Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Babies - Watching them grow...

     Is there anything quite as euphoric as writing the final chapter of your novel? It's almost like giving birth to a new baby, and if you're a self published author, the comparison doesn't stop there. I recently finished the sequel to Sweet Tea and Southern Grace and at least this time I know the amount of work I need to do to make this baby grow!

     With ST&SG, I was like a new mother nursing my baby along until it took it's first steps. I couldn't just sit idly by and expect it to flourish on its on. It needed to be fed, changed if necessary and then introduced to social situations so that eventually it could become well adjusted and self-supporting. But just like a child, it will never stop needing me, if only to give it a push now and then on it's road to success.

     Having the second book baby will be a little easier, just like having a second child. I've learned so much - changes, feeding, social adjustments. and little pushes along the way - those are the things that are necessary to take it from mediocrity to success. 

     Early October is the due date for my second child, Lighting the Way. I'll post a birth announcement soon giving the name and details. Watch for it and help make my baby grow. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's day from a farmer's daughter!

We had a Father's Day sermon in church today like so many other churches on this day that we honor our fathers. Reverend Johnson spoke on how the role of the father has changed over the years attributing it perhaps to the industrial age. The farm families had their fathers home all day working hand in hand with their children. The children were taught by example to respect and pay attention to their fathers. Since early mid-century, so many fathers have worked outside the home. I must admit that there is a difference. Not that fathers don't love their children just as much, but there's just something about being there 24/7.

It made me think of my own father who was a farmer. I saw him as a hard working, generous, humble and honest man - a man who sacrificed so much for his children and who loved our mother with all his heart. I remember him as a Godly man - one who on Saturday would carefully count the money in his tithing jar and put it in an envelope to be put in the collection plate on Sunday morning - and he attended church every Sunday morning and made sure we did the same.

I saw him as a man that I respected to the point that he rarely had to discipline me - I tried so hard to be good so I wouldn't disappoint him. He could just give me "the eye", and I knew I needed to change directions in whatever I was doing. Not that I didn't get in trouble, mind you - but just not under his watchful eye.

Some of my best memories are of those summer days on the farm. These are just a few of them:

1. Coming out of the fields in the heat of the day to cut a watermelon that had been cooling in ice cold water - my dad saving the "heart" of his piece for me, claiming he liked the part closer to the rind better.
2. Sitting under a shade tree stringing and cutting green beans, shelling peas or peeling peaches for canning and listening to his gentle laughter as he told stories of his childhood on the farm.
3. Helping him hitch up the mules for plowing - something he let me do only a handful of times and with great anxiety. He watched every move I made for fear that Old Mary would give me a swift kick in the head. I still can't figure out why I wanted that job since three times out of five, Mary would pee or poop during the process.
4. Running around the yard playing while listening to him talking with the hired hands as they took an afternoon break from the sun - letting the sweat dry out from their clothes only to be dripping wet when they came in again.
5. Chasing lightning bugs on warm summer evenings and putting them in a jar. He would punch holes in the lid with his pocket knife and put a few blades of grass in jar. He said it made them feel more at home. I always wondered why the next day the fireflies were gone from the jar. I'm sure he released them when I grew bored with the game.

At the time, I didn't realize how blessed I really was. I do now... Wishing you a happy Father's Day in heaven Daddy! I hope God is letting you tend His fields! You were the best!

Friday, May 9, 2014

THE SAD ONE – stories from the waiting room part 4

Last week, I began republishing a series of stories I wrote a couple of years ago while waiting on my husband to have a colonoscopy procedure done at the VA clinic in Columbia. This was by far the hardest one for me to write. Just trying to get a grasp on her story had created a writer's block of sorts, not only on her story, but on other things I've written since.  If you're reading my blog for the first time, you can catch up on the other posts by looking on the right hand side bar of this blog and clicking on May - and then April.

I'll call her the Sad One, because she was the only one in the waiting room that didn't share her first name.  She was there when we walked in ~ facing the doorway with book in hand.  I would guess her to be in her early to mid-fifties even though she looked younger.  She was blonde and had one of those perpetually youthful faces with good bone structure and chubby cheeks - a Sally Fields kind of look you could say.  Her hair was medium length with slight curls and long bangs which were pulled back from her forehead with a clip.  We made eye contact briefly, but she quickly looked down at her book.
Sally Field

As the rest of us were chatting amicably, she made a great show of reading her book.  Of course, the conversation flow was hampered by her location near the doorway, but I felt sure she wouldn't have joined in anyway.  She was reading her book but not reading her book if you know what I mean.  She may have turned three pages the whole hour and a half we were there.  She would examine her hands and fingers and then bite her finger like I'm prone to do when I'm nervous.  Every time there was any activity near the door, she would look up anxiously.  The only time she seemed to pay any attention to us was when the conversation turned to religion and prayers which Lillian and the Ethereal, Mystical Margaret brought up and the rest of us joined in.

Finally a doctor came to the door and motioned for her. The doctor was alone.  This was different ~ the others were motioned to the door by nurses with the patient in a wheel chair looking a little worse for the wear but ready to go home.  There was no wheelchair with the doctor.  She was gone for several minutes, then walked back in the waiting room and took her chair.  She was wiping away tears which no-one else seemed to notice. I caught her eye, and quietly said "Are you okay?" She looked as if she was going to say something, but hesitated and said softly, "I'm okay." I knew she wasn't.

A few minutes later, I got up to go get Lillian some coffee which she had been hinting for an hour for her granddaughter to do.  I walked out into the hallway and the Sad One followed me.  I waited for her to catch up, thinking maybe she was going for coffee too.  We stood there looking at each other. "Do you pray?" she asked.   I told her that I did.  "Will you pray for my husband"?   I was thinking, Oh Lord, why is she asking me, the one who sometimes doesn't feel like my prayers are being answered because I'm not always Your good and faithful servant?  Why didn't she ask Lillian or Margaret?

"What's his name"? I said.  "Randy", she answered.  I stood there holding both her hands right out in that hospital hallway and I made it through the prayer.  It wasn't a fancy prayer, but it was a heartfelt one and I know He heard it.  "Thank you", she said and walked back in the waiting room.  I walked numbly down the hallway on the way to the cafeteria emotionally spent.
She was still there when I came back in and she smiled. She was still there when the nurse came in wheeling my hubby who was ready to go home. She said goodbye. She hadn't shared what was wrong with Randy and I didn't ask. Some things are better left unsaid. She had reached out to someone and she felt better.  It's hard to face bad news alone.

I’ve wondered since how Randy’s situation turned out. I did continue my prayers and have often thought about the Sally Field looking lady, hoping that her sadness has been replaced with joy. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Ethereal, Mystical Margaret

Last week I began republishing a series of posts I did a couple of years ago. These came from my observations and conversations while in the waiting room at the VA hospital in Columbia. A group of women were all waiting for their husbands to have colonoscopy or endoscopy procedures. Boredom and natural curiosity made me pick up my pen and paper and start to write.
After my last two posts which you can find here and here, I had intended to write number three about the woman pretending to read a book who looked anxious and sad.  But I've decided I'm going to save "Sad" for last.

There was another lady in the waiting room dressed to the nines - designer purse, killer high heeled shoes, silk scarf, and flawless makeup.  She was attempting to be a Waiting Room Snob, but Lillian pulled her out of it.  I think Lillian was the life of the party when she was younger and she still had a zest for living like no-one I've ever seen.

Margaret was her name but no-one asked how old she was.  Now, when a stranger asks me my age, I usually have a little fun with it.  I definitely look my age - there's no getting around it.  Sometimes I'll fib a little and tell them that I'm ten years older than I really am.  They'll look shocked and say something like, "No Way - you really look much younger".  It's much more fun than telling the truth and having them look skeptical and thinking, "She's lying - I know she's older than that".

But with Margaret, it was very hard to tell.  Black women grow older much more gracefully than women of other races.   Margaret was beautiful and had the grace and elegance of royalty.  She was thin and had high cheekbones with just the right amount of blush / rouge.  Her skin was a beautiful rich chocolate.  Her eyebrows were arched perfectly and she had a short, trendy hairstyle.  She was very friendly and sweet once Lillian broke the ice.  She reminded me of myself, listening, asking polite questions, but never revealing anything about herself.  She appeared ethereal and mystical which made me want to know much more than she was willing to reveal.  If I were going to write about her, I would have to invent my own stories.  But I won't.  Mystical and ethereal people are hard to read - I wouldn't get it right.  It's much more intriguing to leave it at that.  You can all use your own imaginations.

It would be a fun challenge for all my writer friends out there.  Write a story about Margaret and link it back to my post.  Who was she waiting for?  I never saw him.  How old was she?  Somewhere between forty and sixty.  I know that's a wide range - she looked young but something about her told me she was older than she looks.  Who is Margaret?  I have to admit, I don't know.

Stay tuned in the next few days for The Sad One.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Part Two: Stories from the Waiting Room

Another post from the series Stories from the Waiting room that I wrote a couple of years ago.

Stories from the Waiting Room

In my post yesterday, I wrote about my tendencies to avoid conversations when I'm around strangers, especially in waiting rooms in doctor's offices.  There's other places too, like shopping malls and grocery stores.  Not only have I felt that I'm giving up my privacy but I'm intruding on the privacy of others.  My husband will see someone in the aisle of a grocery store buying a product and he'll begin a conversation with them telling them whether he likes that product or not.  I just walk on down the aisle and pretend I'm not with him.  Recently he did that to a lady from the retirement community nearby and she told him she had never had so many complete strangers talk to her until she moved down South.  She said it in a "bug off" kind of way, but he didn't seem to notice.

Because of an experience last year in the dentist's office, I've realized that sometimes you can't avoid conversations without appearing rude, and you may as well just talk back.  Now I wouldn't go back to my old ways - no siree!   It's a great way to get writing material.

If you didn't read my post yesterday, I was in the VA hospital waiting for my hubby to have his colonoscopy procedure.  Hubby had just gone back to the procedure room when an elderly couple came in with their granddaughter in tow.  She was their designated driver and looked to be in her early thirties.  Age is a touchy subject - some don't mind telling and others do and I've learned by appearance who to ask and who not.   If they're over sixty and wear a lot of makeup, have a scarf around their neck to hide the neck wrinkles, have lots of jewelry and aloof mannerisms, don't ask.  That could be me on some days.   If they look grandmotherly and smile a lot, feel free to ask.  That could be me on other days.   Walter, Lillian and Kelly were their names.  Walter was seventy-seven,  Lillian seventy-five and smiled and spoke to everyone in the waiting room.  They had been married fifty-eight years.  Long enough to finish each others sentences.  He would start talking and then pause, waiting for her to finish....and she did. They seemed to know each others thoughts.  Not only were their thoughts in unison, so were their feet.

Have you ever seen someone cross one leg over the other and roll their feet round in circles.  They had opposite legs crossed so their toes were pointing toward each other.  They were in perfect unison as they circled their feet - when he stopped, so did she - then they would start over again.  It was very amusing.   After her husband went back, she kept hinting for her granddaughter to go get her a cup of coffee, but she was engrossed in a book.  I quietly got up, went downstairs to the canteen and got both of us a cup.  She was thrilled but I told her I had needed one too....and it was true.

Lillian wanted everyone to know what a good catch she had in Walter.  "He sweeps, vacuums and makes the bed every days" she said.  "You shouldn't tell us that", I said.  "We'll be all trying to steal your husband".  She beamed.  "I won't let him get away", she said and laughed.

The room filled up quickly.  The others who came in joined in the conversation.  Each person had a story to tell except one.  She was mid-fifties and sat alone pretending to read her book.  She looked anxious - maybe the way I once looked when I played the part of a hermit.  Her story is tomorrow.  I think it's sad.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Love....In Unexpected Places.

I was looking back through some of my old blog posts today trying to see which ones had been viewed the most. This is the first of a series of posts I called Stories from the Waiting Room.  They were among the most popular posts at that time. I thought I would re-post the series over the next couple of days since I seem to have acquired a serious condition called Writer's Block on both my book and my blog posts. All should resume as normal as soon as I get rid of some stress in my life right now.

Love ..... In Unexpected Places

The Gastroenterology waiting room was full ..... full of wives, daughters and granddaughters brought along as chauffeurs to drive the husbands, fathers and grandfathers who after having been cleansed and purged were in the clinical rooms having the dreaded colonoscopy procedure performed.  There was a camaraderie amongst these women, especially the wives.  We all had something in common.  We had sacrificed and shared a small part of our husbands to go out and protect and fight for all Americans.  There was an undercurrent feeling of pride, love and respect for our veterans that trickled down to the children and grown grandchildren in the room.  We were in a good place - a place that now takes care of the men and women who have taken care of the rest of us.

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about conversations in waiting rooms that you can see at this link.  Until that time, I had been somewhat of a waiting room snob, wanting my privacy so I could write notes or read a magazine and be in my own little world.  That waiting room experience changed all that.  Now I take my magazines and notebooks along, but I only use them as conversation starters.  I discovered that you can't write about life if you're not giving yourself the opportunity to experience the complexities of other people's lives.  My life stories are boring so it's hard to pull imaginative writing out of thin air and make it interesting, but conversations with total strangers can send my fingers flying over my keyboard with enthusiasm and creativity.   My book gets a boost of energy instead of laying flat and stale in a drawer beside my bed.

Tomorrow, I'll share tidbits from the "chauffeurs" - the women who were waiting to take home their veterans.   I loved their stories.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Writer's Block Anyone?

Do you ever have writer's block. You don't have to be writing a novel to have it. My blogs have suffered lately, but I confess it's more from working on other projects than the inability to think of something to write. But what about emails to your friends - or business letters - or, in the world of social media, responses to the Facebook posts of your friends. We all suffer from it at one time or another.

Although I'm making a lot of progress on Book #2, I'm finding that I'm getting stuck pretty often. I wrote Book #1, Sweet Tea and Southern Grace, in what I thought was a pretty unconventional way - just writing scenes as I thought of them. It worked reasonably well, but it was a bugger to go back and put it in chronological order! There was an awful lot of filling in to do and making sure the apple cart wasn't in front of the horse.

This one I've written straight through from Chapter 1 through now (Chapter 19).  I can see there are pros and cons whichever way you decide to do it. As far as keeping up with the events unfolding in the story, I'm finding writing straight through to be beneficial, but I feel as if I'm losing something in the process.

This morning I read a bit of advice from award winning author, Richard Ridley. Hmm...maybe I'll go back to my old method of writing after all. I think my create juices flow a little better that way. Thankfully, I am way ahead of schedule, so I can go back and expound on the little areas that need help. Here's what Ridley has to say:

"There is no law that requires you to write a story chapter by chapter in the order in which it will be read. You are free to write the book out of order. Don't force yourself to muddle through a chapter just because you want to get to the next part of your book. Simply leave the chapter unfinished and move on to the next chapter. 
Writing in a non-linear fashion may be just the thing to finally cure your writer's block."

How do you write? Linear or non-linear? I would love hear what works best for you.