Friday, December 25, 2009

Characters--many dimensions

Writers know we must make our characters multi-dimensional with good, bad, and unusual traits. We must make them jump off the page and keep readers turning the page. Usually, though, characters bring to immediate mind humans. Sometimes animals.

I often use horses and dogs in my writings. They are characters just as real as their human counterparts.

This past Christmas week my son and his family have been visiting from Virginia. On the way here they were stuck/trapped in a blizzard for almost 24 hours. I worried. I paced. I cried. And, I kept the phone line alive. They made it safely home.

Last night I lay beside my beautiful two year old granddaughter and watched her sleep. Snow blew outside the window. My dream of a white Christmas was granted, but it was accompanied by worry as she would be leaving the next morning. Back in the snow. Not a blizzard this time, just snow requiring careful driving by her daddy.

Weather can be a viable character for writers. We make lightning flash, thunder roll, humidity melt, heat swelter, flood waters rise and recede, snow cause white-outs, and wind howl. Other weather related actions move our characters in and out of harm's way or into new regions. Weather is active or causes action. We mustn't negate its importance in our work.

My current work in progress takes place along the Oregon Trail in 1845. The emigrants faced challenges of many sorts along the way, but weather and nature became their greatest foes.

I first became actively aware of the importance of weather as a character attending my first meeting of the Red River Romance Writer's Group in Wichita Falls, Texas. Sharon Sala, multi-published romance author, served as the guest speaker that day. She taught much, but I particulary recall her mention of using weather as character.

That day led to Ms. Sala becoming one of my favorite authors. She uses weather, setting extremes and other natural gifts to enhance her novels.

So, writer family, don't forget weather in your writing. Use it for more than to establish setting. It is a powerful tool.

Happy writing to all.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I'm back and writing

It's easy to see that my last post was in July. Since that time things in my life have been turned upside down. In a nutshell, my writing has taken a definite backseat to helping care for my cousin who is terminally ill, his mother who has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, spending time with an out-of-town friend who had major surgery, and spending six weeks in Virginia when my second grandbaby was born on September 17.

For quite some time I felt as if my brain cells had lost all creative juices. I did do some dabbling and my mind did some wandering. I have written snippets, thoughts, lists, and other ideas here and there. Mostly in a journal. I found one thought that came to me in sleep on the back of a catalog. I don't recall writing it.

However, I did find time to submit a memoir to Patchwork Path: Wedding Bouquet in August. I received notification on December 14 that the memoir had been accepted for the anthology. Amazing, that simple e-mail infused me with energy, the desire to write, and a self-commitment to make the time to write.

I have been taking my laptop and scribblings to my cousin's house. Perhaps, for now, I should concentrate on short stories, memoirs, and short articles rather than my novel. I will finish my last assignment for Long Ridge Writer's Group this week. I had to take a leave from that course.

Bottom line--I am back. I am energized. I am writing each day.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

On updates, writing, and procrastination

Once again, I have procrastinated to the point of distraction and guilt . . . Every morning I think about updating my blog. Every morning I procrastinate and get busy with other things. Wish I had an answer to that particular "why" question.

This morning, I'm busily trying to pack a suitcase, finish laundry, clean house, and prepare to go to Wichita Falls, Texas for a week. My friend, Mary, is having surgery tomorrow. I will be helping her out as much as I am able. It will be good to get away, despite the reason.

We had a wonderful family reunion the weekend of the fourth of July. More than 60 people were present and there was more than enough food. We went out in the boats. Talked. Played with the kids and had great fireworks two nights in a row. I have to admit, seeing the reflection of the fireworks on the lake made them more beautiful.

Our trip to Virginia to see Rosalyn was great. Too short and so much fun. Hard to believe she is two. Bill has been out to sea quite a lot. He's serving on the USS Carl Vinson, a recently refitted aircraft carrier. Sierra is miserable. I think Bailey is going to be a big baby like her sister. I'll be flying out to Virginia on September 18th for a few weeks to help Sierra with Rosalyn and the new baby.

On writing . . . I'm finishing up my last assignment for the Long Ridge Novel Writer's Course. This one has to do with putting together a proposal package and learning about marketing. OUCH! My novel is moving along. I have the full outline and several chapters written and edited. Two chapters in long hand and my characters keep changing on me. Rebecca wants to be a bit more adventurous than I planned and she sure isn't taking this falling in love business well.

The wagon train is taking on a life of its own. Not just the characters, but the animals, supplies, and equipment. I recently heard Sharon Sala speak at a writer's group about the use of geography and weather as characters. I realized I was/am utilizing those things but never considered them to be characters. Just setting.

I have a rough draft finished of a memoir for "Patchwork Path" and two drafts about animals for "Grit." Considering working on re-tooling a couple of interviews and a holiday story. I want to write about my Daddy, but find that much too difficult.

I'm very much looking forward to the last week of July. Some friends from Louisiana are coming. We're going to stay at Ron's lake house. Our plans are to work on art journals, writing, and other creative pursuits. But, we'll probably spend a great deal of time just talking, playing Scrabble, and eating. I'm sure Ron's son, Greg, will take us out in his boat. It will be nice.

And, last of all, I have to say I'm missing Louisiana, my friends, my church, and my writer's group more than I ever imagined. However, it is nice to be "home" and near family.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rosie the Riviter Died

Rosie the Riviter died on May 20, 2009 at the age of 90 years and 14 days.

At the time of her death she looked beautiful and no older than her early sixties. She had gorgeous thick black hair, alabaster skin, manicured nails, perfect make-up and a brilliant smile. She was classy, intelligent, and full of life. She loved gambling and went to the casino often. She was a winner in every way.

About two years ago my dear Aunt Hazel and I began talking about her younger days. She told me for the first time about her experiences during World War II. Her story included the hardships the American people endured for the good of the country, including rationing and doing without many things we wouldn't sacrifice these days. Her husband, Art, was called to duty. He was gone for three years.

The most interesting part of the conversation was about her time as a Rosie the Riviter at an aircraft facility in California. One of her co-workers was a shy young woman with dark hair named Norma Jean Baker. We would recognize her as Marilyn Monroe. Hazel said some journalists and photographers came to the factory one day. Their boss noticed that the young woman named Norma Jean was quite photogenic. Not long after that day Norma Jean was gone and her career beginning as a model named Marilyn began.

Aunt Hazel and I decided we would work together on a novel or memoir about her experiences. We talked and shared. She was a member of the Oklahoma and American Association of Rosie the Riviters. Her story was published in a newsletter.

I have my notes, some photos, and other things to work on some sort of story or memoir. She was going to be my reader and check my words for accuracy. But, I no longer have my Aunt Hazel. My own Rosie the Riviter.

I guess I thought she would live forever.

I will write her story one day. It's too soon at this time.

Rest in Peace, Aunt Hazel.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Greetings--There is a scene in the movie "Independence Day" where actor Randy Quaid acting as a former jet fighter pilot, alien abductee, and current drunken crop duster takes an opportunity to fly a jet into the body of an alien space ship to save the U.S.A. I love it. In one fell swoop he faces death and screams to the aliens, "I'm baccccccck . . ."

I'm not facing death in an alien spaceship, but I am back from a writing hiatus that felt alien. For months my life has focused on the move to Oklahoma. Going back and forth to M.D. Anderson with cousin Ron. Looking at so many houses I just got frustrated. Finally, finding one and initiating the purchase process. Selling our house in Louisiana. Unpacking box after box after box. I think they multiplied like rabbits in the back of that truck. I'm still searching for some things.

I thought my writing would easily resume when I finally got the house together. It didn't.

But, I am proud to tell everyone that two things recently happened that caused my soul to soar and my mind to want to write again.

First, I visited a dear friend in nearby Wichita Falls. She has recently moved into a 1920's mansion. The architectural details, attention to detail, size, and grounds immediately had me grabbing paper and pen as I explored the large spaces. Over the years the house has been a personal home, an office, a restaurant, an event center, and a bar. Everywhere the eye is drawn there is imported marble. Walnut walls, ceilings, stained glass and staircases offer warm welcomes. The basement could easily have been the place of romance, murder, hauntings, and espionage. Hidden and trick spaces surprised me.

I have to write a book using this historic house as a setting. I HAVE to. But, first I have to finish "Rebecca's Journey," submit those stories waiting in folders, write up an interview, and look through the pages of one word or one sentence notes I've taken over the months.

The second thing that really, really inspired me was a gift in the mail. My dear friend, Mindy, from the Bayou Writer's Group (BWG) sent me a unique and embellished journal. Several friends of mine from BWG sent notes and words of encouragement in the journal. Amazing what a journal can do, isn't it?

I can't tell you how much I miss my BWG friends and the writing support they so freely give. I continue to look for a writer's group in this area. Think I found one in Wichita Falls and, maybe, one here in Durant. A web search turned up a group near Dallas, I may visit them occasionally.

Having a group to support and understand the mind and imaginings of a writer is important to our survival and success.

So, I am back and ready to post regularly. And, ready to write again.

Blessings to all.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

CANCER in our lives

Since returning to Oklahoma I've been involved with trips to M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston every three weeks. I come with my husband's cousin, Ronny, and his wife, Tammy. The appointments are reminiscent of being rounded up as a herd of cattle would be for branding. Yet, there is method to the madness. M.D Andereson is choreographed well. It is no wonder they have an international reputation.

Ron is in the midst of a recurrence of nasopharyngeal cancer. This time it is impeding into the bones of his skull. Ronny is only 54. He and Tammy have three children aging 21 to 13. Until this time around we've felt hopeful. This time there is less hope. Since yesterday (Monday) Ronny has had multiple vials of blood drawn, seen three physicians, been fitted for a radiation simulation mask, had a dose of chemo, an MRI and plenty of hurry up and wait time. Today he had more simulation for the radiation, which will begin on March 10, followed by another MRI. Tomorrow is another busy day. We're trying to get finished and get home before the devastating effects of his chemo hit.

Watching the chemo ravage his body is almost more than I can bear. I have taken care of many patients over the years and had no trouble doing what was necessary to help them get better. On the other hand, doing things which may be uncomfortable for someone I dearly love tears me in half. For the next week he will lie very near death.

I try to stay calm and informed for everyone. It is hard.

When we are at M.D. Anderson the hell of cancer is visible and much like the proverbial elephant in the room. For every person sitting in the myriad of waiting rooms there is at least one family member or friend with them. Fear is tangible, but so is hope and courage. The employees are kind, understanding, cheerful and very knowledgable.

Cancer affects everyone. It doesn't discriminate. I have seen very wealthy people, including an entourage escorting a Sheik. And, I have seen those who seem to be homeless. All are treated well as best I can tell. I know my beloved cousin is in one of the best possible places to be treated for cancer. Yet, I wonder. I pray and try my very best not to succumb to fear or worry.

On a final note, I want to remember my own mother's courageous battle with lung cancer. She died in 1997, but she was happy and in touch with God until she drew her last breath. Should I ever acquire cancer, I hope to face it with the kind of hope, optimism, and courage of my cousin and mother.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Closing doors and Opening Windows

It's been said time and again that when God closes one door, He opens a window or another door. In our case it is true. For years my husband and I have prayed to be able to move back to Oklahoma where we are from and where all of our familly except one son live. We've been in Louisiana, over 400 miles from our nearest relative for 18 years.

On December 18th of this year I was in Virginia staying the month with my son, Bill and his family, including my beautiful grandbaby. My husband, Frank, called me. He had just been laid off.

It was a shock and totally unexpected. He was scheduled to begin Christmas vacation that day. The plan was to go to Oklahoma to get our other son, spend a day with his cousin who has cancer, then drive to Virginia. He did that, but I had to coax him. His fear of the loss of income was uppermost in his mind, as well as mine. I knew it would do us all good to see each other. I knew Frank aks Grandpa needed to see the baby.

Despite the worries we had a good family Christmas. We were more able to focus on what is important and what the meaning of Christmas is all about.

The long trip back in the car was quiet and it became more tense as we got closer to home and the reality of our problem.

However, when we stopped in Oklahoma to take our son home we stayed with Frank's cousin, Ron. During that visit Ron offered Frank a job at his distribution warehouse. What a blessing. Suddenly, things didn't seem quite so bad. God finally opened the window for us to move home.

The timing is fortuitous. Ron has cancer. They want me, as a nurse, to be near and to go along with them to MD Anderson when he has chemo. For some reason he will listen to me when he won't listen to his wife or physicians. Ron is only 54 and has three children. At this point in my blog I would ask that those of you who pray to pray for Ron.

Other windows opened for us. Ron has a truck he isn't using just now. His son will bring it to us in a couple of weeks so we can be loading things into it. We won't have to unpack the truck until we find a place to live. While we search for a place to live we are invited to stay in their lake house. Another window open. God is good.

Now, we are busily trying to finish some bedroom renovations we were in the middle of so we can put our house on the market. Packing things up is another story. Because we've been here so long we have a small house full of things. I have to make decisions about what to keep, what to donate to the thrift shop and what to throw away.

My books. I only did one shelf. It was my shelf of Christian books. Many I just couldn't part with, but I will be donating a box full to my church library.

But, what of my other books. I can't get rid of any of my autographed copies. How does one choose which books to keep?

I wasn't able to write while I was in Virginia. Silly me, I thought I would have time even as I took care of Rosalyn. When your my age and in my physical shape you nap or sleep when the baby does. That, my friends, is one of those great truths.

I must finish an interview I did for a local paper and get it submitted. I must finish an article for my writer's group newsletter before I leave. Where will I find the time? Where will I find a way to turn off my mind, which is running rampart with moving thoughts, so I can focus and write?

I attended my last meeting of my writer's group, the Bayou Writer's Group of Lake Charles, Louisiana. It was sad for me. I was weepy. I had to relinquish my spot as secretary and as a member of our conference committee. Our new president, Jess Ferguson, is going to make it a fruitful year. She has plans for each meeting, which always includes learning opportunities. I will miss my group and hope to find one in Oklahoma.

I am a new member of a small critique group. I need it and know it will be beneficial to me.

So, I am about to climb through the windows God has opened for me and make a new start. I ask for prayers and best wishes. And, encouragement to continue writing.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

On being a Grandmother . . .
  • I haven't blogged lately because I spent the entire month of December with my beautiful granddaughter, Rosalyn and her parents, my son, Bill, and his wife, Sierra.
  • I was present for Rosalyn's birth on June 28, 2007. Holding her for the first time made my heart hurt in a most exquisite way. I stood with my son, holding his newborn daughter. Tears were flowing without shame from my Sailor/firefighter/paramedic son's eyes.
  • When a parent is as lucky as I am to have her grown son fall in love and marry a woman who becomes her friend as well as daughter-in-law it is a blessing. Having a grandbaby result from that union is akin to feeling love coming full circle.
  • From the beginning it became habit for me, Nana, to get up with Rosalyn for her first diaper change and feeding of the day. That is our time. Nana and Rosalyn with everyone else asleep. Eighteen months later that habit still exists whenever I'm fortunate enough to be with her. You see. Rosalyn and her parents live in Chesapeake, Virginia. I live in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Over a thousand miles separate us. It's simply too much.
  • Rosalyn has always been curious and into things as she develops the skills to do so. Everything intrigues her. She gets frustrated when she isn't able to figure something out. She loves life. The photo of her on the right I titled, "Wow." It was taken on her first birthday. Nobody knows what she saw that day to impress her so much.
  • She loves animals. Rosalyn lives with two dogs. A daschund named Chloe, who is sill extremely jealous of her and a very laid back basset hound named Hunter. Roslayn and Hunter play, usually with her climbing all over him. See the photo of Rosalyn talking to Hunter.
  • When I was there at Christmas we took Rosalyn to a Winter Wonderland and live Nativity. She was in awe of all of the animals. There was a small petting zoo there. She loved the pony. I am a horse lover of unrealistic proportions. I have made it my goal to turn Rosalyn into a horse lover. I made sure she got to pet a pony.

Keeping up with an 18 month old is almost more than this old girl can handle. She stays busy from the time her feet hit the floor until she is down for a nap or bed. Of course, Nana has to help her dress her doll, roll her little ambulances and fire trucks around, put shapes in the proper hole, and read books.

I love that she is so interested in books. We must read a dozen a day. Sometimes she will get a book from her shelf and sit on the floor turning the pages and "read" it. She can't say many words yet, but her babbling contains voice inflections appropriate for the story. I pray that her love of books continues throughout her life. That is a goal of mine and her parents. Make learning fun and never be ashamed of her intelligence as she gets older.

She is learning sign language. She is most familiar with the sign for food and more. The following photo shows signing more. There is a growing trend nowadays for parents to teach their babies sign language. I think it's great. Signing is much like a second language and it could prove helpful as she gets older.

Runny nose and all I love this baby girl. All my adult life I heard others speak about the joys of having grandchildren. I wanted to be one. I wanted to be a Nana. I am now a member of the grandparent's club.

Christmas was great! Seeing the look of awe in the eyes of a baby when we passed homes decorated with lights and yard ornaments made me laugh and ooh and ahh with her. She had a problem keeping away from the Christmas tree and the wrapped gifts. No became the word of the day.

When the time came to open gifts on Christmas morning she had to be shown how to open the them, she's a fast learner like her Nana and she was tearing into the gifts like a pro in no time. She thought all of the gifts were for her and became a bit frustrated when she couldn't open them all.

My words aren't sufficent to relay the joy and love this baby brings into my life, but I hope those of you reading my blog will enjoy seeing the baby who changed my life in many ways.

God is good, isn't he?

Happy New Year to all.

P.S. Someone tell me how to get rid of all the dead space between the end of the post and the bottom of the page for comments?