Saturday, November 23, 2013

Current Rants and Raves

Raves first:  I'm currently reading Dr. Charles Krauthammer's Things That Matter. The man is not only brilliant but outrageously funny. I sat in the pick-up line for my granddaughter yesterday and almost found myself unable to drive because of laughing so hard at his "Don't Touch My Junk" essay.

Kudos to the school children/parents in South Carolina who fought back against a group of sue-happy bullying "humanists" determined to keep them from providing Christmas gifts for children. These lovely groups go in and threaten to sue small towns/schools which don't have the money to fight them in court, and they know it. It's bullying pure an simple--and even worse, bullying someone smaller and weaker.

Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly interviewed the head of the humanist group threatening to sue, and he proclaimed they'd sent money to the Philippines for disaster relief. Good for them. But he couldn't answer when she asked him what they were doing for the children who wouldn't be getting gifts because of his group. He looked blank when she said well, he was protecting them from being "evangelized" and she was sure that would give them "warm comfort"on Christmas morning. In the midst of total disgust for people like this, you have to feel sorry for them, too...just a little.

The new Common Core curriculum taking over our schools seems designed to indoctrinate students in the almighty government (current)doctrine. Sixth-graders in an AR school were asked to re-write the Bill of Rights. In another school, teachers were directed to read the Gettysburg Address without expression and without giving the historical background. A fourth grade class biography about Obama seems to want students to believe all white people are racists. And, of course, Education Secretary Arne Duncan lashed out at "white suburban moms" criticizing his baby.Some states, I understand, are pulling out. I hope the rest follow suit.

Folks, I don't know about you, but I am about fed up with being told what a terrible racist  I am because I am white. I was born white--nothing I can do about it. I am a Christian and a political conservative by choice. I have that right in a free country. I lived through the Civil Rights Era, and you can bet I was rooting for all those determined to end racial discrimination in every corner of society. We have come too far to play the "race card" at every turn just because someone disagrees with someone else. I'm done with political correctness. You can teach but not mandate courtesy and respect. I was taught both. If someone else wasn't, well, that's their problem.

I'm tired of the name-calling, the double-speak, professional politicians who live a fine life on my tax dollar, the race-baiters, and those who would deny kindness and compassion if it's linked in any way to the G-word--that being God.

God help America!

(I hope the NSA and anyone else tracking American citizens on the internet takes note of this post. I guess I will know they did if my tax return gets audited or a swat team shows up at my house with/without a search warrant.)

America! America! God shed His grace on Thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhod
From sea to shining sea!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dear to My Heart

Right now I'm working on revising Book #1 of The Dreamland Series. That's the one I put up on this blog sometime back. It was okay--but like all first drafts, it needed some work. Those of you who read it may remember one of the characters, Danny Jefferson, who had Down Syndrome. Often overlooked because of his challenges, Danny kept his eyes and ears open and often saw and heard more than anyone else.

I like using special characters in stories. In my first-ever published novel, Where Is Papa's Shining Star?, the male protagonist/hero--Alan Ashley--came back from World War I blind and scarred. He had many challenges to overcome, not the least of which was winning the heart of Lenore Seldon who had less-obvious scars of her own.

In Four Summer Days, a story based on my great-grandfather who shot and killed his stepfather in 1876, there is Cart, the mentally-challenged younger brother of the hero Tom. In a time when such a disability was too often considered something shameful to be hidden away, Cart's family helped him achieve his potential with unequivocal love and encouragement. He had the mind of a child but the soul of an artist and left behind a huge work of intricately-crafted woodcarvings. (This book should be "up" on Amazon soon.)

Blest Be the Tie, the "great American novel" I've been working on for thirty years and may never complete, has Peaches, crippled more by her family's disdain than by childhood polio, her daughter Button, born without a left hand for which Peaches blames herself, perhaps with good reason, and Vic, who came home from WW II without most of one leg.

But I digress. Right now Danny Jefferson is close to my heart because my 18-month-old grandson Liam was born with Down Syndrome. Fortunately for him, he was born into a family who loves him completely and will do everything in our power to help him reach his maximum potential. Looking ahead, I know he will face many challenges, not the least of which is being labeled "different" and as such, "not quite good enough" by many people. Perhaps Danny is my love song for Liam--my prayer for his future.

Writers are often advised to "write what you know". I would add, "Write what you love, what you feel deeply about."


Friday, November 15, 2013

Rules-Smules

Interviewers often ask, "Are you a plotter or a pantser?" My answer would be, "It all depends. Usually, when an idea presents itself, I jot down a setting and some character names. Then I research the setting, especially the time period so as not to have any anachronisms floating around, and make notes. Then I jot down some ideas about the plot--where it's going and how it will get there. I might even fill in character descriptions and back stories.

But not always.

Sometimes I get an idea and just start writing, and when I come to the end, I really really like it or just want to hit 'delete'. I don't think there's a definitive answer about 'how' to write. I've read a lot of books on the subject and have come away with some good ideas, but even then the  ideas have to be adapted for me personally.

A short story can just sort of 'go', where a longer novel needs a few guidelines so it doesn't become too convoluted. Also, what works for one author doesn't necessarily work for another.

I spoke to a group about the Penelope series, and immediately someone said, "You do have a murder in the first chapter, don't you?" When I replied in the negative, she became adamant--"You have to follow the rules." Okay, honey, you follow the rules if that's what floats your boat. I write for myself. And, btw, the number of books sold in the series indicates that readers haven't heard about 'the rules' I didn't follow!

It's been great to have a series which has sold well, and maybe it will happen again. Or maybe it won't.
The one thing I can count on is that I'll enjoy what I'm doing however I do it. At the end of the day, that's what matters.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Grand Adventure, Mistakes and All!

The original intent of The Word Place was to write about writing--specifically "resources, reflections, and remedies", but I've drifted lately. So let's see...how about a "remedy" today.

I don't think I'm the only person who hits the indent key for paragraphing, but now I realize why that's a no-no. When I started formatting mss for Kindle, I realized that the paragraphs could be/usually would be skewed unless I went back and set the indent for 0.5"--which automatically throws a new paragraph to the exact right spot. Going back and doing that after the fact is tedious and time-consuming. Lesson learned. From now on, any new ms will be formatted from the start.

Working with headers and footers (page numbers) has taught me to check the toolbar for a sneaky little thing called "link to previous"--which, if highlighted, can throw everything off, especially when you've put in section breaks for whatever reasons. And, it highlights itself automatically! Look for it, and turn it off if you don't want to start from scratch.

In the "is-my-face-red" section, even though I pride myself on careful research, I have made some bloopers--and readers have let me know about them. I will never again assume I know something without double-checking to be sure. Also, if you are a reader, don't hesitate to point out the errors--politely, of course. I've been fortunate to have some of the nicest readers send me an FYI email--and I appreciate that they took the time to do it.

No matter how long one writes, being a writer is an evolving thing--from technicalities to truth. I think it's one of the grandest adventures of life!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Casting Out

I bought myself a present! A 12-pc set of T-fal non-stick cookware! Just washed it, but the instructions say to "season" it with cooking oil before first use, so I'll do that in a bit.

Now comes the task of "purging" all the old--and I do mean OLD--cookware inherited from my mother and grandmother. Except for the cast iron skillet, of course. I'm not parting with that!

Once upon a time, cookware was forever: the aforementioned cast iron skillet, a couple of saucepans with lids, a Dutch oven, a griddle, and a double boiler. I mean, you used it for a lifetime. I think what I'll be ditching has been used for several lifetimes.

I also bought a new covered cake pan, but I also need an 8-inch square one for brownies and such. My old one has as many dents as I have wrinkles. Ditto the muffin tins. The bread pans are, I think, salvageable.

In retrospect, it seems foolish to buy new cookware at my age. I don't even cook that much anymore. But it was on sale for a good price, and the last time I made brownies, I sort of cringed as I buttered the pan. So perhaps it was time.

So, it's off to get tough with myself and box up assorted pots and pans for a salvage yard which wants metal. I can't get rid of the memories though. Chicken and dumplings bubbling lazily in a heavy pot on my grandmother's gas stove. Cinnamon fried pies crackling in enough butter to sink the Titanic in her big iron skillet. Chocolate sheet cake covered with thick fudge frosting in a 13 x 9 pan  heavy enough to bench press.

Of all my immediate family, it's my grandmother I think of most. She was always there (next door), patient, welcoming, armed with practical knowledge I wish she'd imparted more of to me. I've held onto all this old cookware just because it was hers, even though I haven't used most of it in years. But it's time to say goodbye to the physical reminders and move on.

 I've hauled "stuff" around  for too long. I don't have to keep it in order to retain my memories. They'll always be there.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans' Day

     It's November 11, the day the guns went silent in Europe in 1918 during WW I--known for years as "Armistice Day" and now as "Veterans' Day". I like the name change--we should honor all veterans, not just those who fought in a particular conflict.
     WW II vets are dying out. The survivors of Jimmy Doolittle's "Raiders" who struck at the heart of the Japanese Empire early in the war, are down to four and have decided to end their reunions this year and drink the toast while they still can, rather than wait to dwindle to two.
     I am a 'war baby'. "The war" wasn't history while I was growing up but rather something with which we lived every day, particularly my friends and classmates whose fathers never came home. I became accustomed to seeing men--older but not old--selling poppies on downtown streets as this day of remembrance approached. Actually, it was a donation rather than a sale. I always bought one, and I still do whenever I happen to have the opportunity.
     My generation went to Viet Nam. I don't criticize those who fled the country or protested out of true conviction, but I feel a deep and abiding shame about how those who didn't burn their draft cards were treated when they came home. And, on principle, I wouldn't pay to watch a Jane Fonda movie. In my opinion, what she did was inexcusable, and forgiveness for the harm she caused is between her and her Maker.
     And here's the rest of my beef:  Look at America today. Look at the professional politicians, paid with our tax money, who have made a mockery of the bravery of the young men and women who struggled to preserve this nation in a time when true evil stalked the face of the world and threatened to destroy freedom forever. If these soldiers could have looked ahead as they stormed Omaha Beach or Iwo Jima or countless other lesser-known beaches and bridges, how would they have felt?
     The greatest "battle" these politicians face is their next election--and they seem to be willing to say/do anything to win it. Everything but sacrifice themselves for the good of the American people whom they were supposedly elected to serve. They live high at our expense and do little if anything for our well-being. I'm sick of them--some more than others.
     "They gave up all of their tomorrows for our todays" has always resonated with me. It breaks my heart to think of all the lives laid down for the ilk of those who play at "running" the government of a once-proud country. Not a perfect country--not by a long shot--but a light in the darkness anyway.
     "Write/call your Congressman" we're told. Why? They read what they want to read, hear what they want to hear, and sneer at the rest...at us for being dumb enough to vote for them year after year, ad nauseum.
     Is this too strongly worded? I don't think it's blunt enough.
     "Home of the brave...land of the free..." Dear God, please let us keep it that way while we still can!
    

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I don't want to think this hard...

     So here I am needing to do laundry this fine Saturday morning, but my washer and dryer (tops) are occupied by two things I'm not quite sure what to do with:

(1) My granddaughter's 'crystal garden' which we concocted yesterday with charcoal briquettes, ammonia, laundry bluing, and salt. Crystals are beginning to grow, and the instructions caution against moving/jostling the fragile project. We did the project outside because I wanted to minimize the ammonia fumes, but it had to be moved inside for safe-keeping. Hence, the utility room.

(2) A sack containing an urn with the recently-delivered ashes of my beast/aka Lady. She will be buried out back, appropriately with St. Francis and also in her favorite spot to relieve herself. But I have to wait until my younger son arrives at Christmas with a shovel. Someone told me recently that she has her mother's ashes on a shelf in her closet. Somehow that option doesn't appeal to me.

Obviously, I will need to use the washer and dryer before Christmas.

So--here I sit considering all alternatives.

As the King said in "The King and I", 'tis a puzzlement.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How did we get from there to here?

A classmate is keeping everyone updated on monthly birthdays so we can exchange good wishes. He's especially stressing "the big 7-0".  Humphf. I am still seventeen, thank you. Seventeen and graduating from high school and going off to college with my whole life in front of me. Wait...let me think...was that just yesterday, or was it a lifetime ago?

Having gone to school early, I'm one of the younger classmates. I have another whole year before "the big 7-0" comes along. One more year to put my hand against the face of the clock and try to hold back time. But, of course, it can't be done.

So...how did we get from 17 to 70 in the blink of an eye? And do I really want to know?

I thought my parents were old at 40. They almost made 90, so I come from pretty long-lived stock. My mother used to tell me I'd never grow up. "No," I'd reply, "and I'll never grow old either." I bought my first Mickey Mouse watch when I was 50. Well, I'd always wanted one, and it was time. I still start December by watching the cartoon version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". I read the comic page in the newspaper every day.

When I was growing up, all the "old" women (probably younger than I am now) wore the same black square-heeled, lace-up shoes and clip-on pearl earrings. I guess it was their trademark--or something. I like jeans, sneakers, and hoops or "danglies" in my two-hole ears.

People talk about the risks which young people take without thought of the consequences. I try not to think about either one anymore. Maybe they're smarter than we think. Maybe they know what I just found out--you only go around once, and it's better to live a few years than to vegetate for a lifetime.

At this point in time, there's no going back, only forward at what seems now to be break-neck speed. I'm just going to hold on tighter and soar with the eagles. Who wants to be a sparrow hopping around on the ground digging for worms?

No, I'm not contemplating sky-diving or bungee-jumping. A tattoo? I don't think so. Shucking my blissfully single state? When pigs fly. But the road beckons, and I have places to go and people to meet and things to learn.

I don't really know how I got from there to here. It was inevitable, I suppose.

Just know I'm not staying here with so many 'theres' to see.

The life I was afraid to live before is still out there waiting for me, and I'm on my way.