Sunday, November 12, 2017

Novel writing (and avoidance)

 To write a novel, to me, seems quite easy. Of all of the wonderful books that I’ve read, studied for school, and taught in the classroom, it didn’t appear that it could be that tough. I have an idea, describe a few characters and some action, and boom! it’s written.
 As I found last week during the National Novel Writing Month, when I took off a week to write my novel, it is not. While I have been thinking about and creating characters, action ideas, and scenery for the past several years, I only began to write it down in the last six months.  On my phone, I have a Notes folder which has the former title of my book on it to refer to when I have a thought or a brainstorm idea. It might be some food I want to describe, a particularly beautiful scene, or lyrics from a song which brought forth emotions in me.
 All of the jotted down notes and character information were not a huge source of inspiration for the novel, however. During my time off from work to write it I found there were many barriers. I'll admit, though, that many of them are created by me to avoid writing!

The chronicled time
 I spent most of the first day off from work finishing up a project that required tedious fact finding and reporting. I had to arrange for my husband to be taken care of while I was gone one single night.  I finished up the laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and made my bed, and I was ready to go.
 I had reserved a room at a local hotel from which I had won two nights stay after reading books with the library this summer on a summer reading program.  I checked in as the sun was setting on the western side of the building which blocked the sun from the pool area, so my plan of writing by the pool after a cool dip, was thwarted. It’s November, so my hours were numbered, especially after the daylight savings time change two nights before. I sat and read my inspiration book and compiled a few notes here and there, until 30 minutes later, I finally decided to go to my room.
 As I ate my chicken salad from home, and clicked on my computer, I noticed something that was happening. My novel idea was changing. Right before my eyes. It was a good thing but slightly frustrating. I decided to read more about writing one's first novel and found some excellent ideas on Pinterest. While I was going to use the snowflake method, it wasn’t working for me  as I had imagined.  When I read a post about character development it was an "aha" moment for me because that was what I really need to do. I am proposing that my story be a series of short stories about distinct individuals that are all connected somehow to one person. By writing the descriptors of a character beforehand, I will be much more prepared to write the full novel.
 That evening I developed Google docs pages for each character, and developed a spreadsheet for all of them, and another spreadsheet for scenes in activities that I had dreamed up before to put in the novel.  By the time I had put my character related questions into each sheet, and set up the other input pages, I was ready to go to bed.
 The next morning when I woke at 10 AM, without an alarm clock for the first time in weeks, I was ready to go. But first, I had to pursue exercise, in the form of walking to Starbucks to receive my free bonus drink that I had achieved months ago. I brought along my laptop, and as I sat outside, I was able to compose at least one character at that time. I then moved onto the library, walking again of course, and decided to do some character research (to avoid writing), to find out how other novelists wrote about the main character in my book. I then pulled out the laptop again and wrote some at the library.
  As I walked back to my hotel, I saw a sign for free Amy’s ice cream from 3 to 7 PM. Since my husband was coming to join me that evening, and we are going to enjoy dinner together, I needed to have the ice cream early enough in the day so as not to spoil my appetite.  The hotel offered a free shuttle, and I took it to the library, to pick up a book and the bottle of water I had left there. The line was long, but worth it for free ice cream. I enjoyed one of my favorite ice cream flavors ever, dreamsicle with big chocolate chunks in it.
  I enjoyed it as I sat on the outdoor area of the mall, but as I did so, I became quite chilly as a cold front moved in. I decided to use a coupon I had in my purse to go buy a jacket or wrap if I could find an affordable one, and I scored with a wonderful fuzzy sweater. I noticed the time and rushed back to the hotel, walking again, as I didn't want to have to wait for the bus, and wanted to walk off some of the ice cream! I showered and met my husband in the bar, to not write another sentence for the rest of the night.
  Next morning, Kevin had an early conference call, and fire alarms clanging roused me out of bed. In my disoriented, half awake state, I left the room with my purse, but not my computer or my phone or my inspiration book. No writing took place before we went to enjoy breakfast. That afternoon, I had a massage scheduled, so after breakfast, I buckled down and went to Barnes and Noble to write more character development. Unfortunately, I also had a few bills to pay and emails to reply to, so not much character development occurred. Afterwards, I did some fun shopping and then went home to kiss my husband goodbye to join friends on a hunt.
  The good thing was that I would be alone in my home for the evening, and able to pursue character development and start writing a chapter. I wrote about a couple and filled in some of my spreadsheets. Again, laundry, texts and emails drew me away, with the start of my novel postponed.
  Thursday morning, I had other writing projects to pursue, including an interview with an executive director of a rehab hospital, for which I started writing a news release, and work for an interior designer for whom I do the books and pay the monthly sales tax. By the time I had made some delicious butternut squash soup and rice crispy treats for my daughter, it was time to shower and leave for Waco to go see her. We had arranged to go to dinner and then to a coffee shop for her to study and me to write, but we conquered little, preferring to discuss our lives and the interesting topics surrounding ourselves. I pursued a bit once we made it back to her apartment, but I had little heart for it.

The weekend
  Friday morning I slept in, we went to breakfast at a food truck at the fabulous Magnolia market, where we were blessed by the awesome staff, and then I took off for Dallas. The visit with sister and dad-in-law that afternoon was wonderful, but, no writing. After a trip to my mother-in-law's home and a treat of buy one - get one free coffee drink at Starbucks, we joined the other part of the family and consumed a delicious Mexican dinner. I could have easily driven back home to Momma O's and buckled down and written; instead, I sat in front of the television watching mindless movies, and went to bed late.
  Saturday was another sleep in day, and after a quick shower, I went thrifting with my sister in law. Boy, did I find the bargains too - every piece of clothing was $1! I purchased five  blazers, five shirts, a pair of Levis and a gorgeous red silk and wool sweater for a mere $12, and five other beautiful items for my thrift friendly daughter. I left town to go back to Spicewood by three pm, made a couple stops on the way home, and was in the garage a little after 7 pm. I immediately threw the jackets and sweater, by fabric type, into the dryer with dry cleaning sheets, and washed the other items. As I took care of that, I cooked a simple dinner, and again, sat in front of the TV. I finally managed to write a few items, but probably no longer than an hour. I went to bed late as usual, thinking about starting my novel.
  Sunday dawned, and I was determined today! I immediately started working on my book, and actually accomplished about 5 pages in Google docs,  before I went on a walk.

Distractions are endless
  As I compose this, I’m literally walking away from my writing task. My other job duties of laundry, cooking, exercise, house cleaning, phone calls, and other minutia tasks around the house are excellent at taking away from the push to finish a story a book, or any other project for which I have been assigned, or assigned to myself.  Writing a blog post about this novel was one of the things I put on my list to do today - great idea, only it took over an hour!
 Thank goodness I was able to multitask and take my walk at the same time as I wrote this blog.
 I will add that climbing the steep hills of my neighborhood make it difficult to talk and walk, and that  there are plenty of breaks during my 35 minute walk.  Exercise may increase brain power afterwards, but during, it’s all I can do to use those muscles correctly and those lungs to keep that heart beating.
  To sum up my long diatribe, I'd like to say that to write a novel requires strict discipline that I have too many distractions in my life to attend to at this time. While I do intend to write more in the evenings after I return from work while my husband is out of town, and possibly this weekend in between cooking and cleaning for family coming next week for thanksgiving, and possibly next week when I do not have to be in the office, I probably will not reach the goal of National Novel Writing Month of completing 50,000 words.
  I did start it, however, and will continue to pursue it until it's done! I plan to keep anyone who cares to read my blog updated over the next couple of months. If I can write one chapter per month, now that I have a character list and descriptions for each, I might be able to handle editing the big book by next year this time, during NaNoWriMo 2018!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Spicewood Novel

The incredible town of Spicewood, Texas, has been my home for the past 17 years. I don’t know if this place and its people are unique in terms of some of the stories that I've heard (some seem unbelievable to me, until they happened to me), or if I just lived a sheltered life and did not hear many stories of my environment beforehand. Or maybe it appears extra-ordinary to me because I’ve had a goal to write a book all of my life, so I have been collecting stories for the past several years, since the years for me are adding up. Encountering the various people of Spicewood, with their habits and hangups, attractiveness and distastefulness, funny and fun descriptors gave me inspiration to begin composing.

Not many of the stories deserve an entire book, in my opinion, but to write about my favorite place in the world, which I can call home, and put it out there for the world to read is a wonderful privilege for me.

I have enrolled in a program called NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, during which the month of November, enrollees are encouraged to write their novel. My goal is to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month, and I have dived in by using a gift card that I won this summer at a local hotel to hang out for a couple of days and write. After the first three days, I plan to go stake my space in local establishments in Spicewood - a park or two, a local bar, a restaurant, and maybe even school grounds, to soak up the flavor and write.

Spicewood is changing, and before you know it, there will no longer be horses and cows pastured along Hwy 71. The traffic lights will increase from three flashing lights and one stoplight in 2000 to five traffic signals now, with more to come. We won’t see $50,000 jeeps and $1,000 Monte Carlos for sale along the road. No more people riding on the back of a truck hanging on to items inside, or horses trotting behind a truck on the highway. Our precious "no city government," post office address Spicewood could be gobbled up by a Lakeway, Bee Cave or Marble Falls Municipality, with the potential for a split. Change is certain, and who wouldn’t want to live in our beautiful, no, Gorgeous, community?

That is one of the reasons I am writing the book. To capture the flavor, the essence, of the friendly (and a few not so friendly) faces that makes it the best place on earth to live.

Don't look for the name Spicewood in the title or anywhere in the book, but hopefully you will recognize the beautiful flavor and color of our town.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I See the Moon

I see the moon, the moon sees me,
down through the leaves of an old oak tree.
Please let the light that shines on me,
shine on the one I love.

One of my favorite bedtime songs growing up, and one I sang to my daughters when they were little. After we moved to California, however, I had to change the words to "down through the leaves of a tall palm tree," as there were very few oak trees in California, at least where we lived, which was less than half a mile from the ocean, and right across the street from an inlet of water with plenty of palm trees on our street, and our property. The song returns to me on occasion, and did tonight.

As I drove home from One Chapel College graduation in Austin, I saw the incredible amber sliver of a moon in the western sky. Closer to the hill country where I live, the lack of bright lights of the city made it appear that I was moving closer to the moon, and I was watching for a place to pull over on a hill top and take a photo.

I reached the perfect spot, the pinnacle of the first valley past Bee Cave, and I slid over to the side of the road and put on my flashers. Although I had been watching the moon as I drove along, I did notice that occasional smatterings of clouds would pass over the crescent. I put the car into park, and looked and I looked, no moon. Could it be that it was blocked somehow by a tree I couldn't see in the dark? I inched forward, hoping that it was just the light of a passing car that made the thin slice invisible. "No ..." I thought. I love the moon, and to take pictures of it, day and night.

I slunk down in my seat, disappointed, but still hopeful. Waiting, waiting ... no moon. I put the car back into Drive and slowly descended the hill, with my eyes on the sky but barely watching the road, and certainly not up to par on the speed limit. The entire way home, and even as I turned right onto Pace Bend Road, I watched my rear view a few times to make sure I didn't miss it, but the clouds had covered it up.

I see the moon, I don't see the moon.
But somebody does.
Someone can see the beauty of tiny piece of the lovely orbiting sphere that is the moon, it's awesome amber image that sees the person admiring it, through a tree, or not. :-)
It gave me peace to think that someone, somewhere else, far away from Hurricane Harvey, could see the moon.

Sit Down and Write

Was it early onset Alzheimer's or ADD that was preventing the writer from sitting down to write once or twice a day? The lovely words, the brilliant images, the fluid descriptions came to her before she slept at night, as she slowly woke up in the morning, and in snipets throughout the day, as she viewed an interesting outfit a coffee drinker was wearing, as she walked the dog or watched an incredible sun set in the sky with billowing clouds and far reaching rays of sunlight?

The distractions were many, from the phone calls, texts, blog posts, email and Facebook notifications from her many siblings, coworkers and friends. Dirty laundry was always present, and the messy family required picking up after and a kitchen to clean. Regarding the somewhat healthy food they consumed, she made the list, did the shopping, the grocery unloading and cooking, and of course the table setting, serving and clean up afterwards. The dog and cats needed attention, from feeding, litter box cleaning and dog walking, to picking up food from the feed store, vet visits and vacuuming and dusting pet hair. Reading, eating, playing solitaire and drinking alcohol were all distractions.

It seemed all she could do was create lists to check off.

She needed to create a plan for her story. While she had characters and a few ideas about storylines, it wasn't coming together. She was distressed. Not just from the lack of writing, but because of the distractions, and the lack of focus.

She had two story ideas. One, the first, was to be a collection of short stories about a psychologist in a little suburb town that heard the most outrageous accounts from her clients, but had to keep them to herself because of the nature of her business. A woman that toured homes for sale to raid the medicine cabinets of prescription drugs, the guy who killed his wife, chopped her up and stored her body in pieces in the backyard, a dysfunctional married couple that knew two murderers firsthand, a woman stuck in the 80's refusing to go online and other quirks including clothing and hair, a bad pastor, a hoarder and one more ... maybe a teenage cutter that didn't want to talk? A pot smoking teenager that was caught by his mom but had a much bigger secret?

The second story is one that was laid on her heart after reading the fictional story of Dinah, Leah and Jacob's daughter in the Old Testament, named The Red Tent. This particular story would be written around Keren Heppuch, the youngest daughter of Job, and a present day character (PDC).

Keren Heppuch she could visualize - licorice colored hair and eyes to match, a rebel raised in a wealthy household. But PDC would not come out of the closet. She remained silent. The KH story seemed to be the one calling her, and she told many about the idea, but she just couldn't come up with a compelling story line that would capture readers and editors alike. The only premise she could develop was that the PDC was raised in an opposite household, with little money and inattentive parents, yet she "met" Keren Heppuch while reading the story of Job, and had a curiosity about her. Maybe she goes on to research her? Maybe she becomes a bibliologist, or person that studies the bible and biblical artifacts, after receiving her degree and a pastoral certificate? The only problem is that Job is a very mysterious book of the bible. No date is associated with it, so it could have been written during the time of Moses (years), Issac, Jacob or Solomon.

After writing for an hour, longer than she expected, but it was after midnight and she had a quiet house, she felt inspired to begin the short story book, where she would have many beginnings, middles and ends, which felt more accomplishable. She would start tomorrow.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Today's Government and Military

What has America come to? I have always understood that the purpose of the United States Government is to keep peace in the states and protect the borders. The preamble of the US constitution states it as such:

"Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our prosperity."

Where does "pay for the people who are too lazy to work" come into play? I don't see anything about "let anybody who wants to work for the government do so, regardless of his or her temperament or psychological capability" or "fund organizations that want to kill babies" anywhere in the documents. If you want to argue that any of those falls in the "insure domestic tranquility" or "promote the general welfare," I call bullshit.

The United States was founded on the principle that we wanted to move away from the British Monarchy that was all controlling and tax heavy, paid for by those who benefited from those who could not rise above their class system and served as their workhorses. The United States was founded on the belief that people could work for themselves, establish their own businesses and thrive on their own, without government intervention.

Of course, as we've progressed, the age of farming and local market places has evolved us to worldwide technology and communication, medical practices and products and services beyond the wildest dreams of our forefathers. With the creativity and innovation of hundreds of thousands of Americans, think Frigidaire refrigerators, Ford, Apple, Bic, Dawn, Tide, Chili's, Costco, and the list goes on ... we have established a free market system, known only in America, where individuality and ingenuity create the world power we have become.

My concern is to what is the current intention of the US government, and the responsibility of those who serve. Did politicians in the 1700's plan to make a career of it, serving their individual states for a lifetime, with privileges extended only to themselves (health care benefits) and expect to receive a pension for their entire lives? Of course not.

And the responsibility of the military is to DEFEND the borders of the United States, to be prepared to secure our borders and our shores, on US soil, and protect our allies around the world. Those soldiers need to be prepared, physically and psychologically, to do what is necessary to protect Americans. The people whose minds are compromised, because of societal pressures and mind altering drugs, are not necessarily wholly available to defend. That has been the rule of the US military for over 200 years. The military doesn't play by the politically correct rules.

I am not a news monger that listens to talk radio, watches endless television news, or soaks up the literal trash in newspapers and magazines. I just happen to be marginally informed through news snippets and others who talk politics and current events. Most Americans are the same way, but I don't like what I hear, and I am concerned for my children in the future.

Solution? I don't have one that can bring America to the God-fearing, non-politicized, less greedy marketplace that it has become. Home of the free and the brave has evolved into Home of the controllers and the wimps, in my mind. God Bless America!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Light and lightning
but where does the light end?

The burning brightness of a star does not seem much when seen from the earth,
but neither does the smolder at the end of a cigarette.

The glow emitted from a lamp post or front porch can reach across the street,
but isn't the spark from a tiny insect just as powerful?

Where does the light end?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Moon Shadows

Bright air describes the effect of the light of the moon 
to the earth below on a partly cloudy night.
The roundish orb, as brilliant as the sun, but not as circular in shape,
peeks through the illuminated puffs of cotton dotting the sky.

A golden ring accentuates the flattened pieces of mattress batting
emanating from the reflection of the sun on the eclipsing bulb.
The effect on the ground is shadows cast by the dog and I, 
as we take in the evening air.

This is my favorite type of night,
quiet and still below.
The clouds moving just swiftly enough above from left to right
forming changing patterns to draw my gaze upward.

Watching God's hand move the fluffy sky across the moon
gives me peace in knowing that I am not in control.
Heaven is up there, and everywhere. 
I can see the beauty, therefore heaven is real.