Theme

We're taking a break from themes for a while. It'll be a smorgasbord of posts this spring. Your comments can help us determine what type of posts you'd like to see more frequently. We hope to hear from our readers often!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Settling in ... for a week or two

Finished up my latest round of travel (Iowa-Kansas City-Charleston, round trip). I had a great time and am glad I made the effort to visit Charleston, which is a charming city. It has a small town feel, and is very welcoming and friendly. It was fun to play tourist and go on bus tours and carriage tours and walking tours. We even took in a minor league baseball game.

Then home to 300 email messages awaiting me at the Day Job. That's about right, I average about 100 a day or so. It took a few days to fight my way through that, and now I'm back on an even keel again, getting ready to settle in for the summer -- for 3 weeks, until I travel again, that is.

While traveling, I did something I seldom do: I flew without any entertainment -- no Kindle, no tablet, no magazine. I threw caution to the winds and grabbed a book from the airport bookstore, one by my favorite author (Martha Grimes). I spent several enjoyable hours revisiting old friends (her detective stories have been my favorite for years). I forgot how much I enjoy reading a good book -- if I got nothing else out of traveling, it was great to rediscover reading....

Monday, May 25, 2015

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Veterans by Velda Brotherton



Roses and Readers, join me in welcoming Velda Brotherton as guest author today.

We think of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, as something fairly new. A disorder that affects veterans of war, but wasn’t recognized as such as popularly as following the Vietnam War.  In writing the Victorian Series, I wrote Lord Blair Prescott as being controlling, withdrawn, and prone to riding the prairie all night. When I began work on Rowena's Hellion, the second in the series which would deal with him as the hero, I remembered what a fan had written regarding Blair Prescott, She said, "Velda if you can pull off why anyone would love a man like this, then I'll be surprised."

So my work was laid out for me. Why did Blair Prescott behave the way he did toward the woman he was supposed to marry? So much so that she talked an outlaw into kidnapping her to prevent the marriage. Why did he often get drunk before he could sleep?
 
An old friend said he had been a gentle, quiet boy growing up. Could something terrible have happened to cause this behavior? Being familiar with PTSD because of research for my earlier book, Beyond the Moon, I began to research wars in which he might have fought and found the Franco Prussian War of 1870-71 and the elite forces known as Zuoaves who fought under Napoleon III. So I sent the poor young man, a second son in a titled English family, off to war.

Since that decision and the first draft of Rowena's Hellion, I've learned a lot about the history of PTSD. For thousands of years diaries have been found that were written by soldiers and others suffering from this malady that had no name.

During the Civil War military physicians, at a loss to treat the problems, simply mustered the extreme cases out during the first three years of the war. “They were put on trains with no supervision, the name of their home town or state pinned to their tunics, others were left to wander about the countryside until they died from exposure or starvation,” wrote Richard A. Gabriel, a consultant to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees and one of the foremost chroniclers of PTSD.

Gabriel’s research tells us that in 1863 the number of insane soldiers simply wandering around was so great, there was a public outcry. Because of this, and at the urging of surgeons, the first military hospital for the insane was established in 1863. The most common diagnosis was nostalgia.

In earlier times French doctors termed the symptoms maladie du pays, and the Spanish, confronted with the same reactions among their soldiers, called it estar roto (literally, “to be broken”).

As late as World War II and the Korean War, men were not treated for the symptoms of this disorder. It was by then called battle fatigue or shell shock. Today doctors are working on treatments to help men returning from war deal with this debilitating disorder that include drugs and counseling that teaches these wounded warriors to handle their problems with the horrific memories and flashbacks.

Excerpt: “I decided I was meant to be a spinster. Even thought of going into the convent, but the sisters were so mean spirited at St. Ann’s that I did not think I would enjoy that.”
“Oh, love, I cannot imagine you as a nun. Never.”
“What, you think I’m not worthy?”
“Not that at all. I think you are too full of mischief. And you enjoy the sort of loving that isn’t allowed in a convent. Truth be known, I can see where Tyra gets her—what is it the westerners call it?—orneriness.”
She punched his shoulder gently. “Is that right? I will have you know I am the picture of decorum.”
“Oh, you are?” He laughed again. “I just realized something.”
“What’s that?”
“I am actually enjoying myself. I cannot remember the last time I felt this good.”
Tears filled her eyes and she cupped his face.
“Rowena, don’t cry. What is it?”
“I want you to be happy, so much it hurts me here.” She clenched a fist over her heart, sucked in a sob. “I guess that’s what love is.”
Silence covered him like a cloak, and he stared at her. He was so frightened for her, yet so sure he needed her more than he needed to take his next breath. Took her fist in his hand, pulled it to his lips and kissed the fingers tenderly. He could not speak. Sat there gazing down at her and hanging on to her hand. She was his connection to reality.

Blurb: Loving a man damaged by war is a challenge, but Blair’s haunted eyes capture Rowena’s nurturing heart. She struggles to bring peace to this man who rides the Kansas prairie in the moonlight, wild to escape the demons who follow him from the battlefields.The woman haunts him as well, but he dare not follow his desires for fear he will hurt her.

Twitter: @veldabrotherton
Buy Link: buff.ly/12rMMBI


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Truth Can Be Stranger Than Fiction by Margo Hoornstra

Me again, with another short story to share. One I wrote quite a while ago. Although fiction like all the others, this one is based on a true story. A police file, really.

Back in the day, as they say, my father wrote scripts for a radio show out of Detroit titled Manhunt, which was a forerunner of the television show Dragnet. True stories pulled from actual police files, as they also say.

This story is based on one of those scripts.

Hearts and Flowers
 
 

Homicide detectives Jake Martin and Sean Crawford pulled up to the posh Galleria Restaurant. The officer who took the original call had followed protocol. The crime scene was cordoned off with the bright yellow tape the public had come to recognize, and usually respect. Only a few curious bystanders stood outside its boundary.

“Suspicious death of a Mr. Charles Bentley. That’s all we have?” Martin shut off the engine and put the gear shift in park.

“That’s it.” Crawford scanned a document on the onboard computer. “The EMTs who responded to the scene called it suspicious. Said it was a choking. The uniforms got a driver’s license off the victim. Dispatch is running the name and prints.”

“What’s was so suspicious about someone choking at a restaurant?”

“One of the EMTs happened to be a flower buff. She recognized Hemlock petals—lethal amount—on the table. Remnants are at the lab now. She said the stuff grows wild if you know what to look for.”

“Apparently somebody made an effort to do just that.”

“I actually came here once.” Crawford made the remark as they got out and crossed the sidewalk. “My wife dragged me. Not being married, you wouldn’t know about that.”

“Probably not.”

“Very fancy.”

Martin ducked under the crime tape. “How so?”

Crawford was right behind him. “Menu in French, lemon slices in the water, little flowers in the salad.”

“Sounds yummy.”

“Apparently the clientele likes it.”

“Not all of them.” Martin deadpanned the comment before he pushed through the big double doors to the restaurant.

“You must do something!”  A tuxedo clad man with a Charlie Chaplin mustache rushed up and grabbed Martin’s sleeve. “My reputation! I will be ruined!”

Martin pulled his arm free to reach for the notebook he always carried in his breast pocket. “What happened?”

“Monsieur Bentley was one of my better customers.” He continued in an accent that wasn’t quite authentic. “Not a week went by that he didn’t join us for dinner at least once, maybe twice.”

Martin had his pen poised. The man still hadn’t answered his question. He shuffled a couple of pages. Victim a regular.

“Your name, Sir?” He flipped back to page one.

“I am Henri DuBois.” His accent in full swing, he gave a short bow. “I own La Galleria.”

Crawford coughed slightly. Martin ignored him. “Again, what happened?”

“Our guest had ordered the specialty of the house—Steak Merlot Du Bois, an excellent choice!”

“And?”

“A few moments into his meal, he grabbed at his throat and . . . gone!” He indicated the demise with an elaborate flick of his hand, then lowered his voice. “My enemies did this!”

“You have enemies, Mr. DuBois?”

Warming to his own theatrics, he spread his arms with a flourish. “Every great artist has enemies!”

“Artist?” Martin didn’t look up.

“A culinary artist.” His tone suggested he didn’t appreciate having to explain himself. “My competitors are jealous. They will do anything to ruin me!”

Crawford stepped forward. “Can you provide the names of these . . . uh, competitors of yours?”

“One needs to look no further than the phonebook. Pick any one.” Again the arms flourished in a huge circle.

“I see.” Martin nodded.

Though he doubted that kind of ‘competition’ could lead to murder, he had enough years in the business to know people had been done in for less. That didn’t mean he was going to check out every restaurant in the city. Not yet, anyway.

Besides a few employees, only two people who had been identified as the victim’s dining companions remained in the restaurant. They were huddled together at a far table. Martin recognized local socialite Rita Barnes.  The man, he couldn’t identify. Probably her boyfriend judging by the way his arms were wrapped around her as she sobbed into his shoulder.

“Let’s see what they have to say.” Leaving his partner to the over the top restaurant owner, Martin walked toward them.

“Your name, sir?” He posed the question after introducing himself.

“Harvey Nelson. I’m Ms. Barnes’s financial advisor.”

Martin was careful to keep the surprised look from his face. Awfully cozy for business associates.

“You knew the victim?”

“I did.” The reply was terse.

Rita Barnes raised her head. “Charles and I were going to be married.”

Martin noticed the other man’s jaw tighten.

She pushed upright. Her chin quivered uncontrollably and she took a breath. “Next month.”

“Ms. Barnes is too distraught to talk with you right now.” Nelson lowered his head to bring his face even with hers. “Rita, I’m going to speak with the Detective for a moment.” He handed her a handkerchief he’d pulled from his pants pocket then patted her hand. “Please.” He stood to lead Martin across the room, out of earshot.  “I recently made a complaint to your Department.” He spoke in a hushed voice. “I suspected Bentley was up to no good. He was just a little too smooth, if you know what I mean.”

Martin nodded. “What did they tell you?”

The man stiffened. “That nothing could be done without more evidence. That my just thinking he was after her money wasn’t breaking any laws. The whole thing was a total waste of my time.”

“Have you told Ms. Barnes about your suspicions?”

“Of course not! Her personal affairs are none of my business.” He seemed to choke before he went on. “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t say anything either. If she found out . . .”

“You’d stand to lose a very lucrative client.”

Her business associate’s lips pursed in obvious distaste. “I was going to say it would hurt her deeply. I only have her best interests at heart.” He cast a quick look the woman’s way. “She wanted Bentley put on her bank accounts.  I had managed to talk her out of doing that—until today. The necessary papers are in my brief case. That was why I met them here tonight.”

“How long had they . . . uh, dated?”

“About six months. Their goings on made all the society columns.” He stopped speaking and considered Martin for a moment. “You don’t read those, do you?”

Martin shook his head. “Must’ve missed it.”

“Well, she certainly wined and dined him in style. It bordered on disgraceful.” Unmistakable bitterness tinged his voice.

“I take it you didn’t care for Mr. Bentley?”

“I couldn’t stand the man!”

“You have any interest in flowers?”

Brows raised, Nelson’s head reared back. “Why would you ask that?”

“Just wondered.”

Telling Nelson not to leave the premises just yet, he moved on to talk to the staff and noticed with more than a little irritation that they all sat together at a back table. That should make for some valuable recollections. Interrogation 101—keep any possible witnesses separate. He shrugged again. Nothing he could do about it now. Flipping to a clean page in his notebook, he approached their table. Those who had been in the dining room at the time of the incident gave much the same account of events as the restaurant owner, though not as dramatic. Then Martin got to the next witness.

“I was taking out the trash.” Eddie, the dishwasher lounged in a chair by the wall. “They were arguing in the back hall. One guy—not the dead guy, the other one—he said ‘I’ll see you dead first!’ Guess he meant it.” Eyes wide, the kid smiled.

Martin didn’t smile back. “What exactly do you mean by ‘the other one’?”

“The guy that was at the table with them.” He spoke slowly as if the cop should have figured that one out for himself. “I had just brought a load of glasses out front when he croaked. He was struggling pretty hard, trying to breathe and all. The lady started to scream, but, the other guy; he just kinda stood there, watching him.”

Martin just nodded. To think this was their only real witness. “Is anyone else here?”

“Just Sally.” He pointed toward the back of the kitchen. “She works set up.”

Sally Wells turned out to be a small blond in a chef’s hat that didn’t seem to fit right.

“I just started working here today.” She looked like she’d been crying.

Understandable. Must be tough to lose a customer—literally—your first night on the job.

“Did you know the victim?” Martin’s cop gut prompted that one.

She lowered her gaze. “No…of course not.” She managed to answer between sniffles then brought a tissue to her nose with the long, painted nails of a professional manicure. “I just heard the commotion.” She dabbed at her eyes. “Do they know what . . . how it happened? Eddie said he choked on a piece of meat. Is that right?”

“Something like that.”

Her attention was focused on the floor. “What will they do with the body?”

“Depends if next of kin can be found.” Martin decided to play a hunch. “Sometimes families don’t want anything to do with it. In cases like that, the body ends up being disposed of by the state.”

Head still lowered, she seemed to cringe at that bleak scenario.

“That’s sad.” Face lifted, she croaked out the whisper as new tears welled.

“It happens.”

“It’s just so sad.” That was all she got out before tears got the better of her and she launched into a pitiful crying jag. Her shoulders heaved as she buried her face in her hands.

Well, crap. He so hated the crying. Arms at his sides, he stood there like an idiot. A helpless idiot. In need of a diversion, he glanced through his notes so far. Two hysterical women, a jealous—wanna be—lover and some imaginary enemies. Quite a suspect list. It sure was going to be a long night.

Not only that, the woman still hadn’t stopped crying.

“Take it easy.” He made his voice sound gentle and wished now he’d stayed with ‘Henri’. Let Crawford deal with the rest of it. Notebook in one hand, he took an awkward grip on her arm and led Sally out to the dining room where Crawford questioned a now more composed Rita Barnes. Nelson was a tolerable distance away taking it all in.

Martin had Sally Wells almost to a nearby table, when he sensed a sudden shift in her body language. Just like that she went from pliant to tense.  Women. He’d never understand them.

Oddly grateful when a newly arrived female officer took over for him, temporarily, he returned to talk with Harvey Nelson. “You and Mr. Bentley had a disagreement tonight?”

“We did.” Back straight, his chin lifted in defiance. “I’m not proud my temper got the better of me. He was so arrogant.”

Just then a uniform called Martin over to the entrance. “The ID the victim had on him was phony. Turns out there is a real Charles Bentley. This one’s alive and owns a real estate company. But, we lucked out. The picture of our Mr. Bentley did produce a match and some aka information.” He glanced at the paper in his hand. “His real name was Carl Bendix. He had quite a record. Bank account cons. Credit card scams.  The grab and go kind of stuff.”

Martin had to admit, Harvey Nelson was a pretty good judge of character. Too late, he realized, the man was also right behind him.

“I told you!” Chin still elevated, he sniffed. “The man was bad news! You people never listen!”

“That still doesn’t tell us who killed him. All we have now is a possible motive.” Martin stared at Harvey Nelson as the color drained from his face. For the first time, the man seemed to grasp the severity of the situation and his possible role in it.

“Who’s going to tell Rita. . .Ms. Barnes?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I think it’s best if she hears it from me.”

Martin nodded. “Go ahead.” At least they could give him that.

The patrol officer continued with his report after Nelson stalked away. “He worked with an accomplice until about six months ago. Then he seemed to strike out on his own. Seems odd to change an MO after so long. Anyway, they’re sending over a picture of the accomplice.”

Martin stuffed the notebook back in his pocket as he headed over toward Sally Wells. “I bet I know just what she looks like.”

Turned out it wasn’t going to be such a long night after all.
 
My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and my stories, please visit my WEBSITE

           

           

 

Friday, May 22, 2015

I'm plant-cursed by Leah St. James

Despite the fact that I’m a native of New Jersey (the GARDEN state), where I used to have thriving vegetable garden, and a bed of hostas that threatened to overrun the neighborhood, I’ve rarely had success with potted plants. In fact, gifting me with a plant is usually gifting the plant with early death! I’ve even killed plants that have been left in my care, at home and at work. (I did give the owners ample warning. They just didn’t believe the severity of my plant care challenges!) 

I think the problem has to do with my ability to sense moisture with my fingers....I can’t. I mean, I stick my finger in the pot of soil, and I feel temperature, not moisture. People who have this ability get cranky with me when I insist I can’t tell if the soil is moist. “I just feel cold!” I’ll wail in the face of their skepticism. 

So I’ve learned to judge need for water by the weight of the pot. If it’s light (in relation to its normal weight), then it’s dry. 

Gift of hibiscus plant, 2014
Anyway, most of my friends and family know of this disability of mine, and they work around it. But about a year ago, I received a gorgeous hibiscus plant (see left photo) from someone close to me (who should have known better!). 

 After three or four months, under my well-meaning nurturing, it was near dead--droopy, mottled and infested with spider mites. (When I saw the little cobwebs between the leaves, I thought, “Wow, you really ARE a lousy housekeeper! Even your plants get cobwebs! And when I found out they were from bugs...ewwwwww. 

Photo representative of my plant's plight
I immediately quarantined it to keep the little bast—bugs from jumping onto its neighbor, my prized African violet...which I haven’t yet managed to kill. (Another success story I'll tell you about another time.) 

I was desolate, despondent! So I turned to Google and found a site that said the ONLY true solution to spider mites is to give the plant a bath. Yes, a bath...in the bathtub (something I hadn’t given myself, in the bathtub, that is, in years)! 

So off I went to bathe my hibiscus, expecting the poor thing would die a slow and painful death. But amazingly, it worked. Now look at it. It's growing like crazy! (Check out the yardstick measurement!) 




The other day  I was bemoaning the fact that although it seems really healthy now, there are still no blossoms...at which point I turned again to Google, and according to what I found, it might not be getting enough sunlight. So I put the plant on my patio during the day over the weekend, and it got a couple long days of soaking up the rays. No buds yet, but the leaves are brilliant green and shiny (and still not a “cobweb” in sight)! Maybe my plant curse has lifted, I thought!

This year I received a beautiful geranium from the same person who gave me a hibiscus. Flush (and cocky) with the success of the hibiscus, I decided to let the geranium do some sunbathing as well. After all, according to my Google research, they like the full sun, and they’re drought tolerant. 

But I think I’ve struck again! After one measly afternoon sharing the patio in the sun, the plant’s buds withered, and the edges of the leaves turned a sickly yellow. Some leaves turned completely yellow. UGH. And the pot felt really light

I immediately brought it back inside and turned to Google. It seems the yellowed leaves mean not enough water...or too much. Aaaaaaah! So I gave it some water, but I think it might be too late! So far it hasn’t recovered.

I give up. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the person who gave me the plant doesn’t ask about its health. Less than a week. This is a new record for me!

If you're the praying type, please add my plant to your list...it needs !

---------------------------------------

Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil, and the power of love. And her characters don't kill plants. To learn more, go to www.leahstjames.com.

Or you can visit her Pinterest page where she has a whole board dedicated to her dream yard. (Yeah, like that'll happen.) :-)


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Did I forget my dreams?by Barbara Edwards #sale$.99

Did I forget my dreams?
This might sound a little confused but I’m talking about how I feel, a complicated subject.
I wanted to be a published author. I worked hard and found a publisher or two who like my work. Annie’s Heart and Another Love are historical romances with WingsEpress. Ancient Awakening, Ancient Blood and Ancient Curse are all part of the paranormal romance Rhodes End series from The Wild Rose Press. Then there are my fun short Christmas novellas written to make me smile: Journey of the Magi, (an Amazon Bestseller), Late for the Wedding, and the soon to be released Dixie’s Gift. I include buy links below.
I’ve been working hard and have three mss in process. 
My writing has improved, but I miss my old critique group. With all the traveling we do I couldn’t bring myself to commit to weekly meetings. 
I tried on-line several times and it didn’t work for me. So I put off looking for a new critique partner until I realized I need the clear eyes of another writer. An editor doesn’t have time to do the picky stuff. If its not ready, bring it back when it is.
Despite my fears, I took a side trip into hunting the perfect partner. Not so easy to do. I posted on the RWA loop. The first person wasn’t a match, but she asked me why I’m not New York published. I winced. That was a dream, along with being a bestseller.
I forgot my dreams. Life got complicated. I had publishers I love. Why bother?
Why? Because I need to be the best I can. So over the last week I’ve traded chapters with others in the same hunt. It’s funny to feel like I’ll be judged and found wanting in my critiquing skills. Or that work good enough for my editor isn’t prime.
I hope the new effort pays off. I like the feedback so far.
It made me upset. It made me growl. I loved the compliments and preened like a peacock. then I had to really read the suggestions. I was opposed to making some of them. I know my story. then I understood that I had to add clarity, description, background and make a few switches. Whew.
So what does this have to do with my forsaken dreams? I’m going to the Romance Writers of America Conference in New York in July. This year I made an appointment with an editor and an agent. I plan to have two manuscripts ready to send. Something new, something I love.
I’m grabbing for the gold ring because life has taught me that you can’t give up.

Ancient Awakening 
by Barbara Edwards is on sale $.99 until Friday
Link: http://amzn.com/B002TG4NFG
Police Officer 'Mel' Petersen is the only one who believes a suspicious death is murder. By disobeying direct orders from the Rhodes End Chief, she risks her career to follow clues that twist in circles to her backyard and lead the killer to her. Her neighbor Stephan Zoriak is a prime suspect. While working for a major pharmaceutical company, he is exposed to a dangerous organism that changed him. He suspects he is the killer and agrees to help Mel find the truth when the deaths continue. In the course of their investigation Mel and Steve find more death and continued distrust that make them wonder if love can defy death.


Please visit, friend or follow me.
Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/BarbaraEdwards. Author
Twitter  https://www.twitter.com/Barb_ed
Amazon Author’s Page http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003F6ZK1A

Other buy links

Journey of the Magi : http://amzn.com/B00ES5DZEQ

Late for the Wedding: http://amzn.com/B00OWLKDY6






Monday, May 18, 2015

Putting Our Best Foot Forward by Jannine Gallant

I just spent my weekend at the Nevada High School Track and Field State Championships in Las Vegas watching our North Tahoe Lakers compete. And it got me to thinking. I know, dangerous, but bear with me. My oldest daughter is a senior. It's been a year of lasts for her. Next year will be a year of firsts. But this was her final chance to win a state championship in track. She's had a lot of victories over the last four years, but no gold at state.

The meet began with the boys 4 X 800 relay. The first three boys on our team gave our anchor leg a fighting chance. James, a senior, took the baton and poured his heart into running the race of his life, coming from behind. It was dead even at the finish line, and everyone held their breath to hear the announcer. Our boys won by four thousandths of a second! Can't get much closer than that. The same thing happened in the girls 4 X 100 and 4 X 200 races. The first three girls ran hard, gave the baton to Ally, a senior, and she ran faster than I've ever seen her run from behind to squeak out a victory at the line. I'd have to say there's something about being a senior, knowing it's your last race, that pushes you past your limits to succeed.


So, back to Tara. She's a distance runner, and the 800 is not her race. She gave it her best shot, though, and ran a PR and got the bronze medal. In the 1600 she had a chance at victory. She ran a PR, but the girl she was running against was also a senior. She took the gold, and Tara got the silver. The 3200 was the final race of the night on Friday. The stands were mostly empty by 9:30 when the gun went off. Tara started fast with her main competitor running side by side with her for the first three laps. On the fourth lap, Tara sped up and started pulling away. Her pace was fast, and she had four and a half more laps to go. We help our breaths, hoping she wouldn't burn out before the finish. She didn't. She ran the race of her life, a huge PR, and won the race by a long margin--getting that coveted gold. Three PRs and a trifecta of medals. Not a bad way to end a high school running career.

So, how can we apply this senior drive to our every day lives? As writers, do we put our best work forward every time we sit down at the computer? Or are we too busy thinking about the next book to focus on achieving our absolute best with each word we write? In our personal lives, do we get the most out of our day, living it like it was our last? Or are we just marking time? Maybe we can't have that burning drive each day. Maybe it simply isn't possible. But from now on, I'm going to try a little harder to make each book I write my very best. To enjoy the moments in life that I don't always stop to appreciate. That's what I took away from this weekend.

Maybe good things do come in threes. I hope so with my new series. Every Move She Makes is available now, on sale for only 99 cents. Every Step She Takes can be pre-ordered now and releases in July. Every Vow She Breaks will round out my series early in 2016.





Sunday, May 17, 2015

Transience and Perseverance

A dear friend of mine posted a terrific entry on his Snowflakes in a Blizzard blog. He wrote about art not being meant to last. His metaphor was a sand artist who creates glorious pictures only to have them washed away at high tide. (You can find the blog post here:  http://bit.ly/1EQ4vz6) Darrell's metaphor got me thinking about life in general.

Many of my friends have lost parents or uncles in the past two weeks. Those of us who have reached "a certain age" find our friends or their parents failing. Younger friends who have not reached the "certain age" lose members of their parents' generation. Life, it seems, is fleeting. That's why the Japanese use the cherry blossom as a favorite poetic metaphor for life's impermanence.

So too is it with writing. We work hard to put our best words on paper (or in the computer) only to find that better words come along. We edit. We send out meager efforts to friends who come back with comments for "improvement." So far, I've been lucky. No one has said I should seek alternate employment, but I learn every time I sit at my keyboard.

I've recently been beta-testing an online master class taught by a New York Times bestselling author, Many times over bestselling author. He writes genre fiction. He writes books we want to escape in and emerge hours later satisfied we've enjoyed a good read. I was halfway through the course when he came to two lessons on outlining. I wanted to skip them. I'm a panster. I write by the seat of my pants and let the words flow. I then hit the edit mode and go through many iterations.

This writer says he spends a month or two writing and rewriting the outline. Not the type we learned in school. Not I. A. 1. a. but a working description of what happens in every scene. EVERY scene. Who's in it. Why it's important. What the conflict is. By the time he is finished with the outline, he can sit back and let the sentences flow.

I really wanted to pooh pooh is approach, until I smacked myself on my forehead. I'm stuck in a work that I've been writing diligently for over a year. Really stuck. I now know I have no idea what the conflict is in several scenes. I'm taking a week or two to create that outline he suggested. Time line. Characters. Motive. Action. Conflict. Importance. I have a table that lays this all out. I have 50+ chapters to put into the table. I think by the time I'm done, the transient words that don't work will give way through perseverance to a cohesive story that at least I will want to read.

I stood after his lesson, took my Wonder Woman pose and said, "Yes I can." Moreover, yes I will


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Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, which is now available in e-book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.