe around them. They are weeds in the hearts soil.
No eyebrow hiking, please. Even though I thought of a juicy one, I’m still not sharing. Oh, you have Starbucks Breakfast Blend? Gosh, that’s my favorite. But no, I can’t, shouldn't. Okay then, let’s chat… wink, wink.
Now, unless you live in a cave, which some people do- I saw one for sale on the Internet, but it far exceeded my price range- then you can’t miss what happens on the news. Secrets are shared on a daily basis, some exposed, others revealed. Heck, if we’ve lived long enough, we’ve heard our share from friends and kin, which revealed just how boring we really are. Ah, what a blessing it is to be dull.
As such, let’s relate them to fictional novels we writers tell and hope to sell. Yes, we are back to fiction now, which is sometimes less weird than real life.
Our main character/character’s should have secrets. At least one. And you’re going to love this because you get to know what they are! As a matter of fact, you’d better know. Sometimes their secrets are at the heart of the story and other times they serve as a guideline to understand why your characters act the kooky ways they do. Readers don’t necessarily have to know, but we might want to clue them in if it serves the story and explains their odd or crazy behavior.
Is there a reason our protagonist hates being alone? Does he/she avoid certain family members at all costs? Why, why, why? Do they steal, cheat or lie? When each day begins do they pop pills or swig scotch on the rocks? Does your character have premonitions about future events but is too afraid to own up to her gift? Are they plucked away nightly and whisked off to Mars?
Wow, please bring them to my next party!
Seriously though, don’t hold your characters at arms length. Let them come into the light. See them for who they are. Ask the questions, welcome the answers and, wha-la, a secret or two will appear. They just might be the treasure in your story.
Now back to that party.
Friday, September 18, 2009
I’m talking about writing here, so don’t get your panties in a wad. Sorry, I do enjoy that phrase. It’s a throwback to my younger years and those memories of mouth cleanings with Dove soap.
Now, the fresh fruit was posted because I needed a picture. If it makes you hungry, I apologize, which I do frequently. Go on to the grocery store. I’m not a fruit stand.
Okay, back to fresh writing. Have you ever read a book so dinged with cliches you wanted to drown yourself in your dog’s water bowl? Are we guilty of using them in our work? You bet your bottom dollar. If you can’t beat them, join them. Or as George Carlin would say, “If you can’t beat them, arrange to have them beaten.”
At least he spiked it.
Allow me to share the meaning of cliche, even though we know them better than our own children: A saying, expression, idea or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, rendering it a stereotype, especially when at some point it was considered meaningful or novel.
Although cliches can sometimes be used in fiction for comedic effect, we should remember a key word here. SOMETIMES. And it had better be funny. A no go and your readers might be swell enough to flip the page, but if you try again and fail, they could storm over to the fireplace, book or short story in hand, and snap a match. At least their wee bones would be warmed on a cold and stormy night.
Really, if we can, and we can, don’t socialize with cliches. They talk behind our backs, and give our readers wrinkles. Now there are loopholes, well, maybe one loophole. If a cliche can be spun around to make it zing-which, ahem..I’m guilty of- then do. But not too often.
Cliches aside, fresh prose should always be the standard. Think beyond the box. Give people thoughts for their pennies. We can always notch up our words, allowing them to sing opera, or belt out the Stones, Van Halen, Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin. The key is throwing open the door and making an entrance. Dress up those words in black leather pants and let them knock back a good stiff whiskey, then strut them around like a freakin’ peacock!
Bad peacock, but you get the point. Don’t be afraid to let your words glitter and leave your characters room to open wide and speak their truth. So what if your crazy Aunt Polly, who holds tea parties for her cats, stands gape-jawed at something you’ve written? All the better. Maybe you’ve awakened something dormant in her. Maybe she’ll slap on some make-up, down a margarita, and go out dancing with her husband Carl.
Or maybe she won’t like you. Gasp!
If pleasing the world is our writing goal, we’d best hang our letters this instant and go open a bakery. Cupcakes anyone? People will always love sugar. So Sugars, if we’re going to write, please let characters breathe without the Aunt Polly’s of the world peering over our shoulders. Do send them out for cheesecake at a bakery in Bora Bora. And remember to pluck and add fresh stuff and not the wilted crap.
For fun, here’s a bowl full of stale cliches.
My favorite, colored up by George W. Bush: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.
So true ye fiction writers!
Breaking the bank
When all is said and done
All hell broke lose
A wolf in sheep’s clothing
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Rome was not built in a day
Please feel free to add your own favorites. Maybe if we can secretly corral enough of them and drown them in the Hudson River, we can make the world a better place.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I wanted to post a picture of our little group at the Hawaii Writer’s Retreat, but for some reason I couldn't upload the pictures. Blasted technology! You can see it on my author website at:www.dorrainedarden.com
Dreams are powerful. We all have them, but catching them is another thing entirely. I’ve always felt you must first know what you want to have it. Writing our goals down is a great place to start. The Hawaii Writer’s Retreat has been on my list for seven years, and, sigh… I finally made it there.
There are many awesome writer’s retreats, but in my mind this was the mother of them all. And what a great mother she was. Seasoned authors attend here, still learning and growing. If you’re coming here to loll about the island, you’d best come a few days early. Once you start the six day retreat, or writing intensive, you’ll be drenched in classes. Classes before classes. Classes after classes. So many great author/speakers you won’t want to miss. Your day starts at 9:00 a.m. and ends, minus homework, at 4:30 p.m.
First let me mention our amazing author and instructor, Anne LeClaire. She had the patience of a monk and the grit of a soldier. Talented to the max, she left no rock unturned when it came to our manuscripts. This is no place for sissies. Or the ego. We were here to learn and learn we did. Anne had this uncanny ability to see exactly what was needed to turn our manuscripts into gold. She taught us how to flip our stories. She taught us to be better liars and that’s the truth! It's all in the details.
In regards to your story, ask yourself, what would happen if? Here’s an example from my latest: The Passion Diary. A pastor accidentally ends up with a woman’s diary, which changes their lives forever. Now: What if that same pastor takes a woman’s diary? Immediately the story has more flavor. Why would a man, let alone a pastor take a woman’s diary and read it? What happens now that he’s fallen in love with her? Don’t you want to know?
Oh, right. Guess I now have to figure that out. I also discovered this novel I’ve worked on off and on for four years needs to be told in first person rather than third. Holy crap. I now have to rewrite the whole ding dang thing. But you know what? I’m thankful because I just might have something in the end that will attract an agent. We like attracting agents, don’t we? And by the way, your first page should sing like Beyonce. Most agents will not turn to page two, so you must capture them on page one.
The women I worked with in class were not only talented but witty and humorous. It was a joy getting to know them and I hope to have them in my life for along time to come.
Do you know what separates the real writers from the rest? Yes, you need talent, but the key ingredient is perseverance. Some of you knew this already. Those, like myself, who have been slogging quietly along for years, believing when nobody else did. Belief in your abilities must start from the inside out.
It’s nice too, when people come along who see that you’re not just some fly by night, hokey poky, I’ll write when I want to kind of chick. I hope you are blessed beyond measure that way. I have been so grateful for those who’ve gotten aboard my dingy. We get nowhere in life without the support from others, which means we need to Pay it Forward also, which by the way, is a great movie.
In the coming days I’ll be sharing more tricks I learned to make your writing sing, so stayed tuned and keep catching those dreams.
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Monday, September 7, 2009
While writing in Hawaii, a delightful surprise was left on my blog: The Kreative Blogger Award.
I’m honored and thankful that Jon Strother, fellow writer and creator of Mad Utopia, chose little ole mine. Thank you, Jon. By the way, if you haven’t checked out Jon’s blog, do yourself a favor and stop in. He is the creator of #fridayflash, a venue for writers to post short stories. And post they do. You might want to share your own or just be awed at the imaginative pieces. Either way you can’t go wrong.
There are two parts to this award.
First: I must select seven blog's I feel deserve the award. Choosing favorites makes me nervous, but I must. These imaginative seven deserve nothing less. But please see my blog roll for all the creative, wonderful blog's I follow.
Second: I will be sharing seven of my favorite fiction authors. The suggestion was mystery, but since I don’t read mystery, I figured I could break the rules. Most writers break rules, don’t they, Jon?
Drum roll please……
Rhonda Laveen’s Wonderland-exploring life, love and interconnectedness
I recently discovered this blog gem and adore Rhonda’s fresh take on life. She’s not only original, but charming, taking on life one word at a time. You bet I’ll come back for more and have no doubt you will too.
Author Jai Joshi’s Tulsi Tree
A splendid storyteller, Jai weaves in fascinating details about her rich culture as well as writing experiences. Like turning a fast corner, you never know what you’ll find here. Her entries sparkle with wit, wisdom and humor.
Georganna Hancock-A Writer’s Edge
If you want the latest on the writing and publishing industry, Georganna has the edge. She’s in the thick of things and wants us there too. Her clever, informative style offers everything from author interviews to editorial services. Lucky her. Lucky us.
Deanna Schrayer-Deanna’s Blog, The life of a working writer mommy
How can you not love this from the title alone? Women know what a challenge it is to write and raise kids. When reading Deanna’s blog entries, it’s like pulling up a chair and sitting down to fried chicken and homemade gravy with our favorite people. Her style is friendly and warm, her stories original.
Cindy Tierney Adams- Gooblink.com, Obstreperous Heart
A boisterous, comical blog with serious undertones, Cindy captures us with her short stories, musings and writing experiences. An example title: After the kids, come the granny pants. Now you know you want to read her!
Angie Ledbetter-Gumbo Writer
Straight from the Louisiana Bayou this blog is flavored like a fantastic gumbo rue. Each post thrown in the pot is hot, hot, hot. You can’t stop eating, I mean reading.
When you visit her blog the visual alone will draw you in. The tree, stars and clouds suggest something magical, and Jenn doesn’t disappoint. This blog is stuffed with everything writing related, including author interviews.
You can find these fine word slinger's on my blog roll. Congratulations to all!
Second: Seven favorite fiction authors:
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I'm wishing everyone a productive writing, photography, cooking, whatever makes you happy kind of week ahead. If it involves passion then you're on the right track.
I'll be back, blogging again in around seven days. Meanwhile I'll be in Hawaii, at a six day writing retreat, learning, growing, and relaxing on the beach with hibiscus in my hair. Oh, and hopefully I'll work in a hula or two since it is the official Hawaiian dance.
There will be plenty to share and I'll bring as much information back as I can. Meanwhile take care of yourself and your writing!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Neffie and Annie
It’s usually crazy in the summer months with all three girls home, and their friends in tow, but this summer it got a little crazier. We added a new member to the family. Her name is Annie. No, I didn’t have another baby. That would have needed to be an immaculate conception!
A new puppy came to live here. She is a mix of Schnauzer, Chihuahua and Chinese Crested. She needed a home and I’m the sucker who had one. Need I say more?
Annie zings circles around our nine-year-old dog, Lucky. He didn’t know what hit him, and for two days flashed green-eyed monster stares and skulked around like the good life had just ended. “When the heck is she leaving?” he seemed to say. “And why am I sharing my people and food with this thing?”
By day three, he was charmed.
He now runs and plays, trying to keep up with her. The old guy wears down quicker than she does, but I have a feeling she just tagged a few extra happy years to his life. They now snuggle together, and when he’s had enough of her antics, he’ll let out a low growl and she gives him space. They have reached an understanding.
My oldest daughter also added a new kitten, Neffie. She shares it with her college roommate, but this week guess where she is? Yes, here. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas or the zoo.
Neffie is a sphinx. Remember the cat in Austin Powers? She is a smaller version of that naked thing with crinkles of skin. Think of a soft warm peach. Her skin feels like that. She does get cold, and tube socks cut to fit her work wonders, still leaving her the freedom to get into things. Last night, while we were out, she got in the fireplace, which instantly transformed her from a pinkish tan color to black.
We couldn’t help but laugh. Her personality is more like a dog than a cat. She greets you at the door, and likes to snuggle with you. She’s also very playful and mischievous. I’m already quite fond of Mr. Bigglesworth…gulp, Neffie.
Neffie will go home on Sunday and all things will go back to normal, if there is such a thing. School is starting for our youngest next week, the other two back at college. A part of me will be glad to be back in the routine, but the other half will miss the extra laughter from kids- our own and others-gathered round the table, telling stories and eating us out of house and home.
Well, we’ve still got the dogs.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Whenever I believe a challenge is too tough, or the writing too slow, I remind myself, that yes, I am capable. Whatever we don’t know, we can learn. This is good to keep in mind with any occupation, but writing especially. There are so many opportunities, challenges and disappointments which come with this gig. We win some. We lose some. And thankfully people do come along to help us out sometimes. Those who specialize in areas we have no knowledge of. We would be lost otherwise.
Recently my daughter and I created a book trailer for Jack Rabbit Moon, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. For those who already have a book in print and for those who are hoping and planning to soon, I’ll share what I’ve learned along the way.
If you plan on doing this yourself, set aside around twenty hours or more to search for images, music and wording for your story. Keep the video short, under two minutes,if you can. The advice was it’s more effective this way. The book trailer cost me $38.00 dollars to do, and this was what I paid for royalty free music. Musicloops.com was where I found mine. Not too bad all things considered.
You can certainly pay to have it done if this works better for you. Apexreviews.net charges $80.00 dollars for a book trailer and review. Circle of Seven productions produces classy ones also, but I’m not sure regarding price.
Images can be found free at www.freefoto.com, www.freeimages.com and www.imagefree.org. There are many others. You can find a virtual wonderland of information on the topic of book trailers on line.
Once the Book Trailer is done, you can post it everywhere. Here are just a few: Utube, Link on AuthorsDen.com, Link on Amazon Associates author page, Goodreads author page, My Space Tv, Yahoo Video, and posted as an announcement on LinkiIn.com.
As Bruce Springsteen says in his song, Dancing in the Dark, “You can’t start a fire without a spark.” Keep those writing sparks flying and your fires burning. Best of luck!
To view the Official Book Trailer for novel, Jack Rabbit Moon, look in the upper right hand corner of this page!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
At times our words flow like glossy honey. Other times they are dry as stale cupcakes. When going well, writing is similar to baking, everything turning up cherry turnovers and lemon crepes that melt on the tongue. We are in the zone, cooking up sentences that zing. Look what we’ve created! Do taste. Eat. Here, you want more? We’ve got plenty. Boy, do we. We’re turning out stuff left and right. Take them off our hands, please!
Wouldn’t it be nice if fresh words were always on our fingertips? Like flour and raw sugar. To be honest I’m a little salty right now. Ingredients aren’t quite as exotic as I’d like. I’ve thrown in comma’s, period’s, apostrophe’s, colon’s, semi-colon’s, etc… but the main constituent, the prose, has gone missing from my pantry. Why, those dang kids have gone and moved my prose. Isn’t it just like a mother to blame the children? Well, maybe my husband hid those spicy words somewhere. Then I turn to the dog and he looks so innocent lying on blankie, fluttering his eyelids and waiting for nothing but love. No not the dog. He didn’t do anything.
Has your prose ever gone missing? Ever forgotten where you put the secret ingredient?
What to do. When I’m going through a rough patch in my writing I often think of how long it took me to learn the trick of making melt in your mouth biscuits. Even when they looked like flying disks, which was usually, I still served them for breakfast and called them scones. Everyone ate them, snarky comments included. I’d smile and say, “Yeah, I meant them to look that way.” Buckling down, I’d make them again and again, until finally I had the fluffy fanciful biscuit I remembered my Mom making. This did take awhile. Okay, a year. But even now, with all that practice, they are sometimes yet flat. I chalk it up to humidity and know if I persevere those biscuits will rise once again.
And so it goes with words. They are never really missing, but waiting to be coaxed, kneaded, risen, sugared.
What do you do when your words won’t rise?
Friday, July 31, 2009
Outside my living room window something is distracting me. Miss Myrtle, who only comes round in summer, is dancing in flouncy papery skirts to a windy rendition of natural, smoky tunes.
Miss Myrtle in hot pink ruffles and green leggings seems to shout, Peek-a-boo! Yoo hoo, over here. I’m blooming now, popped like fuchsia colored popcorn. Am I not gorgeous? The least you can do is notice.
I always notice.
There are two Miss Myrtle’s in our backyard, one fuchsia, the other a tender pink. With blossoms top heavy yet papery I think of gigantic lollypops on a stick. Or ice cream. Maybe cotton candy. No matter how you look at them, the eyes get drenched. With pale thin limbs which peel and shed, they are frumpy looking most of the year. But in summer, when those pellet sized buds explode, it’s as though a million tiny butterflies have gathered for a lace profusion convention.
The given name of this tree is crepe Myrtle, which is sometimes spelled crape, which to me sounds like crap. So I’ll continue to call them plain ole Miss Myrtle’s although they are none too plain at all.
Monday, July 27, 2009
A little flower. Some river water. Add a few shivering leaves. Lacy ferns. Herbs are nice if you see them. Small mushrooms add zest, if not shriveled by sun. There should be no trouble finding fresh ingredients. And no cooking experience necessary. Leave your chef at home.
Oh, and it’s best not to include heat. No baking, please. High humidity causes this recipe to flop. If it’s done right, the sweetness factor pops a body awake. Clears the head. Makes words and dreams and memories rise.
Now put on sneakers. Stretch those crusty limbs. Dance first if you must.
One can eat this treat to high heaven without gaining an ounce. As a matter of fact, it’s possible to get quite fit with this luscious recipe. It will also take you places. Allow your mind to wander. Refresh your soul.
It’s called a walk.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
He grinned and said, “It was a great deal and we can invite the relatives!”
Invite them we did. Grandmothers. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. If memory serves me correctly it could sleep forty. We might of had that many too, when you threw in our own family of eleven.
Dad sat that gaudy contraption up in a field and it bloomed alongside the creek like a rowdy flower. It seemed even the trees gasped.
By day we flipped and flapped in the creek, laughter peeling through trees. When tired of that, we’d slather our skin with a concoction of baby oil and iodine and lye on hot rocks to further brown our skin, which usually ended up blistered and angry red.
In the evening were icy Cokes, and sizzling burgers, smoke from the grill swirling, twirling and exposing our hidden oasis. We’d eat exhausted but joyful among a custard of whir and buzz, the high easy call of birds on the wind.
When sun and moon traded shifts, whippoorwills clicked on, spiking air with lonesome, haunting melodies. A bonfire sprung up, fire in the sky, everyone gathering round with twigs whittled on ends to accommodate fat marshmallows. And then, Mom, fretting at little bold ones, lighting theirs, red coal fire sticks, zipping and chasing, sparks flying. Meanwhile, the old folks sitting mesmerized in lawn chairs, cheeks infused with fresh color, eyes twinkling and full.
Later came the hair-raising ghost stories, fire popping and snapping, darkness so black and voices real or imagined whispering through trees. When kids were good and frightened it was time for bed.
The adults blinked right off, but a certain sister and I couldn’t. Like pushpins in sleeping bags, we didn’t budge. An owl hooted outside the tarp and we’d stiffen, our eyes round as coasters. A snap of twig, we’d shiver and cling. And then a brother or two slinking around outside, making bizzare noises as if we weren’t petrified already. Inside the tent were odd snores and aroma’s; a funky humanity mixture ripened by night, yet oddly comforting, new and old, different and the same all in one spot at one time in time.
That gaudy circus tent; another shiny bead added to the necklace of memory.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
On a recent trip to Missouri, ten minutes from my old hometown, we stopped in the small city of Mansfield to tour the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. What I’d forgotten were how beautiful swaths of summer wildflowers were along roadsides this time of year: Queen Anne’s lace, soft, swaying, elegant, and black-eyed Susan’s wobbling in breeze, their bright yellow skirts dabbed with winking black bows, and alongside those, purple cone flower patches, picnicking tall and stoic under blue skies. All this before we’d arrived at Laura and Almanzo’s home.
This historic place tucked in the Ozark hills is called Rocky Ridge Farm. She and husband Almanzo Wilder moved with daughter Rose to this lovely area in 1885 from Dakota territory. Almanzo built the home, and since they were small folks, she four- feet-eleven, and he, five-feet-four, everything was crafted to fit them, from low ceilings to short counter-tops. A tiny staircase led to upstairs rooms which we didn’t get to tour due to the historical society wanting to preserve original flooring. This year alone they’d already had forty-thousand visitors.
As we walked through, history whispered. I imagined Laura in the kitchen, kneading bread, she in her little bed, napping, but most of all, her at the small oak writing desk, recalling stories from her childhood. Those same books I snuggled under covers and read to my own little girls years and years later.
Characters popped alive again. Mean ole Nellie Olson, who did things we sometimes wanted to but couldn’t because we were too nice. Her ultra spoiled mama, Harriet. Pa at the honey tree. Ma doctoring skinned hearts and knees. Mary going blind. Mr. Edwards, the dear family friend who almost froze walking through a blizzard to bring his dear Ingall’s girls peppermint sticks and sweet potatoes for Christmas. And, Laura, pigtailed and shiny, the one who could make Pa's lip quiver and eyes brim with tears. This when he wasn't bent over laughing at her antics.
Did you know Laura didn’t start the “Little House” series until she was sixty-five? This inspired me. I thought of all the late bloomers, myself included, and hope welled.
Another thing I didn’t know. Her daughter Rose was a writer before Laura was. She was also a journalist who traveled the globe. In 1928, Rose, then grown, spent eleven-thousand dollars of her own money and ordered an English style rock house from Sears, built a mile away from her parents home. She presented the home, complete with electricity-which would explain the eleven-thousand-to Laura and Almanzo for Christmas, and they moved in shortly after. Rose moved into the Rocky Ridge home, supplied with electricity also. Imagine owning the only two homes in the area with electricity twenty years ahead of everyone else! Visitors would come just to gawk at the lights and Laura’s new closets, also a novelty.
The rock house is where Laura wrote the first four “Little House” books. A few years later, the Wilders moved back to their Rocky Ridge home, vowing they would never leave again. They never did.
In 1932 Laura published the first “Little House” books. All nine manuscripts were penned in these two homes. She died at age ninety, her beloved Almanzo preceding her by several years.
All this history tucked among sun and sky and wildflowers.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
He is Lucky. This guy with peppery hair and eyes the color of liquid chocolate. On a good day he says I love you. A bad one, he still says it. Really, I swear, those are his only words. His love is pure sunshine. Such a smooth operator he is. And I’ve never seen such a fast runner. Dancing makes him happy, especially when food is involved. Living to please and pleased to live; his life in a sardine can. When the boy sees me he’s always thrilled. It matters little what mood I’m in. He could care less if I’m wearing make-up, or a pretty outfit, or if my hair looks crappy. He lets me talk myself silly, and tell stupid jokes, never noticing if the house is messy. Anything I feed him he appreciates. If he were a man, I’d marry him. No questions asked.
But he’s a dog.
Our dog, Lucky. By world standards he is considered a mutt, part German Terrier and Chihuahua, but by our standards he’s first class.
We rescued Lucky at an animal shelter seven years ago, and he says thank you every day in his own soft ways. If a family member is sick, he is there, snuggling, waiting, comforting, leaving only long enough to drink and do outside business. Animals love us through the best and worst of times, asking little in return, taking only what we offer. They lay their hearts on the table. We often need them rather we realize it or not. For those of you who have pets, you know the joy they bring. Around here we’ve had an iguana, cats, rats, hamsters and an albino porcupine. At the moment, a snake, who has yet to grow on me.
Some writers use their animals in author photos, on book jackets, etc… Now the photo for this article, Lucky in the jack rabbit ears I made, was for promotional purposes, but this is the first time I’ve posted it, and I do think he makes a sweet model.
There was a discussion recently on the Writer’s Digest Forum-a splendid site for writers, by the way- regarding the use of animals in author promotion as being cheesy and unprofessional. I happen to disagree. That’s what I love about the forum, we can agree to disagree. Animals connect us to others and I find it enduring to see an author posing with a family pet on a jacket cover if they so choose. I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on this.
Meanwhile I’ll consider myself lucky indeed.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Joy, it’s summertime. People are once again filling gas tanks and hitting the road. Despite high gas prices, one can still get from here to there without breaking the bank. And I do hope you take the back roads occasionally. The good stuff hides there. Little old people on porches, holding hands and watching the sun slide down, an unexpected parade, a wild patch of sunflowers, men in faded overalls, whittling sticks on a store front corner. Once our girls got older, we took back roads whenever possible.
I remember when they were young, traveling the twelve hours to Missouri every summer. We took the interstates then, our goal, to get there in record time. Ten miles down the road whining would commence. They were so good at it, I always suspected they’d rehearsed. Conversations went something like this.
“How much longer?” One would ask.
“Eleven hours and fifty minutes.”
Another chimed in, “I’ve gotta go to the bathroom.”
“For crying out loud, we just left the house. Can’t you hold it?”
“You want me to pee my pants? Pull over!”
“What a pain.”
“Why’d you have me then, huh?”
“I had no idea it was going to be you!”
Boy, did we have fun. Those early travel memories are sweet, magical moments in time. I can still see their sleepy eyes. How their heads would wobble and finally give out. The sun playing on their blond hair. I can hear the giggles, see the sparkly eyes when we’d stop and they’d get a treat. The squeals of anticipation when rolling down the window, sticking our arms out, and getting truckers to honk. They loved this and I did too. I also remember them laughing as I tumbled into the backseat to read them stories. The four of us, all cozy under a blanket in the middle of nowhere, happy as clams.
We’ve done road trips as far back as I can remember, the memories priceless. On the weekend we’ll be taking another. This is the first time two of the girls won’t be going. One is attending summer school, the other working. The trip will be strange without them, but our youngest daughter will keep us well entertained. I’m thankful to spend time with her while I can. She’s growing up too fast.
Enjoy your summer and keep making miles and miles of memories!
Saturday, June 20, 2009
For those who write novels, you know ideas, although plentiful, are not always zipping up and introducing themselves. We look for original, fresh material, yet knowing everything is old and wrinkled. Once we make peace with this, those worn out ideas can be whipped into something new; a magical concoction infused with our unique personalities and life experience.
Novel writing is brutal work. I’ve recently finished a second one, and for those who believe otherwise, go ahead and write one and then we’ll chat. Heck, I’ll even buy you lunch, although you will have earned a Caribbean cruise and more.
To complete a novel, you’ll need to spend at least a year or two, and sometimes ten, working alone. Characters will need created, as well as setting. You get to boss people around on the page, telling them how to act, what to say, how to dress, where to live, who to see, etc… For the slight control freak this is the ultimate rush.
Hmm… think I just made a confession.
Your imagination will also be on call twenty- four-seven, sometimes jarring you awake in the dead of night, and you, half blinking, fumbling for paper and pencil. Lights off, I write the idea down, although I’ll need a translator next morning to read it.
Even the most passionate writer wonders sometimes why they do this. You are basically entertaining yourself, hoping eventually to entertain others. Every day the white computer screen shows up, waiting for you to fill with black words straight from your red hot muse. This if you’re lucky. Some days words are dry and cracked and you wonder if the monsoon will ever come again.
But when the storm does arrive, and it usually does, we sing, off key, on key, any key as long as words flow. In the funnel of story, a writer could care less if non-writing neighbors and friends whisper under their breath, speculating about what we do all day. They spot us walking dogs, or eating the occasional lunch at Panera’s, or sneaking a Mocha Frap at Starbucks when we can dig up extra change, and think we’re goofing off. They don’t realize we might be doing a little PR, such as leaving book fliers on a bulletin board. Or viewing life in action, the wild material we need for writing up a good thunderstorm. Maybe we’re just getting out so we don’t go nuts. Those of us who are highly social (me) have to strike a balance here.
Have you ever heard these comments from friends or family?
“Oh, you work? Yea, the book thing.” Or “We thought of you for this project because you’re at home and have extra time.”
“Why thank you for your kind thoughts,” I say. “But, yes, I do work, and I’ll have to pass on that.”
Maybe you can relate to the “YES MAN” syndrome. If you can, I hope you’ve passed the torch like I have. Practice saying, “No thank you” in the mirror until your voice cracks. Yes now comes when I find something important and not the other way around. Writers must carve out time to work like everyone else.
These occasions are also opportunities to practice grinning skills. Once the work some forgot you were doing comes to fruition, you’ll be smiling until your face aches; at book signings, even if only one person shows up, workshops, neighbors and friends. Prior to publishing, you might also want to hang out with car salesmen.
Did I hear groaning?
Despite their reputations, they have pesky sales skills which will come in handy when attempting to chit-chat your way into people’s hearts and wallets.
The truth is, novel writing is hard work, and so is selling, but I wouldn’t trade either for the world. You know as well as I do, we writers sometimes, eh, often, work for years on a wing and prayer before anyone notices our writing bloom. We do this because writing has chosen us and not the other way around. And if lucky, we touch many with our words.
In the end, that’s why we show up day after day, and year after year, writing up a storm.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Diets do not appeal to me. My thighs, however, love them. That said, my whole family has climbed aboard the South Beach Diet boat. I still don’t know how I coaxed them, but we’re paddling all the same. Yes, we’re arriving somewhat late, but better late than never. Or is it?
Since Sunday we’ve been swimming in eggs, salads, meat, and ricotta cheese. Waves will be high the first two weeks. The thunderstorm of eggs already has me shaky. If I even imagine an egg now, I cringe. This, and we’re only on day four. Good thing I have my V-8 juice. Great thing I like it. We’ve already consumed more spinach than Popeye, and I half expect to wake one morning and scare my own self to death with bulging muscles. Oh, did I mention we can’t eat fruit for two weeks? I now fantasize about apples and oranges. Sad, I know.
Last night we had a prolonged discussion on cheeseburgers and M&Ms. I finally put a stop to this. Food talk hour is now off limits, punishable by extra eggs. Pretty sure this will work.
Now back to the ricotta. With this diet I’m supposed to whip up dessert every night with this white pasty cheese. You add slivered almonds, almond extract, artificial sweetener, and serve it chilled. Yuma!
It tasted a bit like gussied up glue. The expressions on family faces ranged from horrified to disgusted. A bit discouraged, the next night I added cocoa powder and baked it. Like a cheesecake, I thought. Oh, I love cheesecake. But I can’t talk about that. Anyway, it was better, but still far from cheesecake. Did someone say cheesecake?
Well, the good news is, weight is dropping. Three pounds down all around. If we can make friends with the egg we’ll have it in the bag. On the third week, we’ll see our precious fruit once again. Be introduced to a potato. If you don’t hear from me in the next ten days it means I’ve slipped into an egg induced coma. Someone please call a chicken. But really, this is a fine diet, as far as diets go.
If I could have it my way, though, I’d create the North Beach Diet. Only those who eat chocolate cake, cheeseburgers and French fries could participate. No bikinis on this beach. Skinny people are not allowed. Thighs flap here and have a grand time. Triple chins are all the rage. Sunsets would swirl with barbecue smoke. Eggs, ricotta cheese and salad would be curse words punishable by law.
But meanwhile I must go toss a salad.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The Gooseberry Family
You might not know this family, but Mrs. Gooseberry can cook. Mr. Gooseberry builds fabulous birdhouses and bonfires. The boy tells grand stories. All three living among flame colored birds and a stream in back, brisk and swollen with fish. In spring mushrooms hide in their woods, shooting from warmed soil like fleshy bullets.
When seized by morning sunlight, the Gooseberry family rises to the tinkle tinkle of creek floating in through screened windows. All are open. Every one. Mrs. Gooseberry eats her eggs, then rolls Swedish meatballs for dinner. She stuffs them in the crock- pot, the smell eventually simmering in every nook and cranny. Nightfall finds the family sitting among stars and fire and tree frogs. A breeze blows. They are like eggs in a nest of land.
To find the Goosberry’s one would twist and turn down dirt roads, past fragrant honeysuckle, draping like spotty lemon-colored quilts above the road. Keep going past trees exploding with tiny orange persimmons, a fat hornets nest buzzing up one. Then cross a wooden bridge that goes click clack, click clack. A stand of cedar next, big, small and medium. Tucked beside green, their tiny cabin, glass panes gleaming like sunlit diamonds.
They do not own a TV, not and never have. Books and music are consumed daily. Woods are walked. Gardens tended. They have watched blossoms transform to apples, and bees disappear into flower cups; life up close and personal.
In summer the boy roams the woods, plucking blackberries and gooseberries. When he returns, bucket brimming, mother will make green gooseberry pie.
She would never tell someone new to gooseberries how tart they are, though. But she will watch you take that first sweet/tart bite and grin when you pucker like crazy. Yet she knows you will finish every last bite, curiously satisfied.
Mrs. Gooseberry likes this.
On sunny days, when work is done, Mr. Gooseberry hits plastic golf balls in back, which sometimes plop in the creek, floating downstream like bloated white fish. Other times he inadvertently aims at Mrs. Gooseberry, sitting quietly reading her book. She’s been popped on the noggin enough with golf balls to automatically flinch when he whacks them, yet still comes outside.
“EXCUSE ME!” she will shout when he accidentally hits her. And if she feels it’s intentional, she pulls out her wide vocabulary and uses it. Mr. Gooseberry then kisses her on the forehead, an easy apology.
Those wacky Gooseberry’s can be found down a country road.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
You know spring is here when winter slinks away, leaving a fresh scent clinging to your hair. People are grinning more, that old fire back in steps. The earth, hyper-charged once again. And the best perk is, you can sit outside without freezing your rear end off. That and step outside bare-footed.
On a recent trip to southern Louisiana, we stayed on the two hundred acre grounds of a plantation. The cottage digs weren’t fancy, one bathroom between three girls, but that ample back porch, complete with iron tables and soft sitting areas, was primo. Knew I’d gotten it right when a collective squeal went up.
The view from there was heavenly: two hundred year-old live oaks dripping with Spanish moss which resembled wiry hair. To the right, a pond, complete with ducks, quacking, flapping and gliding. And land to roam as far as your little eyes could devour.
The old Missouri farm girl in heaven.
Shoes popped off. Cards and books materialized. The good old days reincarnated. Maybe you had your own back porch growing up, or a grandparent did. Remember when people actually spent time outside, visiting with family, neighbors and friends, nothing more on the agenda than sipping tart lemonade and shooting the breeze? Call me old fashioned but this still appeals to me. Big time.
We wandered from the porch that day only to retrieve dinner and walk the grounds where we discovered an ancient family graveyard, complete with eerie stone wall and iron gate. Of course the girls wanted to visit at night, but the chicken in me squawked, No thanks, don’t want to. With flashlights wobbling, they took off, me sitting on the back porch clutching coffee, breeze in my hair, a sloppy grin on my face. “Have fun,” I yelled. “Say hi to the ghosts for me.”
Not two minutes later, lights flickered on and off. “Wait for me,” I whispered, lip quivering, but they were long gone. The next night they didn’t have to talk me into going. I was so there. I even took my cheesy camera, which turned up pictures that would make your hair stand on end. Stay tuned for that story in an upcoming series I’ll be weaving.
All the while the porch waited; for us to sit, savor, to make memories on. I do hope you’re out making your own memories. Life is short and that back porch is waiting!
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Yes, these are my children. An altered version of course, but there is something primitive here that captures their personalities. Now it may be fairly painful for me when they see this here.
I may have to relocate.
But as you might have already guessed, this post is about growing up and growing out. I’m actually going to use a bird illustration here, so picture them with wings. Is it working? Yeah, not for me either, although they are bird-like in the form of angels at times.
Don’t quote me on this as it depends on the day!
Last week I saw a flying lesson of the bird variety which reminded me how we all must begin as babes. Outside, a few feet from me, a wee cardinal flopped into a bush. Immediately Mom and Pop were there. They chirped and coaxed. Then flapped higher and came back. This was a team effort.
The wee one hopped up a notch, then another. Flopped down and tried again. Slowly she grew confident enough to flap to the next highest tree, where parents waited, twittering for her to come. When she reached that level they flew higher and the process repeated.
The sheer grit, faith and determination of that little bird reminded me of our own journeys, and those of our children. In nature you can clearly see how animals get nowhere without the help of others and without helping others.
This is true for us as well.
Now the story doesn’t end here. Just yesterday I was watering a potted plant, brimming with mint and rosemary. That same baby bird zipped right out, startling me so bad I fell backwards. On further examination, a small nest had been constructed on top of the soil, mint hiding the bird. Apparently she was the runt of the litter.
She is still there, the parents bringing food and encouragement. Don’t we all feel like that baby bird at times? There are days we don’t feel much like flying, let alone teaching our children how to soar. We want to stay in our cozy nests. Other times we are like eagles riding the sky in a downwind.
Rather young, old, animal or vegetable, we all need people watching our back. When ready, we’ll soar.
Monday, June 8, 2009
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like wind chimes and those who don’t.
And apparently so do little old ladies and squirrels. Let me explain. My sister mentioned she once got behind a much older woman in a fast food drive thru line who had a wind chime suspended from the inside ceiling of her rusty Buick, visible from the back window. It was Spring, windows rolled down, wind chime swaying in the breeze.
They tinkled. And tinkled. A mini symphony before the main cheeseburger and french fry act. This I thought charming enough to use. I don’t waste much. In my newest novel is the sweet yet spicy Dottie Campbell, who happens to drive a car with wind chime in tow. Life is stranger than fiction as we well know.
Regarding wind chime loving squirrels: my birdseed was disappearing at alarming speed, and I caught a particular squirrel, lets call him Greedy Gus, using my chime as a springboard to the bird feeder. First he climbed up the kitchen window. It was like watching a big pinball, pinging from window, to chime, to feeder. Once there, he devoured seed as though he were a ravenous child attacking candy from a busted pinata.
The birds were glaring at me, so I moved the wind chime. That and I didn’t want to take on a part time job for seed money.
South Texas has a thing for wind chimes, too. When we first moved here, I did a double take when passing a cemetery on the way to the grocery store. Scratching my head, I mumbled, “What on earth is hanging from those trees?” On the way back, I did a triple gawk. Yep, wind chimes, just as I suspected. They were everywhere, dripping from trees.
Apparently being wild for wind chimes carries over to the hereafter.
Someone should tell the squirrel.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
A river is never lazy. It pretends. Meandering through, glassy water primps and prepares for summertime company. Underneath currents fish glide and wiggle and get fat. They make room for splashing. Rock bluffs like natural metallic skyscrapers blink in sunshine, echoing shrill laughter, accommodating sun, bursts of wind, clouds and birds, gliding, passing, chattering.
Icy coolers bursting with sandwiches and soda complete the outing, along with lawn chairs lacing river banks like colored presents. If you don’t have a grand time, blame yourself. This natural host has gone all out.
All year we wait for the river and the river waits for us.
Nothing cracks open my imagination more than floating down a crisp, lazy river. Here in Texas, specifically the Frio. On that slick, black inner-tube or puffy yellow raft, sitting under azure sky, I feel like the wealthiest woman on earth.
My happiest memories have sprung from water. Maybe yours too. As a child, Swan Creek, and Rome Creek and Rippie Creek, all complete with swinging ropes, crawdads, and family. When my dad asked mom if she wanted to go to Rome on certain weekends, she gave him a sloppy grin and said she’d love to. Then we’d pack up and head to Rome Creek.
Water is for the living, but I once saw an old man die in the Buffalo River. One minute sitting in his neon green lawn chair, dipping toes in water like chocolate to a strawberry, and the next, stiffening and face first in the water. The river seemed to shout, “Leaving so soon? Well, if you must, I’ll receive you like I always have.” I’d like to believe he died right where he’d lived the best.
Despite this, my best times have been lived in and around water. After a day spent there, thoughts are crisp, appetite ravenous, and sleep strong. The air smells fresher, life seems deeper. Sweeter. It’s as though these things have never been experienced properly before.
Summer is here. A lazy river awaits.
June 5th, 2009
Happy for no reason; lighted candles dress up my mood this way. So does moonlight and starlight and turn your head smiles. Sorry if you thought this post was jogging a different direction. I’ll try not to steer you wrong. You see, I have this aversion to those who buy candles and never light them. When they leave the room I want to pop around. Fire them up.
Quick! Where’s the lighter? Matches?
Two vanilla tapers on the mantle. The flicker would be magnificent. Oh, and another two on twisted metal stands by the window, topped with cinnamon colored chunks. Perfectly formed, flame never touching wax. Imagine the whirl of white blue, soft, dreamy, reflective.
These are not my candles so I can’t light them. I shouldn’t. Couldn’t. Can’t. But sweetie I want to say, you don’t know what you’re missing. I want to say life is too fast not to light slow burning candles. Do it and I’ll buy you more. But I say nothing. The candles remain dusty, intact.
My aversion actually covers anything unused. Everything in my home can be touched, sat upon, walked over, enjoyed, worn. There are no mysterious sitting rooms too huffy for human consumption. If I had one, we’d be…hmm, sitting in it. Laughing in it.
When a dish or glass falls victim to my tile floor, I don’t flinch. The lesson came from a then four-year-old daughter’s eyes when she’d accidentally dropped an heirloom German mug brimming with lemonade. Yelling, I was upset. As I looked in those sky blue eyes blooming with tears, a revelation came. She and her sisters are and always will be my most precious walking, talking everyday heirlooms. From then on I was a changed woman. Not to say I never yell, just not about broken glass.
We have always stopped to smell the candles. Still do. And now that they are teenagers, I can leave candles burning without them playing with hot wax, or trying to start a bonfire. I have loaded up on them. Lit by day, night, anytime I’m feeling vulnerable or romantic or happy or sad. I even pack them in my suitcase when we travel. On and on and on.
Please excuse me now. I must go light my fire.
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