Sep 11

Songs About Writing

In July 2013, I got together with three of my fellow writers, www.catherinekean.com, www.nancyrobardsthompson.com, and www.carocarson.com to present a workshop on the rapidly changing publishing industry. We presented information on traditional and self-publishing, including anticipated costs, marketing strategies, etc. Basically everything a writer needs to know to make the decision whether to seek traditional publishing or go indie. Information is always good, but not always fun.

So, we presented the info in the format of a radio show: WPUB: The Radio Show for Writers’ Who Want to Know. Since my husband and I have a recording studio (www.easternskystudios.com) we had some great voice talent available. We’ve done the presentation several times, and I believe fun was had by all.

imagesWe began the program with our DJ, Scotty Summers, spinning some great tunes about writing. I thought I’d save you some search time and give you a list of songs to inspire. Load this playlist and get your fingers flying.

Losing It by Rush

I Love You Period by Dan Baird

Mr. Writer by The Stereophonics

Paperback Writer by the Beatles (or Act of Congress)

Everyday I Write the Book by Jenna Mammina and Andre Bush (or Elvis Costello)

Lady Writer by Dire Straits

When I Write the Book by Nick Lowe

Suzanne Collins by Pappa Razzi and the Photogs

The Book of Love by The Monotones

Rewrite by Paul Simon

The Wrote and the Writ by Johnny Flynn

Jane Austen by Pappa Razzi and the Photogs

The Typewriter by Wolfgang Zinke

James Joyce Extremely Difficult Prose, Don’t You Think? by Pappa Razzi and the Photogs

Bookends by Simon and Garfunkle

John Updike by Pappa Razzi and the Photogs

J. R. R. Tolkein by Pappa Razzi and Photogs

These Words by Natasha Beddingfeld

One Little Song by Gillian Welch

 

 

Sep 06

I’m No Pioneer Woman, but I Write About One

If there really is such a thing as genetic memory, then my genes remember being down on the farm. I have romantic notions of growing my own vegetables. I want backyard chickens. I picture an array of colorful vegetables waiting to be canned nestled beside a wire basket of fresh brown, blue and green eggs sitting on my counter. You know, like you see in Southern Living.

There’s a small problem, though. I hate gardening and yard work!You see, I’m a suburbanite through and through. I like my air conditioning and my supermarket on the corner. I enjoy a quick pop and shop at the nearby mall. Can’t live without Target

The one thing in my life where the farm-girl gene does play out is cooking and baking. I LOVE them. Right now, I’m into baking bread again. It’s been an on-again-off-again thing for me. I can handle flour stuck to my hands. Black dirt? No so much.But when I began researching what my heroine’s life would have been like in rural France during World War II for When We Get to Paris, my story in ENCHANTED BY AN EMERALD boxed set, I was inspired.

Life was hard around the world during the war. Everything from flour and sugar to rubber and nylon was rationed. People on the home front did what they had to so their soldiers could fight the good fight.

Simone Bellamy, my heroine in When We Get to Paris, lives on an apple orchard that has been in her family for generations in the Normandy area of France. Historically, her orchard has produced cider and the Calvados brandy for which the area is famous. My dilemma as the author, was to figure out how Simone would support herself when the war came to her front door.

Simone had to keep working, even harder than she had before the war. Because of the war, she must rely on her hens for enough eggs to sell as well as feed her family. She must ration the milk from her two cows so she has enough to make butter and cheese to take to market.

Learning about making brandy, cider and cheese was interesting. But the thing I was truly fascinated with was the assets French Angora rabbits are to a woman in Simone’s situation.

Angora sweaterThe French Angora rabbit reproduces rapidly, like all rabbits. When mature, one rabbit will provide eight to ten pounds of meat. But the wool is the real boon. The Angora rabbit produces the silky soft wool used in making Agnora sweaters.

And, you don’t need to kill the rabbit to get the wool. Angora wool is spun from the top coat, or the molted coat, of the rabbit. There’s a fabulous video of a woman spinning yarn right off the rabbit’s back as it sits contentedly in her lap. The wool is in continuous supply since the rabbits molt every three months.

Here’s a video showing how easy it is to spin from the rabbit.

Jun 22

Oh, Magic Google, What’s for dinner?

Ever been in one of those situations where you know the ingredients you can use for dinner, but can’t quite figure out how to put them together? Or maybe you’re bored with the same old things in your menu rotations?

In yesteryear when the dinner funk descended, I would begin browsing cookbooks in the mid-afternoon. If I found something that sounded good and used what I had in the house, then I had to determine if the dish could be cooked in the amount of time left after my search. Yes, things were slow back then. No Food Network, no You Tube cooking videos, no Google recipe search. Only cookbooks and handwritten recipe cards.

But I’ve discovered the endless supply of recipes on Google. Yeah, I’m probably late to the party, but better late than never, right? The fabulous thing about Google recipes is that you can find really tasty healthy dishes on sites like www.eatingwell.com and delicious decadence at www.epicurious.com. Of course, Food Network has its own site where you can find recipes from all the shows.

But I like to play a kind of Google Recipe Roulette when I’m bored with my rotating menus. It’s a simple game. First you choose your main ingredient, which for me is the protein source–chicken, fish, beans, tofu, etc. Then I think about vegetables I have and whether I want to do a stove top or oven dish.

For example tonight, I wanted to something with shrimp and pasta, but it turned out I only had five frozen shrimp left from my bulk purchase. Not quite enough for the two of us. So I’d add some scallops, also from a bulk buy. And since it’s hot as blue blazes here in Florida this week, I wanted something rather light and quick to cook. Maybe pasta. So here’s the roulette part.

Enter shrimp, scallop and pasta in the Google search box and see what comes up. Tonight I scrolled through several options before settling on a nice dish with broccoli, red peppers, white wine and garlic I found at www.poorgirleatswell.com. The dish was delicious and exactly what I was in the mood for. Check out this site for great recipes on a budget. Poor Girl breaks each recipe down into cost per serving which is helpful, and she thinks out of the box. I liked her min-mart taco salad idea, too!

So when you get stuck in that what’s for dinner besides take out, try a little Google Recipe Roulette!

Jun 20

Happy Father’s Day

Every seven years the first day of summer, my birthday and Father’s Day share June 21. Here in Central Florida it will be a scorcher of a day to welcome summer. It’s also one of those mid-decade birthdays for me, but I’m not saying which, and I’m thinking of ignoring it completely. And it happens to be the fourth Father’s Day since my dad passed away. I’m feeling it–all of it.

Dad’s been in my thoughts more than usual for the past several weeks. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I went water skiing with my son, Jonathan, and his daughter, Alex, last weekend. Jonathan looks so much like my dad behind the wheel of the boat. I helped my grand-girl Alex learn to ski. She’s eight, just like I was when my dad taught me how to water ski. I also took a turn on the lake myself after about a five year hiatus. I just kept telling myself that Dad skied until he was in his mid-sixties, and I’m not close to that yet.

The exhilaration, freedom, and power of gliding across the water behind a powerful motorboat can’t be matched. I love it, just like my dad always did. My brother sent these photos of Dad in his prime, ripping up the water at Kingsley Lake near Starke, Florida.

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

Cliff Elliott cutting to the outside

Cliff Elliott cutting to the outside

Of course, I remember watching scenes like these from the back of the boat during those long beautiful summers of my childhood. I remember being proud that my dad was so strong, so athletic and so capable. But it wasn’t until I became an adult that I appreciated the man he was.

My dad, like my father-in-law and so many depression era children, worked hard to give his children a better life. My dad began working at Simmon’s Company, famous bedding manufacturers, when he was seventeen as a factory floor sweeper. When he retired, he was operations manager of one of the company’s largest plants. His hard work planted his family firmly in the middle class suburbs, far from his own rural, back-breaking, tenant farm history. My husband’s father did the same through a career in the Army. Without our dads’ vision and hard work, our own family wouldn’t be enjoying the life they have now.

Sadly, I didn’t allow my vision of my father to expand beyond my own childlike needs. Even when I became an adult, he was my  dad, my children’s grand-daddy and very important to us. At his memorial service, I realized how important he was to others in his life. In the filled-to-capacity hall, man after man, person after person, stood to share what Cliff Elliott had done to change their lives. The Viet Nam vets my dad hired when no one else would–there were so many at the service that day. The neighbors who relied on my dad for help and advice. The children we played with, now adults, who looked to my dad for an example, the many men and women who’s lives he touched and changed by simply doing his job, being who he was.

I realized that Dad was the kind of man who built this country. That his life and work, though seen as ordinary in the social history of this nation, had actually MADE the social history of his nation. Dad’s contributions,when added to the millions of other men like him–like my father-in-law, like your dad, and your grand-dad–brought whole generations from grinding poverty to security.

Following their example, my husband has built a life for us beyond the wildest dreams of the early days of our marriage. When he was out of work in the recession of the 1980’s, my husband built a business instead of waiting for someone to give him a job. That  business that has earned profits for twenty plus years now and operates from two locations that we own. I’m so proud of him and the work he does.

Let us show our fathers and husbands how much we love and appreciate them during our private celebrations. Let us be mindful of the foundations they have laid for us with their hard work and example. Let us be thankful that they’ve graced our lives.

I love you, Dad.

Jun 09

Tiny Birds and Other Fragile Things

trapped-birdSunday morning a bird became trapped in our pool’s screened enclosure.  I’ll admit the screen needs some maintenance.  Our screen’s battle scars include a tree tear, squirrel nibblings, and even a three cornered tear in the roof from an angry cat. Despite four hurricanes trailing over us in 2004, we didn’t experience enough damage to call in the insurance company. So we’re waiting out hurricane season 2009 to see if we get a new screen or not. But, back to the bird. 

The little Carolina wren alerted us to his plight by bumping into the window several times. The poor thing was already frantic by the time we noticed him. I opened the screened doors and waved my arms in the direction of freedom, but he simply flew back and forth, ever closer to the hole through which he most likely entered, but never quite finding it. 

Finally, I went back inside, leaving both doors open hoping for the best. A few moments later, I glanced through the sliding glass doors to see the wren walking out the door. Once outside, he immediately dove headfirst into my herb garden, chirping happily as he hid in the dewy parsley. 

Which made me think of some of the other tiny, fragile things in my life that I try to manuever and manhandle, sometimes to the their sad demise. Like ideas.

Ideas–specifically story ideas–beat at the confines of my brain just like that poor trapped bird. And, it seems the more I work at them, trying to push them in my direction, the more frantically they flutter and fly until they become exhausted. I’ve learned that if I watch the idea as it makes itself at home in my brain, if I study the flight pattern and gently nourish it–maybe with some research or day-dreaming–the Idea Bird relaxes and grows confident. And then one day, when it’s ready, it walks right out of my head and marches across the keyboard and onto the page.

Oh, this sound so sweet and wonderful, doesn’t it? 

But the trick is, that once the idea is free on the page, then I’m the one who’s trapped, beating my wings against the screens of good storytelling, compelling plots and dynamic characters. And that takes work. Hard work. But eventually we walk through the door together, with our feathers in place, our hearts beating at a normal pace and our breathing steady and calm.

The story is free of its cage and flying out in the world. Just like my little Carolina wren.

May 31

A Tale of Three Pillows–Conclusion

 

So the woman returned from San Francisco with her Good Fortune pillow and added it to the collection on the daybed in her office. While a worthy addition, the Good Fortune pillow didn’t quell the desire the woman had for a romantic, spectacularly tacky pillow like the one she remembered from her childhood. 

Still seeking the pillow of her vision, she searched the cyber world for a substitute, but found nothing to match her imagination. She expressed her disappointment and her unfilled desire in a blog post, sending the wish into the ether, hoping for some insight, some direction, some retail outlet to meet her need. 

Months passed and nothing materialized. No direction via comments on her blog. No insight. No retail outlet. She should give up , she told herself. Be satisfied with what you have, her conscience commanded. After all, she possessed the kitschy, romantic Texas pillow. She had her Good Fortune pillow. Most of all, she had the great good fortune of her life–her husband, her sons, her home, her good friends. She was happy with these things. 

She tucked away her vision and gave up her obsession, settling into the daily routine of her life. Writing in her office, she’d gaze at the Texas pillow and think of romance, of love, of innocent sweethearts and delicate passion. The Good Fortune pillow inspired her to work harder for surely good fortune would follow. And so the days passed and the work progressed. 

Then her son, Jon, brought home Lisa–a golden princess of great beauty and greater compassion. Unbeknownst to the woman, Lisa understood the woman’s desire for the unusual. Lisa related to the pretty side of ugly that creates tacky. And she took it upon herself to find a pillow that might fill the void in the woman’s pillow collection. 

On Christmas morning, the woman opened a gift from Lisa. It appeared to be an ordinary package. Possibly a sweater. Perhaps a scarf. But, beyond the wrapping paper and beneath the tissue lay an exquisite gold fringed, gleaming satin pillow with the Golden Gate Bridge embroidered in glittering red thread! A sparkling clear stone lit the topmost point of the bridge and a tiny blue truck traversed the span.

The woman gasped with delight! It was the pillow she’d wanted. Too beautiful to be tacky, but exactly right. And Lisa, the good, golden princess beamed with joy. The two women understood. 

THE  END

The Third Pillow

The Third Pillow

Together at last

Together at last

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