Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday Rambles - Favorite subject, I guess.

Still here, still writing, perhaps not as diligently as I should, but can't seem to put it down. What would I do? Much as I love, love, love to read, eyes and mind do get tired after a steady diet of just reading. At least mine do. Of course, some time must be devoted to keeping one's living and writing space habitable. I don't enjoy seeing a sink full of dirty dishes for days. Or even just two days. My house is far from immaculate, but clean enough for me to accept. And I'm the one who lives here. Occasional cleaning, straightening up is a good antidote to hours in a chair at the computer. So I guess it's a win-win situation to have to do it. But lately I seem to be hearing the siren call of my muse, Yardley, more often. I hope it continues.

In the column below, written several years ago, I mention books that have helped me. Most libraries probably shelve some of them, or can get them through inter-library loan. If you're a writer, or aspiring writer, try one or two, you might like them.

Writer or Ditch Digger

Since I profess to be a writer I suppose I should occasionally write about the subject of writing. I don’t delude myself into thinking anything I might say could ever approach the value of Stephen King’s “On Writing” or Noah Lukeman’s “The First Five Pages” or Anne LaMott’s “Bird by Bird.” If anyone who aspires to write for public consumption is not familiar with those books, a used copy is usually available somewhere for not much money. These are only three of dozens of books on the craft of writing to be found and most have some value.
In my opinion another book, now a classic, is even better than the three named in the previous paragraph, “Make Your Words Work” by Gary Provost. I believe it and years of Writers Digest, the magazine, helped me achieve publication. Another classic that I had wanted for a long time before I actually ordered it is “Goal, Motivation & Conflict” by Debra Dixon. I heartily wished I had not delayed buying it.
Aside from books on writing, just reading books-novels, biographies, whatever one prefers-is also invaluable to improve writing skill. I love writing, but a voracious reader since the age of five, reading was my first love. A person who has read hundreds, maybe thousands, of books just absorbs the way words, sentences, paragraphs sing together in harmony, to use a musical comparison.
Of course, reading and reading books on writing, no matter how good, is no substitute for the actual practice of writing. There is universal truth in the hoary joke’s answer given the person who asked how to get to Carnegie Hall, ‘practice, practice, practice’. Writers achieve mastery of the written word by writing. Exercises on description, snippits of dialogue, just as a violinist or pianist learns to make beautiful music by practicing scales.
Good writing is hard work, but, alas, holds no guarantee of monetary gain. Only a small percentage of writers make a living through writing. One who doesn’t love writing for itself might be better served to find a shovel and a place that needs a ditch.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Friday Rambles-Rememberies


This post speaks for itself pretty much. It might be titled 'Path of a Writer.' I'm certainly not a famous writer, but I am a writer. Not a young, or even younger, writer and sometimes I think about giving it up but the feeling passes. My writing gives me a focus, a beacon, to follow along my mystery lane rambles. Before I began to try seriously to write I was a voracious reader, I'd read any printed matter my gaze fell across. And I still enjoy reading just about more than writing. The world is full of books just waiting to be read. But something keeps pushing me to write 'one more thing,' then maybe I'll quit. Or maybe not.

Rememberies
A clear glass pumpkin-shaped jar sits on my desk. I've crammed into it various mementoes that mark significant moments in my life.
Visible through the glass is an address label with my mother's name and last apartment address. More than twenty-five years after her death the ache of loss lingers in my heart. I'm reminded of the hardships she endured, raising eight children in deep poverty, and am very doubtful that I could have done as well as she.
Next to the label is my grandson's name tag from the family reunion Holston Valley Medical Center provided for babies who spent the first few days or weeks of their lives in the NeoNatal Intensive Care Unit. I remember my fear at first sight of his tiny, mottled body after long, anxious moments waiting for the delivering doctor to bring him into view. Or his Lilliputian form as his Mom held him for brief moments, IV tube in a matchstick arm, feeding tube in his button nose. Now a strapping father of two himself, he bears little resemblance to that preemie in the NICU incubator.
Among the jumble of mementoes is a round piece of molded plastic which covered an indicator lamp on the old cordboard where I worked as a telephone operator. The job that gave me not only independence, but the realization that I was a person in my own right, not just wife, mother, caretaker of an aged parent.
A parking permit from the local community college symbolizes my long-delayed college degree. An Allen wrench I used to assemble a large modular desk for my computer, ownership of which began another major turn for my life. A red and gold enameled key ring fob with a menorah and the word "Shalom" from my first and only trip outside of the US, to Israel.
A name tag from the Citizen's Police Academy class I took, seeking realism for my writing. Still another tag identifies me as facilitator for a home Bible Study. And finally one ringed with ivy leaves from a ten day writers retreat in North Carolina.
I found me at that retreat. I'm a writer. One who seeks to trade bits of myself through essays and columns for personal gratification and, occasionally, money. I now have books as evidence that I'm a writer. Books won't fit into the jar, but the objects it holds show me the path I took to get to the place I am now. And they provide me with inspiration for further journeys on that path.





 







Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tuesday Chatter-What's in a Name?



I'll be taking the rest of this week and most of next off, so my grand plan to post to my blogs at least twice a week is already stumbling. But I'll pick up it again. This Tuesday Chatter is a rumination on names. My own journey to the proper name for my writing endeavors is ongoing. Currently, I'm searching for just the right name for the third in my Cameron Locke, PI series. The search for names for the first two pales in comparison to this one. But I'm not ready to publish it quite yet, so I still have a little time.
 What's In a Name?

Juliet: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet." Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
What shall we name the baby? Or in the case of a writer, what shall I name this essay, story, poem, novel? Sometimes we start with a name. Myself, not usually. Almost always the title grows out of the piece of writing.
Most of the stories and books, finished and partials, that are on my computer right now have names. But I'm thinking of putting a group of these Life Slices columns into book form. What to call it? Of course, Life Slices will be part of it, but I need a sub-title. Perhaps Life Slices: Ramblings of a Southern Writer. Nah, don't want it that long. Life Slices: Through Thick and Thin. Maybe. Or not. And it can't be too personal as many deal with other subjects than my own life though most impinge in some form. Comments or suggestions welcome.
The two novels I've finished have gone through numerous title changes. When I find a title I think fits, I know it. But getting there is often a lengthy process. I'll have sheets of paper with scribbled titles all around my workplace. Scraps of files on my computer hard drive with possible names,. first one moving to the top as first choice then another.
When my daughter was born a name was already decided on, if it was a girl. Can't remember if we had chosen a boy name. I suppose it was a given he would have been named for his father. That was before ultra sound pictures informed prospective parents of the gender of their baby almost before they knew a child was in their future. It was also the time when mothers were routinely knocked out with drugs before the birth. So as I was waking up in the recovery room a nurse asked me what we would name our daughter. I reeled off a name we had never even discussed, knowing as I did that it was not correct! Reason enough to avoid being drugged when having a baby!
Since I've hardly begun choosing the columns to include, I have time to choose just the right title. I hope.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday Ramble - Free Stuff

The telephone rang before I was ready to get up this morning. Unknown caller. I rolled over and in a few minutes it rang again. Another unknown caller. I didn't answer either one, but I did get up. I don't answer calls from numbers I don't know. Sure, I might miss out on something good, but at least I've saved some aggravation. This may partly explain the popularity of texting. Even telemarkets have learned that the person who owns my number is just not answering. I know this because yesterday I was engrossed in working on a webpage and accidentally answered a call on my landline. It's a corded phone so I don't have to press a button. The guy must have been one who'd been calling, because the first thing he said was, "You're a hard person to get hold of." I laughed, thinking it must be someone I knew, tho I didn't recognize the voice. But no, he was a caller for a fundraiser.
When I do by chance answer a telemarker, I try to be nice. Life is too short to be gratuitously unkind. And the Good Book does say "Be kind to strangers, they could be angels unaware." Why not on the phone, too? This tidbit neatly segues into my ramble into the past on this Friday, a column I wrote about four years ago. Understand this was a hypothetical situation!

Completely (Risk) Free 
Riiiight! How many times are we taken in by that phrase? I know I have been too many times to count. And its cousin, ‘If dissatisfied, cancel anytime.’ Uh huh. Just try calling the number you’re supposed to call to cancel your Clutter-Free Living subscription after six unread issues clutter your coffee table. If you persevere through half a dozen pass-the-buck call transfers, or manage not to be disconnected, you might get to talk to a live person. You very calmly explain that you wish to cancel your subscription and receive a refund on unused issues. The person oh-so-sweetly wants you to tell them why you could possibly be dissatisfied with such a stellar periodical. When you remind them you were told you could cancel for any or no reason, you get more circular talk. And to please hold while the representative confers with the ‘circulation manager.’ 
‘Circulation manager’ comes on the line to persuade you how much you need the magazine. You yell and scream and finally are told that yes, of course, your subscription will be cancelled. Relieved, gullible you hang up. Only to have to go through the same thing for the next two months when the magazines keep piling up. By the time the next-to-last issue is due to ship, your subscription might be cancelled. Three months pass and eventually a check for five dollars arrives in your mailbox.
Once upon a time we only got into these predicaments if we unwisely allowed a door-to-door salesman – or an earnest student ‘working his or her way through college’ - inside our front door. Now telephone solicitors calling from huge boiler room operations, and online offers too good to pass up, lie in wait for us multiple times daily. Online websites which charge for information are masters of this sleight-of-hand scam. Sign up and browse for free. Only once an account is created a credit card number is required before any useful information can be accessed. Humans are so constructed that once they’ve invested time in a project, they are more willing to invest money. Thereby are cyber millionaires created, from ‘free’ stuff. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Tuesday Chatter-Notions

Long ago, maybe twenty-five years, maybe even thirty-five years ago, the writing bug bit me. Probably around February's Valentine Day, a print magazine, I think it was Redbook, ran a love story contest. I called mine Romantic Notions and with high hopes mailed it in. I don't remember what the prize was, maybe publication, maybe a few dollars and as I recall there was no entry fee. I do remember my struggle to type a clean copy with a carbon copy for myself. I told you it was a long time ago!
Since it was my first or second effort to write a story, predictably I didn't win. Through the years I hung on to that story, the premise always appealed to me. I kept writing others and finally one, not a romance, was printed in a magazine. Other things like continuing to work a job to make a living, different life events, caused writing to be a kind of spasmodic affair.
Then the modern marvel of personal computers burst on the scene. No more struggle with sheets of paper and carbons that smeared. Clean, relatively speaking, since in the beginning it was ink jet printers which can smear, printed matter! But who can really fathom the wide-reaching effect of the mushroom growth of the internet. Online magazine, ezines, sprang up. And several accepted some of my stories!
I kept copies of all the stories I wrote on five and a half inch floppy disks, then the smaller three inch ones. And occasionally tinkered with that first romance story. I also kept submitting stuff to agents and publishers, but only a couple of stories made it into print. But again, through the marvel called 'the internet,' I was eventually able to publish real books! With my name on them! And finally traditional independent publishers accepted some of them, too.
Fast forward to this year. I'm about to release the book that has germinated for all these years from that first love story. It's still a love story, but also became what is now my favorite genre, mystery, and named Sweetwater Deception.