Thursday, November 4, 2010

Words On Fire

A good fire is stunning. I’ve been known to burn leaves just to see flames lick the sky. In my opinion, there's nothing finer than sitting around a campfire on a crisp evening, hearing conversations and laughter of family and friends. Or inside, when windows are iced, fireplace roaring, wood snapping and crackling. It warms bones and hearts chilled by a sometimes cold world.

Words to me are like fire. Pick the right ones, and our stories flame and mesmerize. They can illuminate a black night, or crack out the sun on an overcast day. We don’t need fancy selections. Put too many snooty words in, and all we've got is one stuck-up story. But I still believe a story told with added flare warms us.

We could say, “ As I was driving, leaves blew from the trees.” Or we could say, “As I was driving, wind high, every tree seemed to shiver, their raggedy foliage blowing away, leaving them naked in fields.” Can you picture that? It was my visual today.

Not every sentence in a story needs to be that descriptive, but throw one in occasionally and it’s like tossing a handful of dry pine needles into a dead fire.



If we extend our vocabulary, choosing words that breathe, we can make a story live. And still grasp our hearts when, we, the reader, are long finished.

Once, I walked past a campsite at dusk and spotted a man, stretched back in his recliner. I loved the visual so much I used it in Jack Rabbit Moon. Here’s what I came up with. “Under a shady oak tree, a man sat in a green recliner. I thought he was the epitome of intelligence, bringing his chair like that. Without moving, he could have the moon for dinner and stars for dessert.”

That chair, and a man I didn't know from Adam, will long live in my memory. In my opinion, he was one smart dude.

Words are everywhere. To write well, we only need to pick them up, over and over, and spin them into flame. Besides reading many fine books, by some outstanding authors, I sometimes study the Dictionary and Thesaurus. I’m not lame or boring, just a woman who has a thing for words. And a hot fire.

Happy writing!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rose and Blackbird

When winter laughs at her icy secrets,
and blows her ragged skirt,
Rose, once adorned in red velvet,
whispers, “I was a queen.”

Winter howls and her branches droop.
But blackbird arrives, festive as ever,
his shiny black cloak,
smoldering up her cold limbs.

He sings of spring; spicy orchards bursting into bloom,
and bees murmuring while sipping nectar.
He plays his flute like a gentleman.
“I know you, Rose,” he trills.
“You are lovely and delicate.
Ignore crackly old winter.”

Rose weeps at blackbirds melody,
there through sunlight and shadow,
in velvet and rags,
he adoring them equally.

As he plays for her, snow tiptoes down,
coloring him white.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Garden in the Wild

I’ve never met a garden I didn’t like, although some I’ve taken to more than others. Growing up, we always had a huge vegetable patch, which we had to toil in, so on hot, sweaty days I didn’t favor that kind.

There is another variety, though, I’ve never minded working; the flowery, delicate garden. Even better are those brazen sweeps of color erupting in lonely fields, nothing but Mother Nature cradling and kissing them. They are wild and raw and turn your head affairs. If your car windows are down, you can sometimes detect the smell of cherry licorice or cloves, the air thick with scent. They shock and awe us. Rattle us awake. Like a little kid they shout, “Look at me! I made this just for you.” And we are left gaping.

I’m never more alive when I discover a field bursting with Indian paintbrush, like millions of ragged orange tubes of lipstick smearing the landscape. Or purple Popsicle bluebonnets, tinged with vanilla on top. And a dirt floor of Queen Anne’s lace, winter white fancy skirts on long, scrawny legs, dancing real slow as far as the eye can see.

Recently, in Vermont, I happened upon these amazing trees, decorating old cemeteries, limbs screaming with creamy white and pink buds. They look like lilacs, but not quite. Maybe someone will recognize this lovely thing by the picture I took.

Today I discovered a wild patch of black-eyed Susan’s, mingled with cedar, along a busy roadside, putting on a lavish butter yellow show. Tall and regal, they exploded in the sun. These tickets were all free. Joy comes in all kinds of packages, but I prefer my gifts from a Garden in the Wild.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Write Window

Ruts in the writing life happen. We grasp our way through a story, do the research, and realize it’s not the one we’re supposed to tell. At least not yet. We bump along in that rut for awhile until a new path appears, scattered with red and orange leaves, shining glass-like in the sunshine. If we’re really lucky, we figure this out before page ten, which was the case with my recent novel. The only problem was, I didn’t have another start from scratch story.

Or so I thought.

It does a writer good to peer through a new window. Visit places we’ve never been. Meet people we’ve never met. If we can’t do that, we can always explore areas in our own neck of the woods that we’ve neglected. Anything to show us the mysterious, quirky and fresh side of life.

On a recent trip to Vermont, a place I’d never visited, a shiny new story snuck in. I was sitting on the steps of our cabin at sunset, wind bristling in trees, leaves like candy wrappers, colliding with each other, swirling, twirling, and dancing, air fragrant with roots and conifers. Straight ahead an abandoned dirt road, a rusted model T Ford off to one side. To my right a red barn, skirted next to an 1800’s colonial farmhouse. Just as I looked, a woman’s black silhouette appeared and paused in the window. I could feel something beginning. It slid through the wind and landed, smiling on my lap.

Sometimes a clear moment is all it takes: a sunny day flecked with the unusual, or dusk in Vermont. The writer in us is always drawn to what’s behind the mountain and down the lonely dirt road. We excavate stones from these places and arrange them in a circle. These stones represent life: the sensual, brutal, wonder, abandonment, love, honor, awe, failure, and death of our existence. We arrange stones we collect along the way into stories that help us make sense of our world. Sometimes we, as much as our readers, just need to be entertained. And there’s the rub-a good novel can and does do both.

I fancy this ancient Chinese proverb: A bird does not sing because it has an answer-it sings because it has a song.

Dear writer,if you're struggling,look through a new window and your song will find you.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Soul Jewels

Stars like jewels seed the sky
Blooming flowers drenching the black bed of night,
Shining above creeks and rivers and dreamers
Resurrected until the sun turns them transparent.

But you can drink them while they’re fresh
On a blanket tossed on the ground,
They pour into your mouth and eyes
Universal juice to the soul.

Night after night after night…

Monday, August 16, 2010

Classic Vinyl

“Are you telling me those albums I sold for practically nothing at a garage sale several years back are now worth something? Dang, I knew I should have hung onto those.” This was a recent conversation I had with a dear friend.

Now I’m remembering everything I let go. Let’s see, I had the Doors. Remember the line from Break on Through? "I found an island in your arms, a country in your eyes." Words stuffed like emotional crème puffs.

There was also Journey, and Pink Floyd, The Who, Stones, Eagles, Moody Blues and Led Zeppelin. Yes, I sold them all. I even threw in comedian Steve Martin’s album, Comedy is not Pretty. Someone pried that one out my hands. I shared the laughs. And the weird thing is, Steve still looks almost exactly the same as when I saw him on stage all those years ago…ha!

These days I’m feeling a little like classic Vinyl myself. Can anyone relate? The kids are growing up and out, yet another daughter recently spread her wings and flew on over to California, and one a couple of weeks before that to Missouri. For the first time in twenty-three years, quiet time has erupted in my world like a volcano.

I’ve had five full days to myself, and after initially feeling like crap on a cracker, I decided to soak the tiredness out of my feet after two decades of running. For the past few days, I've slept in, and when I wake swing around in my chair, drinking coffee and watching cardinals at the bird feeder. I’ve scrubbed floors and dusted and put the house in order and it hasn’t moved! One day I rented fantastic chick flicks and watched them in mid-afternoon, while eating extravagant Chinese takeout. In the evenings I’ve written and began to understand how one can get lost in silence, the delicious rhythm and rhyme of it. By day three, quiet slipped on me like a new dress.

Now I’m ready for noise again: family, friends, a little dirt, clutter, the messy business of life.

I miss my children like crazy, but knew full well they would grow up one day. I’m excited for their new adventures and excited for mine, too. I'm happy to still have a sweet, colorful bird in the nest for the time being.

Life is a continuous journey of change. We must learn to connect new dots, to reinvent ourselves.

Classics are superb at this!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Memory Collector

Many people collect things, from paintings, to baseball cards, right down to magnets.

I collect memories. Maybe you do too.

We don’t have to shell out much money for those, although some have cost more than others. The limit is the moon. I’ve been chasing down memories for years, and they are now sitting on porches,watching the sun rise. And I’m thrilled they are remembering, lest I forget.

I’ve laid my hands on black tie memories, champagne corks popping all over pages. There are also those that creak and wail under the weight of sorrow and loss. Life drags us down rutty dirt roads as well as slick glossy highways, and a diary travels them all. Capturing our feelings and writing them down; that’s why we write, to peel back layers of life and hold them up to the light.

Above is a picture of my latest diary, fancier than most, but Audrey Hepburn just spoke to me, so I couldn’t resist.

My first diary was started back in 1995, which puts me at fifteen years worth, and eighteen diaries, minus one year, 1999. That particular diary was lost six months after moving to Texas from Missouri. I’d put it on the back of my car to check the mail before heading to school to wait in the carpool line, where I sometimes made diary entries. Running behind, I jumped in the car, not remembering the diary until a mile or so down the road. We searched high and low, to no avail. Either it had fallen into a muddy ditch, or had landed in someone’s hot little hands. Girlfriends were calling every day to see if I’d found it yet, intrigued with the idea that a man might have discovered the diary and was reading about my life.

I cried.

Ye gad! Every little “for my eyes only" entry waltzed in my memory, some taking a bow, some tripping in front of me, making me cringe. But after the initial shock died down, I had the plot for my novel, The Passion Diary. What would it feel like to have your uncensored thoughts read by a man you’d never met? What would happen if he fell in love with you by your words alone? Not that anyone would after reading mine, but heck, I decided to run with it anyway. How would that woman feel if this man wooed her, keeping her diary a secret, winning her trust and love, and then the secret was exposed by someone else who made it their business to know? The diary is the frame the story hangs on.

Even after losing one, I still keep diaries. My youngest daughter is the only one intrigued by them. For awhile, she bugged me to read entries, but of course I wouldn’t. She said, “You might as well let me read them now. When you’re gone, I’ll get my hands on them!” I told her we might need to have a ceremonial burning at my passing.

But maybe not.

One day, when I’m raisin-faced, and my eyes cloudy with years, I might take those diaries out and read every young memory, the lovely, ugly , and funny, those thoughts dashing in and out of time tunnels, reminding me how much I lived, loved, lost and gained. The far will be near again, the near, nearer.

And, ahem…if someone out there did happen to find my diary, all those years ago, please just stick it in my mailbox, no questions asked.

What about you, do you keep diaries?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Chocolate Train

Trains have always fascinated many. Runaway cabooses, passenger cars filled with drowsy diners, or boxcars brimming with wild hobos, transporting all far off to fragrant destinations. Yes, there’s something mysterious about a good train ride.

A few years ago, we took the famous Colorado Narrow Gauge Railroad excursion from Durango to Silverton-fifty-two miles of the San Juan scenic byway. The choices varied on how classed up you wanted to ride, but being the hillbillies we are, we chose the cheapest way, standard class, open air gondola seating. We didn’t want to miss an ounce of scenery and certainly weren’t disappointed with that choice. I can’t say I’ve ever seen such excitement in the eyes of my children. It seems everyone relishes a good train ride.

We hung our faces out open air windows and drank in wind and wild. The train whistle would bellow, black smoke blow, and the tracks twist and turn around yet another mountain, where aspen trees shimmered and rusty colored beavers flapped and swam under leafy forests without footprints of modern life. That day we walked away with soot on our faces but pure nature tattooed on our hearts.

To remember this trip,I bought a splendid watercolor of Durango Station, Engine 473, painted in watercolor by Russell Steel. Appropriate name, don’t you think? I had it framed and it now sits on the mantel, a memory of us, once upon a time, on a Colorado train. If you’re ever in that area, please don’t miss this exquisite experience.

Recently, I saw a program discussing The Chocolate Train. Please get me on that train! My mouth perked at the mention of chocolate, so I had to watch. Would you like a little chocolate with your train?

Switzerland is well loved for its scenery and chocolate. Throw in a train and you’ve got a first class experience called the Swiss Chocolate Train, which operates from June to October out of Montreux.

Running on the Montreux-Oberland-Bernois Railway, this train takes you on breathtaking views of the Swiss countryside, rolling through the medieval town of Gruyeres, also known for their fabulous cheese making.

In Gruyeres, the train stops for an excursion by bus to a local castle. Sound good so far? You’ll also get to experience a cheese factory. On board the train once again, you’ll head to Broc. The Nestle Chocolate factory is there. You can watch the production of chocolate and sample the goodies. Then buy all you want.

Nine hours later you arrive in Montreux, a sleepy resort town on Lac Leman and home to the Castle of Chillon.

Now how’s that for a train ride, eh? Let’s go, shall we? All aboard!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Distinctly Southern

Before I begin, let me say I’ve missed you guys! Wait, I’ve missed y’all. That sounds right.

Now that summer is here, I hope you’re able to kick back,splash in a river, listen to some music, or just read a good book.

Speaking of books, I did manage to finish that second novel, The Passion Diary. Whoopa! See, I really was working. Finishing the book hadn’t really sunk in until yesterday, when I began constructing that query letter to send out to agents. It has to be wild, short and attractive. Sounds a bit like an old boyfriend, but all kidding aside, it’s daunting trying to sell yourself and your book in a couple of paragraphs. Lady luck-please wish me that.

And speaking of luck, my dear friend and Author, Jeff Yeager, dubbed The Ultimate Cheapskate by Matt Lauer on The Today Show, has created his own luck with hard work and a creative streak that sizzles. His second book, The Cheapskate Next Door debuts today.

Yeah, he’s no southerner, but I’ll make an exception in his case and here’s why: I believe he could kick tail in a seed spitting contest, and flat do a jig if he wanted, and that’s good enough for me. I do hope you’ll check out Jeff's lively work for yourself.

Now back to southerners. We know summer has set in here, due to brutally hot weather. When you walk outside before noon and feel as though you’ve been shoved into a sizzling sauna, you know you’ve landed in south Texas. On days I’m not fortunate enough to be in and around the water, I crank down the air-conditioner, pour some iced tea, and listen to Willie Nelson tunes. This original outlaw never fails to satisfy my musical hankering. To this Texan, his voice is velvety as melted chocolate. And I’ve always loved his braids. And chocolate.

Born and raised in Abbott Texas, Willie’s grandparents gave him mail order music lessons at age six. He wrote his first song at age seven and was playing in a local band at age nine. I finally got to see him in concert last year, and I danced around for days, so excited. He didn’t disappoint, his voice as pure and rawboned now as it ever was. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain is one favorite, along with Whiskey River and Always on my Mind.

I thought of Willie Nelson the other day when I watched my older girls drag in from Summer Fest. They had sat in blistering Texas sun to catch these bands: The Flaming Lips, Girl Talk and Kid Sister. At 11:00 p.m., they got back, worn but happy, saggy pants and sunburned faces, and bandanna’s wound around their sweaty heads.

Of course Willie wears a bandanna. Stay cool!

Monday, April 19, 2010

No Whining

I'm not one to whine, but I'll miss my peeps! I'll be out for a few weeks, my focus on finishing this second novel.

Behave or not, but either way, I'll be popping by your blogs from time to time to check up on you. See, I'd miss you all too much otherwise. Whine, whine, whine. Okay, I'll stop. Stay cool. Be sweet. Keep writing! Muah... xoxo

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mr. and Mrs. Taste E. Buds

The Buds, yeah,I know um. You do, too. We live with them, those sweet and sour trips on the tongue. Masterpiece’s in the mouth. They are sometimes ever so sour, sour. Salty, ooh, yes that, too, and spicy. But they can be bitter. I hate it when they get like that; drives me nuts. We foodies can spin them right around, though, with crunchy sweet apples and salty pretzels. Or Peanut Butter Captain Crunch, which snaps open the ears and floods the buds with peanut-y plunge. Happy are they with combinations: sweet, salty, crunchy, munchy. “Hallelujah, brother,” they shout. “Get it, sister!”

Mine like stepping off a sidewalk occasionally into an exotic forest of knee deep pink roses, some plucked and transformed into fragrant jelly. Now that bullets the Buds back in a time machine and they tumble out, blinking into a cozy kitchen, a mom in a white apron, her soft brown hands making that wild rose jelly. And homemade wheat bread, too, slathered with salty white butter and eaten freshly popped from the oven, mouths exploding, igniting and delighting.

When Mr. and Ms. Taste E. Buds get bored they really yawn for herbs and spices like basil, dill, cumin, cilantro, sage, saffron, bay leaf, garlic, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, rosemary. Did someone say Rosemary? Now she’s an edgy girl. I pair her up with a pork loin from time to time and she forces it to tango.

Think velvety sauces stung with white pepper. And glistening milk gravy flavored with sausage then poured over hot biscuits and fried potatoes. Have you ever had chocolate gravy? Well, I never! But the Bud’s have, courtesy of long lost Arkansas cousins.

But now we’re screaming the Buds language. And they really are easy to delight. Variety, baby, give them variety and they’ll dance a jig for you, or belt out that Marshall Tucker classic tune: "Can’t you see, can’t you see, what that woman, she’s been doin’ to me." Yeah, that one.

I’ll tell you what, though. If we deprive them of sweets for too long, we’d best throw them a key lime pie made from scratch to appease them. And by all means jack up the crust with Ritz crackers to tease them. The salty switch up will beam them to a star and back. They will wail uncle. If that doesn’t work, give them death by chocolate. Notice how the food choices have gotten progressively worse? Can I get a woot, woot?

Actually,I do eat healthy. My thoughts are these: eating right is doable as long as we throw in those occasional, well loved treats.

Hey now,foodies, what makes your Taste Buds tingle?

Well, peeps, my job here is done. This finishes out my five senses series. Hopefully, you smell better, not you personally, although that’s a plus. And dream of touch and hear and see things you might have missed, and taste it all. If you’re begging for food after reading this post, please don’t blame me. I’m just the lowly writer, clasping my occasional bowl of Captain Crunch.

Please stay tuned for a hair raising sixth sense post, coming up.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Thoughts

We’ve heard it said that happiness is a state of mind and I believe that. Just don’t ask me on a crappy day. All kidding aside, even on those days, when it feels like we are the thistle, standing in a bed of poppies, we can still feel rained on by happiness. I’d like to thank two dear friends Deanna Schrayer at The Other Side of Deanna and Elizabeth Etheridge Ramblings for reminding me of this and for the splendid Happy 101 Award. They are velvet roses in my friendship garden. Thank you so much!

Now I'd be delighted to share ten happy thoughts with you. And if I've passed on the award to you, please share it with five others who make you happy and let us all know what keeps you smiling while you're at it. Thanks and congrats to all!

Ten happy thoughts:

1. Of course faith. Without that, I'd be lost. My sense of direction is terrible but I know which way is up and which way is down. Up, please!

2. Family: They are my treasure, my soft place.

3. Friends: the virtual ones and those within touching distance are my sugar and spice. When I’m having a horrible day, an email or phone call is all I need to remember to smile. I couldn’t be more thankful for my friends if I tried. I’m blessed in this department.

4. Writing: I forget the world when I’m knee deep in a story. There’s nothing better in my mind than turning out something from the heart and sharing it with others. If I’ve made one person smile, think, laugh out loud, weep or otherwise carry on, I’m all the happier.

5. Pets: Our two little dogs, lying around like kings, eating, drinking and wagging tails, make me grin. They know instinctively if a family member is sick or having a bad day. When that happens, they take their spot next to the afflicted like sentinels. They’ll do this for days if necessary. They are tremendous teachers in the unconditional love department. We also have a chubby grand cat who has managed, with her charms, to reduce me to mush when she sits on my lap and kisses my nose.

6. Giving to others: sending cards, gifts from the heart, emails, phone calls, taking someone to lunch, listening when someone needs a sympathetic ear, not judging but loving.

7. Birds at my feeder, flinging seeds.

8. Working hard in my garden and seeing instant results. When my hands are plunged in the dirt and I’m out there, making things happen, I can’t help but smile. Later, when my back aches, I try to remember that.

9. Fresh, clean laundry. I know this sounds trivial, but I learned to appreciate creature comforts after being without them for an entire week. A hurricane will do that for you.

10. Nature: in all forms. The view from my back window,lanky pines, swaying in the breeze. A hike in the woods clears me out like a good rubdown.

Those are just a few. I’m really quite simplistic when it comes to happiness. Just do what I love and give what I can when I can and appreciate tiny things, which are really huge things. That’s it.

Okay, now I’m getting out my happiness wand and sprinkling a little joyful magic dust over five beautiful blogger friends who make me smile. Thanks for the sunshine, dear ones. I’m happy to know each of you and I'm blessed by your words.

Tina Lonergan The Clean White Page

Stacy Post
A Writer's Point of View

Jitu Rajgor Thinker's Page

Places with Character

Anita Beyond Diapers and Spills

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hearing History

Testing, testing, can you guys hear me? I couldn’t think of a snappier way to present sound than a recent trip to southern Louisiana.

In New Orleans the decibel levels flew off charts, right along with history, dog ugly and gorgeous as any I’ve ever heard. Even so, I relished the whole Who Dat and Zydeco music and the waitress named Nicole but pronounced Ne-cole. Her inflection piped out like a shot of New York swirled with Louisiana Creole. I kept asking her questions, well, because I’m irritating that way, and because I adored her voice.

“Why y’all don’t vee zeet more?” she finally said, grinning.

Ne-cole, Ne-cole, Ne-cole. A charming sport if I ever met one.

The sounds of New Orleans were spicy crazy indeed. In the streets were drummers, harmonica players and clacky washboard renditions. People were chattering like squirrels, their shoes popping on sidewalks.

In Café Du Monde, we finally plopped down, legs worn and feet aching from traipsing every inch of the French Quarter and miles beyond. I figured I’d earned myself a beignet, snowed under with powdered sugar and washed down with a café-au lait. Spoons were clinking against glass coffee cups while sugar buzzy conversations exploded, and underneath that, the sigh of our pooped waitress, trying to keep up. A fat tip was in order, which made her smile.

So, two days later, I listened to Creedence Clearwater Revival in the car as we headed to St. Francisville, because it would have been a sin not to hear Born on a Bayou if one is going to hang out with gators and Cajuns. And because I’m a Creedence groupie.

Visiting here is like stepping on ancient, exotic soil. Did you know even history has sound? It wails and screams and laughs here in the wind, the birds and bayous.

Three times now I’ve come to this place, trying to grasp a tragic and mysterious chunk of history. Bits and pieces the land has absorbed and yet shouts through the live oak trees. But none makes sense, nor do I condone it. Meanwhile I fancy the people and appreciate the beauty of place. And I remember those without voices and try to honor them with my presence. My heartfelt interest.

The following poem is based on a cemetery we visited while staying on plantation grounds. It was only one visible record, but there are still many loud secrets. Listen for sound in silence.

Fallen Stars

They have gone silent and cold
yet I heard a woman’s voice
in a crows cackle

But that can’t be
sixteen souls long hushed
resting like whispers in black dirt beds
on loud property
they didn’t have time to praise

Days booming with tears and laughter have passed
no more spring afternoons, summer days
snappy fall breezes
or horizons
blazed with red

They lie silent atop a hill now
ringed by a stone wall
gray and chipped
shaggy cedar to ward off sun
and pine silt carpet for decoration

I traced their names with fingertips
when the sun was blooming
and remembered those I never knew
Marguret, Thomas, Mary, Edward, Sarah, Percival
and the others

Then when night turned to coffee
we walked through crispy grass
flashlights beaming
sky flushed with hot stars
now fallen icy atop the hill.

Bonjour Mes Amis- Good day, my friends. Listen well.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lipstick Kiss

When my middle child-a mama’s girl- started kindergarten, she clung to my waist like lichen on stone. The separation for us was painful, me leaving her, crocodile tears in her eyes, a little waif dressed in tiny jeans and a yellow shirt sprinkled with daisies. I’d done my best to prepare her. She’d been to Pre-K and had play dates. But this little sensitive, towheaded girl still resisted leaving her mama. Out of desperation, before we left the house, I put on red lipstick and kissed her soft, dimpled hand, leaving my lip-print like a colored picture.

"There," I said. “When you feel sad or scared, look at your hand and mama will be there.”

I still remember how delighted she was, as though I’d plucked a secret star fresh from the sky and placed it hot in her hand. To her, it was the most famous kiss in the world. For a month after she never left for school without that lipstick kiss. Yes, her eyes still filled with glassy tears but then she’d stare at her hand, unscrew her grip, squeeze me tight and bravely walk into her classroom, carrying her Pink Flintstones lunch box.

Ironically, this mama’s girl has gone off to college twelve hours away and although I miss everything about her, the way she kissed my cheek before leaving for her daily adventures is what I miss most.

We crave touch. Some need more than others but our skin is hard wired for it. Have you ever had a hot stone massage? If not, get yourself over there as quick as possible! I’ve had one but want more. Let me describe.

Flat, slick rocks are heated, while you lay like a bird without plumage between cashmere soft white sheets, woodwinds in the air, the scent of lavender or patchouli piped in. The world drips away. The hot rocks are then placed down your spine, which further melts you like butta. Drenched with warm oil,they are then whirled, looped and kneaded with delicate intuition over every inch of skin you own and in the end you’re left on the table like a lump of sensual bread-dough, covered up and left to rise again into something gorgeous.


You won’t be worth a flip the rest of the day. I lay about like the Queen of Sheba, pink skinned, drinking Bud Light, okay wine, and eating butter-cream chocolates and watching sappy movies, thanking the universe, my family, the masseuse, everyone and his brother. Ahhh……. We can all take a day off from the world occasionally. And should.

Me being rather curious and chatty- even during a massage, but not all of it, I swear- I asked my masseuse about her profession. Did she enjoy this, did she feel it was her calling and was it hard for certain people to relax and allow a stranger to touch them?

She told me she could feel, by touch alone, a person’s essence. She knew whether they were joyful, depressed, or in pain, emotionally or physically. “The elderly bring me the most sorrow and joy,” she went on. “Some have not been touched in so long and are in so much pain it brings them to relieved tears. What a powerful, magical gift, given and received.

Touch your stories. Touch people’s lives. Leave your lipstick kiss upon the world

Monday, March 1, 2010

Seeing is Believing

Last night the full moon appeared like a flamboyant floodlight. It seemed to echo, “Is anyone alive down there…down there…down there? It is I, floodlight moon.” It appeared close but was actually 238,857 miles away! Our eyes do play tricks on us.

Even so, they are rich visual collectors. Two blue, brown, hazel or green mini artists, taking in life portraits, freeze framing them into memory the way paint adheres to canvas. A scoop of bangs across a forehead, inky black like a raven’s wing, dead leaves twirling on bare sun drenched branches or snow swelled on the ground like thick, whirled whipped cream.

I remember seeing my newborn daughter’s eyes for the first time. Like soul windows, new, but ancient and full of penetrating light. When they lay each in my arms, of course in different years, their haunting eyes explored mine, speaking without sound. Why hello dear mama, they seemed to say. I’ve felt your heartbeat and heard your cries and laughter a thousand times. Here you are now. I see you. They knew me and I them. Any mother can tell you how poignant this is. It is something we never forget, this lavish visual communication without words. I promise not to mention babies anymore, but I do love them.

Eyes alone speak of innocence, pain, sadness, joy, confusion, wildness and sometimes evil, all without saying a word.

If we have been blessed with our vision intact, our brain does the work of preserving previous sights into memory. I can still see the metallic shimmer of dollar sunfish, greasing through an Arkansas River, sun catching the star-burst of yellow bellies. And creamy vanilla colored jack-in-the-pulpits, glazing up an Illinois spring forest we wandered through as children. And red-winged black bird eggs, pale blue-green and freckled, cuddled tight in marshy nests.

It’s exciting to use this visionary sense in our writing. Here’s an example from my WIP, The Passion Diary.

Driving through Millview, men with wilted faces sat outside Hunters Gas Mart. On splintered wooden benches some whispered and whittled while others stood, eclipsed by smoke clouds wafting from lit points of cigarettes. The locals referred to the spot as Limber Dick Corner. God help me, I didn’t want to grow old.

Turning down Main Street, earth rose behind ancient buildings, disguised in fresh paint. Brambly blackberry vines clamored up a long row of fence, berries dangling and not yet flushed purple. Trees, heavy with green foliage, clung to hillsides and I wondered what was blending and dashing through not visible to the naked eye.

This is pure visual description and why I wanted to use it as an example. I could go back and add smell-the soil, cigarette smoke, etc... I could also throw in taste-of the eventual ripened berries, but for these paragraphs I probably won’t.

Hopefully, if I’ve done my job well, visual description alone tells you this is a small town with old secrets.

So, my writing buddies, please enjoy every visual treat this week. Remember, seeing is believing…sometimes.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Come to your Senses

To me, being in a wild world with so many sights, sounds, odors, tastes and textures is a little like walking down dusty paths of a renaissance festival and being bombarded with the scent of apple dumplings and roasted turkey legs while my ears buzz with pan flutes and tambourines, all as I’m touching velvety lamb’s ears and then hard, exotic handcrafted jewelry. But there is more. Yes, taste, we must include that. How about fresh corn crepes smothered in cream and then chocolate doused strawberries for dessert?

Oh, enough, enough! I’m ready for a festival, how about you? Yeah, I know. It’s still too cold. Until then, I’ll attempt to warm up our rich creamy layers of writing. Each post will focus on a different sense and I might even bring in that rowdy SIXTH SENSE to round everything up. Okay lords and ladies, let’s begin with scent, shall we?

What is that smell?

What springs to mind here are Sunday suppers, pork loin dotted with rosemary, the scent of raisins and stuffing and spice exploding each time the oven door opens.

Aroma’s, rather delightful or not, invoke memories.

If you have a keen sniffer, you might also be able to detect a storm before it arrives. The earth is different then, soil sighing and humidity yelling. Did you know moisture heightens our sense of smell? It does. And were you aware women have a keener sense of smell? They do. As we age, our sense of smell weakens, though. Middle age is peek smelling season. I vote we all stay middle aged. Oh, wait, too late for me.

Did you ever notice that houses have layers of odors? I remember an old farmhouse we lived in, which smelled of plants, laundry detergent, and an undercurrent of all previous owners combined. It’s as though scent embeds itself into walls and floors.

In developing characters and their environments, we can see how smell could be a vivid way to make a story breathe. If we are writing about a house full of men, scents will be different. I’m telling you,I know these things. I have brothers. The masculinity, shall we say, does shout smoke, spice and sweat.

On the other side of the road, where mostly females reside, you’ll find the staggering scents of cinnamon, lavender oil, powder, perfume and candles. Of course there will be fruity odors mixed in and funky, too, depending on whether they keep a clean house and if they cook.

So, if we want our characters to live and remember that they have lived, scent is one worthy tool. It is exactly why, when I smell baby powder, I can be yanked back to a morning, fifteen years ago, baby on my lap. She has just finished her oatmeal and given me an open-mouthed kiss on the cheek, leaving a smear. There is sticky oatmeal in my hair, too, left from chubby fingers grabbing to draw me close. I can still hear her coo at the birds, so early my eyes are barely slit open, but yet I’m chattering to her and overwhelmed with tenderness. Yes, baby powder can snap me back that fast.

Our world is one big, smelly memory.

This week I’m taking my basket of scent and sprinkling it throughout my work. How about you? What particular scent fires up your memory?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Yo Sugar Dolls

This week I received some extra sparkle when Elizabeth from Ramblings offered me a Sugar Doll Award. Thank you for making me smile. I’ve never been referred to as a sugar doll but it does sound quite southern.

I’d like to offer this award up to fellow blogger, Yvette Ward-Horner at Essential Fiction. She adds a colorful punch to the writing and blogging world with her imaginative stories and those of fellow writers. You can find their blog links on my sidebar.

This sweet award has one condition. To accept, I must reveal ten things about muah that you may not know. Now I feel a bit shy. Okay, the wildflower is wandering away from the punchbowl. Oh, here she comes. Please bare with me.

Really, since I’m giving you ten, might you give me one? Just one lovely little thing about yourself in the comments. That’s fair, don’t you think? I’d really love to know more about each of you.

Okay then. Ten things:

1. I have eight brothers and sisters and loved growing up in a boisterous family.

2. Munich, Germany was my birthplace. I’m an army brat.

3. When I was eight, I almost drowned in a creek.

4. People who litter really tick me off. It is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. That and those who think they’re more important than others because of a certain title. Everyone is unique and special.

5. I was trained to fight forest fires and use a chainsaw. I loved both. Buzzzz…

6. Quantum physics intrigues me to no end.

7. Ants and Sea Monkeys- as a kid, I was fascinated with both. This was back when Sea Monkeys actually looked like crazy minuscule monkeys and not amoebas. Can you say nerd?

8. My dream is to have a cabin in a minty forest. A horse to ride. Chickens, yes. A garden to tend. Not a store or mall in sight for miles. As you know, I’m already pretty well stocked up on shoes!

9. I’m a trained ballroom dancer. I went to an open audition and much to my surprise was one of four selected out of sixty. Many years ago I could dance a rumba, ChaCha, waltz, tango, foxtrot, etc… around the best of them. I taught couples, which meant I had to know both parts and switch them up lightening fast. I’m still not sure how I managed that. Please don’t ask me to do it now.

10. For many years now I’ve cut my own hair. I’m pretty sure I’ve saved enough money by now to take a sweet Caribbean cruise. I’m picturing myself on the open water with a chocolate martini in hand and wind in my hair. Bring it on.

Now to you, Sugar Dolls!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Alice in Bloggerland

Since I’ve been in bloggerland, I’ve felt a little like Alice, falling down the rabbit hole and discovering Wonderland, although I might well be the Caterpillar. Oh, wait, the caterpillar was a male, who sat on his mushroom and liked to tell Alice how to grow and shrink. Remember his phrase: Whooo…are…you? Well, I do know who some of you are and I’m sure to meet many more delightful characters along the way. One never knows if they’ll discover the real Alice, the Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts, Tweedledee, the Cheshire Cat, March Hare or the true Caterpillar. Wait, I think I already know who he is but I ain't sayin'. I might have already found them all.

Thank you to all my lovely blogger friends, old, new, and yet to be discovered. Your friendships and expressive posts have kept me well informed and delighted. The tea parties around here are just fantastic!

Please allow me to thank some extra special friends for all the kindness and goodwill shown me regarding book reviews, author interviews, encouragement and fine friendships. You have kept my little world afloat and for that I thank you. I appreciate all of you so very much.

Let’s start with the Wonderland Queen herself, Ms. Ronda from Ronda's Wonderland.

Yes, there is such a mystical place in bloggerland! You never know what you’ll find over there but you can bet it will always be magical. I get curiouser and curiouser every time I visit. She is a delightful hostess who can spin words like silk. You might find her in a field of talking flowers, so you can't miss her.

Moving on down the rabbit hole we discover an Ultimate Cheapskate! Hey, what the heck is he doing down here? Well, he is quite a colorful character and we bloggers like to save money, don’t we? Jeff Yeager excels at this and can help you as well with his rich, humorous tips. You’ll laugh all the way to the bank. Please do yourself a favor and check out his website and book The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map To True Riches.

Oh, look who else I’ve discovered. Stacy Post from A Writer's Point of View at For some reason, her link would not post here. I'm sorry, sista Stacy. You know I did try. Anyhoo, she's got it going on. Her outlook on life is sweet, sometimes spicy and she's always cooking over there. She can flood your senses with descriptions of everyday smells, sights and sounds. Don’t miss the chance to be part of her sensational entourage. She's worth the Google. Or just look to the right on my sidebar. She's right there.

Here is another character I’ve been blessed to discover. Georganna Hancock at A Writer's Edge at There you'll find a treasure trove of wit and wisdom. She has more than enough to share with all. Geo is a true blue professional on all matters of publishing and writing. You won’t want to miss her posts, bursting with knowledge learned from years on the front lines. She has been an inspiration to myself and many, many others.

Now who is that wee lassie flinging out glorious posts as fast as one can shuffle a deck of playing cards? Oh, it’s Elizabeth, from Ramblings at .
You can bet she’ll keep you entertained and well informed with her unique spin on the world. There is always a burst of activity over there, fit for a queen or king. You will want to stop in for her fresh views on life and the way she weaves it.

We are now coming to the end of our journey and who should I meet but possibly Alice herself, all drenched with southern hospitality. In Deanna Schrayer's world, there is much to discover.
Over at The Life of a Working Writer Mommy at
She’ll not only keep you laughing and crying with her interesting appraisals of the world but also well fed with her mouth watering recipes, which usually have family stories attached. You can find the link to Deanna's Happy Accidents on her blog.

Meanwhile, long live bloggerland!

Thank you, Stacy, for the award! You made my day.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Spring Frills

Something thrilling will happen soon and it has to do with nature intoxicating us once again with her charms. Right now old man winter has his white woolly blanket thrown over landscape's bed but hang on tight and a fresh morning will soon arrive.

Covers will be flung back, the bed sun-warmed. And then, popping through a steamy mattress of soil will be vibrant pink and yellow ruffled tulips and perfumed roses and multi-colored fields shrieking with evening primrose and baby blue-eyes. Our gardens will yawn first, and then shout with bullet shaped blue bonnets and crimson clover, like bright red tubes of lipstick. The days will lengthen; night caught short, the pungent smell of roots, new leaves and lavender exploding in air.

Prepare to feast your eyes on purple fhlox and red frilly poppies and lavender colored larkspur tightly packed around stems. And those mischievous robins will be back, too, excavating backyard worms in the midst of Indian paintbrush and rain lilies which open slowly at dusk to appear in full flower the next morning. Oh, and butter yellow corn flowers, we can’t forget those loud ones, butterflies swooping around them like in air ballerinas’.

We will emerge,too, from dark winter houses, blinking and rubbing our eyes in sheer wonder at the rich, staggering beauty, scent and color surrounding us.

Here in Texas we also have many trees which riot with color and scent. Mountain Laurel, whose grape fragrance could rejuvenate a zombie and creamy tulip magnolia’s, which remind me of generous scoops of vanilla ice cream. Lest we forget ornamental pear, exotic in lace, their lusty scent driving bees and butterflies wild.

Yes, spring will arrive. Sooner in south Texas, but even in colder climates it will come. Release your grip on the white quilt and keep an eye out. You can’t miss the lacy bows and hot pink tights.

Speaking of hot pink tights, my colorful blogger friend, Ronda at rondaswonderland mentioned the 5th Annual Cyberspace Poetry Slam on her latest blog entry. She has a hothouse of ideas over there, so please pop in and say hello if you have a chance. I hope some poetry finds you as well. Here’s a wee one of mine to share.

Flower Pageant

There is a garden I know
Where opulent flowers grow
And birds rally there, lizards, too,
Perch on hems of daisy’s, that’s what they do.

They laud flowers modeling exquisite dresses,
Roses in hot pink, passion flowers red tresses,
But when it’s time to choose a winner,
Birds fly home for dinner.

The lizards with bubblegum pouches,
Linger on verbena couches,
Puzzled at what to do,
Knowing they must say who.

Flower girls hold heads tall,
Daisy, Rose and Poppy, all dolls,
In closing throw a celebration ball,
For a flower pageant has no stiff laws.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sweetie Pie Baking Company

When I’m older, I might open a bakery. But for now cooking is just another one of those passions of mine. For all I know, it may be the only reason I have friends. I give them stuff, see. They want my lemon custard pies and raisin cookies and cinnamon rolls. I have a particular friend I call, Chick-a-pee, who is quite enamored with my skills. We don’t exchange birthday presents per se, but every year for her celebration, I make and deliver a mound of cinnamon rolls to her doorstep. She has hung around me for awhile now.

The kick is all mine. Really. The whole process of creating and giving away feels oddly magical. The dough kneading, pounding, lacing of cinnamon and sugar and rolling up, the rising and baking, cinnamon saturated air, sugar, sugar baby. If I’ve had a crappy week, making rolls rejuvenates me. Let me explain. I pound that dough.

Did you just sass me, young lady? Pound. What? I can’t believe so and so did that. Pound. Ug, this weekend I just feel like lying in bed, wailing and eating. Pound. And my personal favorite line, when something has really floored me- what the heck? Pound. Pound. Pound. By the time I’ve finished, my arms ache like a mother but I’m back to my happy self. Yes, making cinnamon rolls does that for me. However, my hips and thighs are not fond of them…ba ba boom! Good thing I like to exercise. And great thing I don’t make them often.

Making pies is different. When I stand in bare feet, stirring custard, I feel like an exotic Italian woman in a Tuscany tiled kitchen with huge windows, watching skiffs on a glassy Mediterranean Sea.

What the heck?

Just stay with me. I’m not done yet.

Steam is rising from glossy, watery custard, hot lemon and chocolate lava, bubbling, Olive trees shining. Wait… no olive trees. But pies, yes, we have silky pies. Look, I’ve created smiles.

Now to the meringue. Whipping egg whites to resemble perky mountain peaks makes me downright giddy. And that chocolate pie next door is glammed to the hilt with whipping cream spun up like shiny cotton candy, Mexican vanilla whirled in and curly cues, tiny and chocolate glittering on top.

Are you hungry, sweetie pies? Well, I’m sorry. This story is virtual. But if you ever do see a Sweetie Pie Bakery Company, do pop back to the kitchen and say hello. It’s possible I’ll be there, barefoot, whipping cream stuck in my hair. And if you mention olive trees, I’ll toss in a free pie.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Shoe Stories

I am in love. With shoes. My closet is chock full of pumps, boots, and shiny flats. Every time I see a shoe store I get the urge to yank my car over and partake in the rapture of finding that new pair. Maybe I need a twelve STEP program. It’s about the only materialistic thing I have a problem with and I rationalize this because, by gosh, these shoes DO take me places.

Obviously I’m not alone with this addiction. Go to any shoe store and you’ll catch mysterious women, buzzing around footwear blooming from boxes like sun lit peonies’, then flung and scattered, scattered and flung in a frenzied picking. I once tried on a pair of red heels at Target and a woman next to me oohed and awed until discovering they were the last pair in her size eight. Her creamy complexion then flamed and her eyes turned flinty. For fear of being maimed, I sheepishly handed the pumps over. I mean, if I get thrown in the slammer for brawling over shoes, it’ll be a pair of Jimmy Choo’s.

So, I’ve tried on glossy black pumps and envisioned myself in that silky blue dress, sauntering down New York’s Saks Fifth Avenue, cell phone humming and shopping bags winking and swinging in the sun. A green pair of flats have easily transported me to a pub in Ireland, having a loud conversation with a bloke about the virtues of Irish whiskey. Well, maybe not that. Quite possibly I’d be corralling sheep in a field that I’d inadvertently let out to picnic underneath a birch tree.

Recently I was clearing out my closet (finally) and had every pair of shoes I owned scattered like chunky confetti on the bathroom floor. One of my daughters peeked in.

Daughter said, “Gosh, mom, you have a ton of shoes.”

My tone was defensive. “Say what?”

She added, “Nothing.” Her eyes gleamed, sudden like. “Oh, can I borrow those black flats?”

“Mm hmm.”

With three girls who also adore shoes, I've learned to be quite thrifty. None have cost me much over twenty dollars and most, much less. Did I mention I had a shoe addiction?

CLASSIC BLACK PUMPS: This pair has taken me to weddings, where chocolate fountains drip like silky rain. And tiered raspberry filled vanilla cake can never have too much butter cream icing.

WET TURQUIOSE FLATS: I’ve walked down dirt roads of Louisiana history in these; explored plantations along the Cane River and those outside of New Orleans, Baton Rough, and St. Francisville. I also went deep into the swamps and held a baby gator and stroked a river rats head while wearing these. Yes, I did. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

PLAID BOOTS: Plenty of Texas two-stepping in this pair, music loud, dance floor slick with sawdust. I’ve danced in these at the Garner State Park pavilion, too, under a full moon bright as a lit cigarette end,jukebox blaring Ring Of Fire by good ole Johnny Cash. As you can see, they are well loved.

BLUE COMFY FLATS: These are taking care of business shoes-volunteer work, grocery shopping, doctor visits, running kiddo around kind of stuff.

LUCKY SLIPPERS: Got these for Christmas and I anticipate they’ll take me down many hills and valleys of inspiration in the story telling arena. Comfy is the name when I’m at home with my mind on writing. Writers can stay in PJ’s and slippers if we choose and barring a knock at the door and the occasional raised eyebrow of the UPS man, nobody need know we’ve been creating little worlds of our own. Don’t you adore that?

Yes, I have a compulsion for shoes. I admit it. How about you?

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Unsinkable Molly Brown's

Gutsy and kind-the world would have us believe this is a rare combination, that these people aren’t completely trustworthy. I ask you, who is? Show me a perfect person and I’ll kiss a gecko! I don’t expect I’ll ever have to do this. I’m terrified of them. And I’ve yet to see perfection, not in life, people or love. But despite this, we can accomplish more than we realize.

Case in point: Molly Brown. Born Margaret Tobin in Hannibal Missouri in 1867, she was taught progressive views by her parents. At age 13 she worked in a factory and volunteered in soup kitchens encountering head on struggles of the working class. Later, employed at a hotel, she met Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) who mentioned there were riches to be found in Colorado, where she later moved.

After meeting her future husband J.J. Brown, poor like herself, she said this. “I wanted a rich man but I loved Jim Brown.” A few years later, J.J. did strike it wealthy when his engineering skills landed an ore mine for Ibex Mining. Although they lived lavishly, her giving nature didn’t wane. Poor times, wealthy times, it didn’t matter. She gave from her heart, like she always had. One doesn’t need money to have a philanthropic influence.

She is best known for being a survivor on the Titanic but what some might not know is how she rallied the first class passengers into giving money to help the less fortunate survivors, those who had lost everything. Before the rescue ship Carpathia had reached New York, she had raised 10,000 dollars! Did she accomplish this by being too kind? Or being too gutsy? Of course! This woman knew it took both to make a fire.

When the Carpathia arrived in New York, 30,000 people were waiting. Her deeds had already preceded her. When asked by reporters how she survived, she said, “Typical Brown Luck. We’re unsinkable.”

There are many men and women who quietly light up the world for others. It could be they’ve baked something for a sick neighbor. Or taken time for a sad friend. Maybe they’ve tried to understand someone instead of judging them. I’m honored to know many of these genuine people. They know who they are.

Close your eyes and keep your mind wide open. Things are not always as they seem. See the blinking fireflies? A lit candle? A black, dead night crackles and sparks with one. Add a strand and we’ve lit up a dark corner of the world. We are among stars. I’m lucky enough to call some friends. Perhaps you are an unsinkable Molly Brown. I try to be but some days are better than others. Such is life.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Jazz Kitchen

Oil pop, pop, popping, mushrooms, carrots, snap peas, shrimp big as butterflies, spicy chicken, red chilies’ flung in a huge steel pan, dancing together like a hot cha, cha, cha. That symphony of image and scent, going down on a Saturday Texas night. Like jazz with maracas thrown in. No, not a concert, but sitting ringside at a Japanese eatery, savoring the show. We only got the seats because tables were full. Just what I wanted but didn’t know it. Life is providential that way. Even in little things.

As I watched those chefs like players in a boisterous garage band, spicing, tossing, clattering and fine tuning, each part of the whole, producing with little effort, I thought of muses. Great kitchen muses up and pinching them with music, and plumes of aroma’s, they in the vortex. When smoking dishes were finally placed under our noses, the food almost felt anointed. And I’m not kidding. I ate slow and appreciated every decadent bite. If only I could remember to savor the everyday when I rise, shower, love, write, cook, clean, and read. To feel and see and hear subtle notes unfolding to a sticky, sweet, spicy crescendo. I will try to remember.

But now to the fortune cookie.

To find the hidden message the sugary golden cookie must be snapped open. I’m as anxious to do this as an enthralled little kid, digging in a Lucky Charm box and pulling up pots of gold, or four leaf clovers, or a wee rainbow. I was that kid. Still am some days. And, ahem… surely some will remember the surprises in the Cracker Jack boxes, back when our spin on the world was fresh as a bright blue lyric.

Here’s the reveal in that crisp cookie:GREAT ACTS OF KINDNESS WILL BEFALL YOU IN THE COMING MONTHS. Yeah, I know it’s cheesy, but this one made my heart leap. Don’t we all need this message? Without this our notes would flat line, both on the giving and receiving end. Anyway, I saved it. Put it in my tiny box with the others. I will pull those out from time to time, when notes go flat and I remember the unseen on a level close to song.

Blog Archive