Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Haply I Think on Thee

Sonnet 29
William Shakespeare

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Chapter 5 is behind me. I'm stumped on Chapter 6. I've reached a stage where I need technical information that is not currently available to me. I have a source that I am thinking of interviewing for this chapter that perhaps can shed some light on the information I need, but unfortunately he won't be available until Thursday or Friday. So, I am going to skip over Chapter 6 and move to Chapter 7. Since I have my trusty outline, this will be no big deal--unless some logistical detail escapes me. But you can always rewrite, as I am sure this will be necessary anyway.

Every time I put the computer away I am drawn back to it. I cannot seem to rest until I get the story down. But unlike my other writing projects, this one is a much longer work. So I am forced to pace myself, fighting the urge to write when I am overly tired or distracted. Still, I have this sense of urgency about it, like my very future hangs on the completion of this one thing. I know it is illogical. I know it that so much time is involved in the process. I know that once I complete it, there will be at least three rewrites before I can even hope to be picked up by a publisher. I know all this. And yet, the urgency still exists.

I am thinking that it is my lack of purpose at this stage of my life, the lack of a 9-5 job. I should be out pounding the pavement. I know this. I search the classified daily. I applied for a position over the weekend. I went yesterday and inquired about a position. It is not like I am not trying. It seems at every turn the door is shut in my face. I keep asking God why. I keep telling him that my situation is dire. I keep telling Him that something has to change, and fast. But of course He already knows this. At night when I go to sleep, I pray that the next day will bring good news. Every day I wake up I hope for something. I look for something. And it is as if the heavens have closed their doors and windows shut, and are oblivious to my cries. I know this is not the case. It just feels that way. Thankfully, our future is not determined by what we feel, but who we know.

And thankfully, Shakespeare, my God is not deaf nor blind to my plight. And as my son's Veggie Tale CD so beautifully reminds me, "God is bigger than the boogie man or the monsters on TV." "For Thy sweet love, (O Lord) remembered such wealth brings..."

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Chapter Four Roughed

Word count: 3213 for this chapter, and I didn't even have to fudge. In fact, there's alot of detail I still have to go back and put in, once I do a bit of homework. I'm pleased with the progress. I've been sick all weekend with a nasty headcold that I didn't want to pass around. So I stayed home from church, coughing my head off, but still able to sit and write. It entertained me and hardly seemed like work. But that's the joy of it, isn't it, fellow writers.

I have introduced two more characters, Beth's parents. Two of our other characters have managed to make their way into another locale. The family has discovered Beth's disappearance, and Beth has made some life-changing decisions. And the first subplot has also been introduced. Or have I told you that already? I forget. The second subplot has been hinted at and will be fully introduced in Chapter 5. Not bad, for the first quarter of the novel. I have a total of about 10,000 words so far, so it's probably going to be a short novel. But most first novels are on the short side. It gives you less margin for error. Listen to me, like I know.

I'm beginning to like this idea of having the outline, a loose outline. The writing seems to go much smoother when you know a general direction you're headed. I didn't think I would like it, but it has its good points. (No pun intended. Laugh.)

I'm so excited I don't think I can sleep now. I'm tempted to work into the night on it, but feeling as I do physically, I think it would be a mistake. So I'll say goodnight for now. Hope all of you have a good week. Rusty, be careful on the road and have a good vacation. The rest of you do the same. I need my friends.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

God's Amazing Grace

After I posted Burkett Street Revisited I remembered posting No Place Like Home. Perhaps a little explanation is needed, and maybe I see a trend emerging. BSR describes the home of my maternal grandparents in Jackson, Tennessee, where they lived for most of my childhood. NPLH describes my parents white frame home in Crockett County where I grew up. BSR's original version was written in 1989--NPLH, 2001.

The motivation for both stories was to provide something tangible to hang my memories upon. I watched my father die young with a disease that affected his mental capacity. Sometimes he recognized us; sometimes he did not. Sometimes from his ramblings you could decipher that his mind had traveled back in time to another decade. I wanted to have both stories down in print, so that, God forbid I ever lose my mental faculties, my child or heirs would have something concrete to add to their histories.

I'm sure there are photographs of these homes in some of my belongings. But sometimes you just have to dig a little deeper and capture details that the camera cannot see. No, my childhood was not picture perfect. There were some obvious trials that could have been included in my stories. But I chose to remember the precious. I chose to ignore the pain.

Some day, when I have the courage, I may begin to delve into the darker side. I'm sure that there is grittier stuff, more realistic material to draw from. I haven't been able to address most of it. And sometimes it is better if you just leave the past alone. Let it die. When my mother died, I began to write to deal with the grief. The words haven't stopped coming yet. The grief hasn't abated. It may never.

My father's alcoholism is an issue that I probably should have written about years ago and gotten it out of my system. A year or so before he died I wrote a letter to him, even though he obviously could not read it. I keep it tucked away in an old family Bible. I took it out recently and reread it. And for once, I was able to read it without crying. So time, may in fact, heal all wounds. But I know that it is God's grace more than anything that has the power to heal our broken hearts. Remember that when you face those difficult situations. I have had to trust Him for so much in my life. And when I get down, there is always someone somewhere that He sends my way to lift me up--and keep me going just one more day.

Thanks for being here friends. I love you all.

Burkett Street Revisited

**For those family members who have the original: This is a rewrite that I did and submitted to Storie magazine. I haven't heard back from them. But even if they don't publish it, it is one of the most precious things I have in my portfolio. **

The house still stands as an empty, quiet relic paying homage to former, happier years. The ivy no longer covers the brick. The iris are all gone, paved over for parking. The paint peels around its curtainless windows that stare out at the world as if in shock. The six lively children are all grown and gone. The year 1975 is but a sweet memory...and the old homeplace at 536 Burkett will never, ever be the same.
We are cousins, close-knit and caring. It is here, in the warm, bright summers of our lives that we built dreams in the sand, not knowing that we would live to see the sand disappear. Yet time does not erase the dreams and memories. They remain unthwarted. And the six of us remain loyal to each other and the bond that was formed years and summers ago.
The yard is half its previous size and void of care and life. Still, it brings visions of all those adventures created by churning, whirling, innocent minds. Detectives, musicians, gymnasts, bakers, homemakers, tour guides, and safari hunters filled our days and lives until, one by one we each came to terms with the sad reality: No home is safe from change.
Pretension was a great part of our childhood lives. The yard yielded small wild strawberries that we plucked and prepared and pretended to eat. And whenever we hollered into the iron grating that covered the sewer system, we would pretend to call to some stranger in prison, or we would imagine where the underground tunnels would take us. I wonder just how many items we dropped into that culvert and then realized, too late, that they were irretrievable like our youth. If only we had known in time, we would have grasped the days into the palms of our hands as we did the sand-and molded them into a heavily fortressed castle, never to crumble. No amount of pretending will bring back those days. Thank heaven that reality allows us to look back and fondly remember.
The house itself was common. It was brown brick, two-story, practical, and roomy. And still, even the events of our lives, though commonplace as well, have left golden footprints upon our hearts. Each room holds its unique memories-- loving, warm, comfortable memories.
Her kitchen is bare now. Nothing remains but the checkered flooring and wooden cabinets. The pantry door stands ajar to reveal empty shelves. No more sneaking for a Twinkie. No more standing in the straight-backed chair to help wash the dinner dishes. No more watering of the sweetheart vine in the black painted BandAid box that hung in the window. No more...
Gone is the dining room table where Sunday dinner was eaten, and everyone helped themselves to Granny's fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and lima beans.The big banana pudding bowl has disappeared. Papa no longer smiles from the head of the table with his lovable toothless grin. Even the sunlight finds it hard to shine upon the bare floors through the dirty windowpanes.
The family is not gathered in the living room to open Christmas gifts. Neither do the what-nots sit ceremoniously on the mantle waiting to be demolished by a boisterous game of Nerf ball. There is no braided oval rug to warm the knees of children dressed in Sunday best frills, kneeling to rip into the festive packages. There are no marble lamps to flip a switch and make it all come true.
Even the den seems larger now with the big overstuffed blue couch gone and the baby's playpen retired. Granny's ferns no longer flourish in the windows. Papa's blue work uniforms no longer grace the closet or doorway. Papa no longer enters and reclines and enjoys his daily lunch break. There are no fading refrains from "As the World Turns."
Even the bathroom has lost all familiar sights, and it no longer smells of Jean Nate' or Camay or hair tonic or Right Guard. The blue tile has faded. The porcelain is chipped and stained. There are no fresh clean towels nor billowing curtains to shade the window.
All the closets echo with nothingness, even though I can still recount the contents one by one. The bathroom closet no longer contains alcohol and bandages, old rags and shoe polish-- no Mercurochrome to heal these wounds.The front hall where Granny's Sunday coat hung still smells faintly of moth balls, and I reach for the transistor radio on the top shelf. But it is gone. The music's faded. And what has become of her old straw fishin' hat and feather duster? Gone with the tubs and tubs of fabric and buttons and patterns. I see Granny digging through them to find the proper notions to whip us up a new outfit. Oh, where has the time gone, old house?
More than anything else, we loved to go upstairs. We rarely got permission to go, and never just to play. Usually we went to clean the dust bunnies out from under the beds or bring canning jars down from the attic. There were two big bedrooms, another bathroom, and even a second telephone, which was unheard of in those days. But no one tinkers with the old Underwood typewriter anymore. There are no feather mattresses or chenille spreads or four poster beds. Only the dust bunnies remain.
I stand alone now in the front yard amidst the nostalgia of my memories. The flowers have all died. Their keepers have gone. An old maintenance truck is parked where my Granny's Grand Torino should be. Papa's red truck has been sold along with all his tools and mowers. Children no longer bounce tennis balls against the wall of his shop, and the greenhouses have been torn down. All the exotic plants he once nurtured are but a memory. The only remnant that remains is the symbol of our childhood safaris-the bamboo patch. What trivial adventures compared to now they were. Nothing is the same at 536 Burkett. Only the house, the empty shell remains.
Today the cousins gather in a different place minus a few dear faces. Granny still cooks the usual fare, and the call to dinner is still heard. All the love has survived as she, the head of the clan, leads us all blessing the bountiful meal. She seems a bit sad as we bow to pray. Even now as we sit reverently I can hear her voice ringing out in the midst of a July morn, ringing across a plywood gate into a picket fenced yard filled with laughing, lighthearted children, calling... "Y'all come to dinner."
As family, we remain true to each other today. We realize we have a special heritage-that of loving grandparents who taught us to love God and one another. We realize that though the past will never be again, the future is ours. It is there for our children. And though this may be all that ever remains of a common, two-story, brick home, the beautiful album of memories will always be ours for the asking. Each of us has our own contribution. There are many pages left to fill. We keep those scenes pressed to our hearts and protected, realizing that only there will they remain safe and unchanged-unwarped by time or reality.

Friday, January 27, 2006

We Are All to Blame

This week a distant cousin of mine, T.P. sent me this email. I'll post it here, so you will know to what I am referring.

" They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk: Why you ain't, Where you is, What he drive, Where he stay, Where he work, Who you be... And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. Everybody knows it's important to speak English... except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth. In fact you will never get any kind of job making a decent living. People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around. The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids. $500 sneakers for what? And they won't spend $200 for Hooked on Phonics. I am talking about these people who cry... when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was 2? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18...? and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol? And where is the father? Or who is his father? People putting their clothes on backward: Isn't that a sign of something gone wrong? People with their hats on backward, pants down around the crack, isn't that a sign of something? Or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up? Isn't it a sign of something when she has her dress all the way up and got all type of needles [piercing] going through her body? What part of Africa did this come from? We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans; they don't know a thing about Africa. With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail. Brown or black versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person's problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back. People used to be ashamed. Today a woman has eight children with eight different 'husbands' -- or men or whatever you call them now. We have millionaire football players who cannot read. We have million-dollar basketball players who can't write two paragraphs. We as black folks have to do a better job. Someone working at Wal-Mart with seven kids saying... you are hurting us. We have to start holding each other to a higher standard. We cannot blame the white people any longer It is not for media or anyone of this time anymore to say whether I'm right or wrong. It is time, ladies and gentlemen, to look at the numbers. Fifty percent of our children are dropping out of high school. Sixty percent of the incarcerated males happen to be illiterate. There's a correlation. Tell the media to stop asking me what I think about people who don't believe what I'm saying or feel that I'm too harsh or feel that I'm just running my mouth because I'm old. Seventy percent of the teenagers pregnant happen to be African American girls. Don't ask me to soften my message." - Bill Cosby Bill Cosby: Poor blacks can`t speak English NAACP leaders stunned by remarks of prominent comedian

I got news for you Bill, it isn't just the poor blacks. It isn't just the poor. There is a steady decline in the proper usage of the English language across the board. It is the flippant attitude of this generation toward tradition, standards, rules, and anything that even resembles decency that is bringing America down. Let's not blame it on the whites or blacks. Let's blame ourselves, whatever, whoever we happen to be. It is our apathy that has allowed this to spirit of laziness and rebellion to run rampant in our cities. It is our lack of concern that allows children to wield guns and knives and form gangs of hate and violence. I have no idea why the NAACP leaders would be stunned by his comments. If they would remove the blinders, they would see the truth in his message. Instead of being offended that one of their own has chosen to speak out against illiteracy in America, they should be on their feet giving him a standing ovation. And yes, I would say the same thing if I were black. By the way, how do you know I'm not?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Miscellaneous Ramblings...

Is it Spring yet? Even though we have had a very mild winter so far, I can't shake the feeling that the other shoe is about to drop just any day. And you know me, I hate cold weather. My husband laughs because I have Raynaud's syndrome. (Not sure about the spelling, too lazy today to look it up.) Cold causes me pain. Raynaud's sign is cyanosis, or the turning blue of the lips or extremities. He thinks it's all in my head, but it's not. Right now my toes are purple just because I don't have socks on. And the thermostat reads 66 degrees. That's with nothing on, because the temperature outside is in the 50's. And I refuse to run the heat when it's that mild, no matter what my body says. I have a faulty internal thermostat, it seems.

While everyone else is burning up, I'm turning on the heater. It's quite comical actually. I turn on the heater in the truck. He rolls down a window. I tell him I'll turn the heat off if he will just roll up the window, for heaven's sake. He rolls it up. I get cold. I sneak over to the panel without looking and flip it back on. Loud wails erupt from the back seat. "But Mommmmm, I'm burning up. I'm sweating. Please turn it off." And I comply. And sit and shiver.

If it's a long road trip, I usually carry a comforter and pillow. Doesn't matter what season, because if it's summertime, the boys will have the air conditioner cranked up high as it will go. We ride down the road with people staring at me like I'm a freak for covering up in 100 degree weather. So I'm a freak. So what.

I would be perfectly happy to move to a tropical climate if I could just carry everyone I love with me. Now isn't that a fantasy?

Novel update: 2300 hundred words into Chapter Two. Not sure if I even like Chapter Two. Trying to hold off on the rewrite and just move forward. But something's bugging me about it, and I can't put my finger on it. My cold purple finger.

And for those of you who say it's bad circulation due to my obesity, that's rude of you to say it. And there might be a grain of truth in it, but Raynaud's does not discriminate. It is not just fat people. Skinny people suffer with it as well.

Which leads me to the question I have been asked of why there are no pictures of me here. The truth is, A) my computer crashed with all my jpeg files in it. (Remember I lost the first novel attempt?) B) All the decent pics I have of me are at least 10 years old, when I was still young, and C)I don't have a digital camera to make any new ones at the moment. Finally, D) Who wants to see a fat purple chick on the internet?

I'm laughing as I type this, for you must think me a bitter old fool. Not a fool, just an insanely self-conscious freak with Raynaud's. And if you think that's funny, I hear bikinis are flying off Target's shelves faster than they can stock them. Have you got yours yet?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Living By Faith

Eight hundred words in on the second chapter, and I'm stumped for details. I'm putting in blanks and parentheses until I can get my facts researched about Memphis. I probably need to make a run down there and check out my geography. Being a novice writer, unlike Sue Grafton, I'm not yet comfortable with drawing my own maps. It's much easier just to use the ones already in place. There's always Expedia and Yahoo maps. But I think I need to see the distances in person to see if what I am writing is realistic.

My story will have three basic locations, all for which I have a fairly good knowledge base. As you have guessed, the book is going to be placed in Tennessee. Write what you know, I'm told.
There will be the two metro areas of Jackson and Memphis, plus a very rural area in a county on the Tennessee River. And no, it's not Henry County, although that was an initial choice. I needed a more secluded, more backwoods location than that. You can imagine what I came up with if you know Tennessee at all. Of course, the Tennessee River is the boundary between West and Middle Tennessee and also runs down through Alabama and back up through East Tennessee. So there are a multitude of possibilities.

So far I have introduced three of the main characters and a couple of insignificant ones. I have moved from one setting to the second one successfully, and am plotting my moves from there. I have plopped the main character in the midst of her crisis and am in the process of moving her a small ways up the first hill of the plot. I am just beginning to introduce the first subplot. Last night I got an idea for one more subplot, but haven't ironed out the logistics of it yet. I think that should be plenty. I'm pretty excited about introducing the first parallel and symbol too. My mind is jumping ahead of itself at leaps and bounds. Slow down, I tell myself. Yet, I know it's useless. I'll have to go back and rewrite and add and rewrite. For now, I have to get the rough draft before I lose it. I have my trusty outline, thank goodness. And this time, I'm backing up daily to disk.

So even though I'm a bit under the weather with this congestion, I am finding it is a good excuse to stay under the covers with my laptop and do what I really love. It doesn't feel like work. And it probably won't until I get some sort of monetary gain from it. (And who knows when that might happen.) When I get chapter three finished, I am going to put together a proposal and start pitching. The sooner I start, the sooner I can start collecting those slips (good or bad).
And for those in my family who are worried that I am living a pipe dream, I am still applying for jobs daily as I find them in the paper and on the internet. I know that I need regular paychecks.
Something will give soon.

Keep praying about it. There's some reason the doors are staying shut. Oh, and I submitted some articles and poetry yesterday too. You dont' know til you try. Meanwhile, i'm learning what it is to live on Faith.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Moving Right Along

The first chapter is roughed out and is 2000 words tops, which is too small, I think--roughly 8 pages. However, it is an introductory chapter, and I think most of the bulk of the story will require a lot more detail with longer chapters and more dialog. Plus, the bulk of the story is in a different setting that will need more description. The rest of the characters will need to be introduced, and the subplot developed. There is alot to be done. The main thing is that I'm moving right along with it. It's amazing to me how the storyline has already taken a shift, just in writing the first chapter. But I don't think that's all that unusual. Things pop up that you hadn't thought about that need logical explanation. You can't just have a character pop up in a place. You have to know how they got there. And it has to fit with the rest of the story. Sound complicated? It's blowing my mind, and I've just started.

But overall there is this strange thrill that yes, I am writing a novel. I am finally doing it. I had a delicate scene in the first chapter already, that I'm wondering if maybe I should have left out. However, it is not gratuitous. It is the whole origin of the story, and I feel therefore, must be addressed. In case you're wondering, the novel is about a runaway pregnant teen. And before you say anything about it being too common a plotline, let me suggest to you that perhaps the subplot and the parallels I intend to draw will not be typical.

I have to know this beforehand. For, in writing a book proposal, most editors want to know how your book stacks up to what is currently out there. They want to know what books it is most like, and if it is not like any out there, why it needs to be told. Who will buy your book? Why will it hold their interest? How are you qualified to write the book? Is there a market for it?

Now, having said that. I must tell you that I have absolutely no experience with teen pregnancy. I have never run away from home. Well, once in my twenties I loaded up the car and threatened to leave, but just drove around most of the night and ended up back at home. But that was because I was too afraid of venturing out on my own, not because I was pregnant.
Life experience with specific details of the story are not necessary to writing it, just good research and a good history of people-watching and interaction with them. You don't have to have been the character, just have to have inside knowledge of her environment and draw logical conclusions about her reactions to it from what you have drawn from the people around you. Don't be surprised if people ask you when it's over if it was based on a true story. Fiction mirrors true life--if it is good. Still, fiction is fiction. Keep that in mind. And I have a lifetime of people-watching skills. Folks always said I was the quiet one. I was soaking it all up like a sponge.

Now if I can just wring it back out onto paper and make it something worthwhile. Keep checking in. I'll keep you posted

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I've Traded Reality for the Internet

You would think having a baby sitter would give me time to clean house today. Aunt C. took CWGIII for the afternoon. I have had since noon to get that done. It is now 3:30 p.m. Know what I've been up to? I spent an hour or so poring over the book publishers requirements in my Writer's Market. Then I spent another hour looking at topographical aerial photos on the web of my proposed setting. They weren't much help, too blurry.

I logged into my writer's group and posted there, talked to my husband via instant messaging, checked the email, and put on a pot of soup for supper. He asked if there was any mail. I replied, "Don't know." I haven't stepped outside today. I sat up late revising my outline and rethinking plot structures. I have two mental character sketches done in my head. My biggest struggle is for a descriptive passages for the settings. And now, knowing where my story will go, I wonder if I will grow bored of it before I get it written. Has writing the outline spoiled it for me already? Or is the lack of detail, the lack of life, that an outline presents?

The story itself will be mainstream suspense, I think. I'm not sure my story fits in any particular genre. I despise predictability. I love surprise. I'm not sure I can render a work that is fresh. Every time I have an idea, I can almost pinpoint a story similar that I have seen on television or read in a book. My friend, M., asked me what the novel was going to be about. I replied, "It's a surprise." I suppose I wanted time to snoop around on the internet and make sure it is an original story. I used to compose a little music here and there in my youth, but every time I tried, the music came out sounding just like something I had recently heard. But wasn't it Soloman that said, "There is nothing new under the sun."

Someone in my writing group read one of my shorts and said that it seemed I was holding back a a bit and had not quite found my voice. I struggle with it being too formal. I am a stickler for solid grammar. I am not fond of eclecticism in language. But that may well be what editors are looking for these days. I want a publisher that loves a great story with good, solid writing. I fear the public is seeking sensationalism, graphic horror, and science fiction. Maybe there are a few people left in the world that read for the pleasure of imagery and sound and old fashioned values. I tend to be overly nostalgic, sentimental, and maybe even weepy. (See the No Place Like Home post). But that is not what I am aiming for with this new project. Most of my essays are written for pure, selfish motives. This work will be written with public consumption in mind, so I hope to project the emotional issues to the characters themselves, and therefore be much more objective in the telling.

I see it's moved to the 4:00 hour. I really should scrub a few toilets and throw a load of laundry in to wash. I saw a cartoon the other day somewhere (my memory escapes me) that showed a housewife in curlers at the table in front of her laptop writing away while the dishes piled up behind her and the pots on the stove boiled over from neglect. The caption read, "They said I should make writing my first priority." I laughed when I saw it. You should see me in the mornings at my laptop. On second thought, that is not a good image. And please call before you knock at my door. I'll try to have toilet paper in the loo.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Novel is Back On

There's nothing like the rush when you've got a story in you, and it starts working it's way out. I've got a rough outline of the novel. I know where it starts and where it ends and what happens in the middle. Of course, all that is subject to change once the actual writing is in progress. But that is what an outline is for, isn't it. Nothing like just jumping in there and doing it.

I guess it's all the pep talks you all are providing. Thanks Bob for the nudge. Bob says a writer is never unemployed. It's just a longer time between paychecks. Never thought of it quite like that. Still, I need traditional employment until this ship comes in. But I'm working on that as well.

From what I can gather, once you get an outline and a synopsis, you can pretty much write a book proposal to pitch to the publishers. If you are very good or very lucky, you might get an advancement against your royalties. So, in essence, you begin promoting your book before you ever get it written. Just the opposite of what I thought. But I'm researching it to the max.

Wish me luck. And if you can't get me on the phone, I'm here. Writing, blogging, workshopping my short stories on Zoetrope, and job searching. What did we do before the internet?

Thursday, January 19, 2006


September 11 was especially sad to me. I had just lost my mom to breast cancer in August, had been sitting around in a daze for weeks, when this horrendous tragedy unfolded on my TV screen. Knowing the grief that my mom's death had brought me, I had a keen sense of what would follow for these families in the days and weeks to come. My heart was broken. I began to write poetry again for the first time in years. I posted this one on Poetry.com when they were calling for poems to memorialize 9/11. Just thought I'd share it with you guys tonight.


Beneath this rubble lies the spirit
Of America.
Rumbling, mumbling as she is
Suddenly stirred from her slumber.
As the one who is frightened awake by a sound
And not knowing exactly from whence
It comes, she moves to investigate.
She is Armed and ready to defend her house
For she knows it was not just the wind
Blowing through the trees...
It was evil that brought this sound
This sound of weeping
This sound of sorrow...
And The commander's cries--
Shouts of War
All from bended knees.

September 15, 2001
In Memory of those who lost their lives in the terrorist attack on America September 11, 2001

No Place Like Home

©2001 All Rights Reserved CHG

Join me little Dorothy. Enter the world of my childhood--its open fields swaddled beneath baby blue skies, its country roads cutting a gentle swath through peaceful pastures. It is a world where cattle graze and drink from murky ponds, where tractors plough and barefoot children play innocently--mindless of their future.
There off on a road to your left, sitting serenely among the pines beckons the homeplace. Lost to the ravages of time are many familiar markings: a sandbox, a slide, the large oak trees to the side, the great white plank fence, the sheds, the garden, the animals. The sight of a cowboy saddling his horse or heating a shoe in the forge and pounding it upon the anvil, yes even that is long gone. Yet the treasured homeplace remains. Forever humble, it naps quietly on a hill--a testament to those it has enfolded in its arms. We know this for a fact, for we have been suspended in her giant hug for nigh on 35 years.
A shell of its former glory, the home and its true worth cannot be measured by strangers looking in. Although surrounded by land gone to seed, the house and front yard have been kept. Yet, we mourn the passing of the rest each time we make the journey home. For we know it was once more than that. So much more. And as we gaze upon it, still we see ponies dotting the pasture, dogs and cats running, Mother gardening, and Daddy in jeans and boots making the familiar trek to the barn he built with his own two hands. We see ourselves looking on from atop a tree house in the pines, and we hear the ringing of a large bell sending messages in between. We see little sister playing dress up with the kitties. We see a green Buick Skylark in the drive. We smell dinner on the stove. We hear Mama calling us in for Kool-Aid. We feel the hot sun on our faces as we stake tomatoes and later at the harvest as we juice them out in the yard. Priceless memories cause pride to well within us. Only a precious few can fathom the worth of this little two-acre heaven.
Out in a nearby field, three little rowdy roughneck girls are riding recklessly with the wind, racing wildly against the clock, their hair flying, their laughter wafting back to the house. They smell the sweat of their ponies and honeysuckle in the air; they feel the prick of cockleburs on their jeans. They hear the pounding of the hooves and the whooping of their sisters as each one tries to beat the other home at a break neck speed. Home is where Mama waits anxiously to see if they are still living. Home is where Daddy waits laughing—knowing his tomboys are doing just fine. And all the while, unfortunately…inevitably… time is still racing on.
An entire family is painting a fence…a long fence encircling the grounds. It is a tedious task requiring two or three coats of white, sometimes watered down, paint. “Take pride in your work. Do it right the first time,” Daddy says to them as he demonstrates the proper brush stroke. The result is a dazzling white display of boards, grass, and laughing faces. The summer sun is beating down drying the paint to their skin as they stop to drink ice-cold well water from a quart jar and wipe the sweat from their faces. “Take pride in your work. Do it right the first time,” the words of our father and the hard-earned lessons remain though the painted fence and Daddy long have been gone.
Mama is in the garden planting, making little hills with the hoe. Okra, tomatoes, corn, squash, and potatoes are her goal. Barefoot in the garden, the girls plant and water. Come harvest, right alongside Mother they dig potatoes making faces when they touch a spoiled vegetable. And always they are careful to look out for spiders, snakes, and mice beneath the bean vines. After the hard day’s labor, the family swims in a nearby river in the cool of the day. And during the frigid winter they enjoy the fruits of their labors even more. Saturday mornings find Mother in the kitchen stirring up homemade soup and pimiento cheese sandwiches, the same kitchen where they gather today for Saturday breakfasts, haircuts, and Christmas candy making. A world of candy has been cooked there. A world of memories made and shared there. This is why home beckons as no other spot on earth.
A couple is setting out buttercups on the ditch bank. Side by side they carefully plant all along the roadside. Married more than 20 years, they have seen their share of hard times; perhaps more than their share. Together they have worked to make this plot of land a home for themselves—and their family. Mama loves her flowers. She loves the time spent with Daddy in the shade of the pines…some of which she transplanted herself. She knows it hasn’t all been easy. It hasn’t all been roses. But for now, she is content having buttercups. Each spring she looks upon them with fond memories. And like the little hillside, the memories bloom and multiply in her heart. These are the memories she chooses. These are the memories she cherishes.
No home is immune from the hard times, conflicts, or sorrow life sometimes brings our way. The big picture does have its noticeable flaws. Looking in from the outside some people could say the pitfalls were avoidable. Some may place blame. Some, undoubtedly, wonder why things are as they are today. Many probably pass by and think, “What a shame.” And yes, there are even those who pass by who give it no thought at all. But for those of us who grew up there, yes even for the woman who to this day dwells there, it is a shelter from the cold. It is the safe haven from the storm; it is the root of a growing family tree. Its voice can be heard in the whisper of the pines on a quiet night--calling, beckoning us home. Oh my dear friend, there is no other spot on earth its equal. Indeed Dorothy Gail, “There’s no place like home.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Happy Birthday Sweetheart

On January 18, 1968, my husband CWG, Jr. came into this world. And I imagine, if I know him at all, he did not come quietly. His daddy says he waited up all night for him to arrive, which is no surprise to me, because I spent 30 years of my life waiting on him to arrive, and the last 10 years waiting on him for everything else. Just kidding honey.

It's a special day for a special man. He's the World's Best Father, my son says. And CWG III is never wrong. He loves baseball, horse racing, and fine dining. He has a massive baseball card collection. And an even bigger heart. He is a salesman. And that should have warned me from the start. I was sold on the first date. Ladies, he is a charmer. Oh, and he writes gospel songs. He even has a tape out. If you would like one, shoot me an email. He usually gets a 10 dollar donation for them at singings and such, but for you, he might give a discount. He has even gotten a royalty check here and there. Now, that is an accomplishment.

This June we will be married 10 years. I have to say he is a very special person to have put up with me so long. I will give him credit for that. I'm not easy to live with, but thanks to his BiPap machine for sleep apnea, he doesn't have to listen to me ramble at night. He just grunts an "uh huh" every now and then. And I don't have to hear him snore.

I love you Babe, Have a Happy 38th!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

S is for Spunky

My sister-in-law gave me Sue Grafton's newest release for Christmas, S is for Silence. My husband gave me novels A-R for my birthday last year, and I had them all read before Valentines Day. I think this is her best release yet.

She has taken a new approach in developing her plot in this one, and it agrees with me. Instead of her standard first chapter where she introduces herself, she begins with a scene from 1953. At once, the reader is curious about what approach Grafton is taking this time around. Did the mystery begin and end in 1953? How does Kinsey Millhone factor in? Any reader of the alphabet series knows that Kinsey Millhone will be the PI on the case, so we immediately begin to look for connections to her. Our questions are answered in Chapter 2.

"The puzzle of Violet Sullivan was dumped in my lap via a phone call from a woman named Tannie Ottweiler, whom I'd met through my friend, Lieutenant Dolan..."
Grafton goes on to lay the groundwork for her case: the tale of a woman missing for thirty-four years-vanished into thin air. The case has grown cold. No one even cares to find Violet anymore--except maybe her daughter Daisy. Can Kinsey pick up the trail on a case this cold? You bet. Kinsey Millhone always gets her man--and, in this case, woman and dog as well.

My favorite part of the whole book is a note from the author in which she explains that this is a work of fiction. You would think that would be obvious. But evidently from Ms. Grafton's experience, some readers tend to take her writing quite literally. She explains that she has taken liberties with the geography of her setting, which is quite within her rights as a novelist.

Ms. Grafton writes: "I've relocated, rerouted, and renamed these roads according to the dictates of the story. Please do not write me those notes telling me I got it wrong, because I didn't."

That statement alone endeared me to her forever. She's got spunk. If you haven't read it yet, it's worth a read. And you don't necessarily have to read the eighteen previous novels to get this one, but you will want to afterward.

Read and let me know what you think.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Thanks for the Pep Talk

Someone just made an excellent point in a comment about my last post. You can't always control others, but you can control what you do 100% percent of the time. I would tend to agree with this. Unless you have physically lost control of your bodily functions, you have the ability to control your actions and choices. Just because you are married does not mean you are limited by your spouse's choices--or lack of them. You still have a mind of your own. But you have to be willing to exercise your own choices.

For too long now I have let my circumstances rule my decisions. I have let my past rule my decisions. I have let other people make choices for me. For too long now, I have depended on the ability of someone else to take care of me and mine.
I have not had that presence of mind to stand up for myself. True, I have voiced my opinions rather freely, but when the dust settled, nothing ever changed. Because I took no action.

I applaud you anonymous for the great personal strides I know you have made in the past year. I know the sacrifice you made and the commitment you made to become healthier and stronger. I'm sure it was not an easy task. I must admit, I have lacked the motivation necessary to change my life. I can't see past today anymore.

Maybe my resolutions were a bit too general Porchwise. Maybe I should not have been afraid to put specifics in black in white. In making broad generalizations, I left myself with no real strategy for success. I will work on making specific strides in my writing.

Yes, the key is focus! You're absolutely right K. It is obvious my focus for too long has been on the everyday trivial things that in the future realm of things do not matter a hill of beans. It's easy to become overwhelmed with the daily grind, the daily struggle for survival. I've got a child to raise. I have to get these blinders off and just do it!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some walking and writing to do. Be sweet y'all.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Pet Peeves

1.Thongs for fat chicks.
2.Men who like thongs on fat chicks. (Which makes me think of dental floss which makes me think of brushing my teeth.)
3.Borrowing my toothbrush.
4.Crest toothpaste.
5.Globs of Crest toothpaste in the sink.
6.A dripping sink.
7.Globs of food in the little drainer at the bottom of the sink.
8.Globs of anything stuck to the kitchen floor.
9.Stepping in the unknown globs barefooted.
10.Being late.
11. Being early.
12. Talk radio.
13. The smell of Buffalo wings.
14. The aftermath of Buffalo wings.
15. Windows you can't roll down because if you roll them down, they won't come back up.
16. Diet Pepsi.
17. Diet Caffeine free Pepsi.
18. Diets in general.
19. Skinny people with great metabolisms who make fun of
20. Thongs for fat chicks.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

In case you're wondering, I have neices too. My husband's sister has two daughters, Sally and Jenn. I am so proud of the great strides both of them have made in the past year.

Sally is the oldest. She has been married going on two years and has 4 babies. Her "babies" are big, fat cats that she has taken in and loved to maturity. She and her husband Jeff love animals and probably would have a dog too if it would get along with the cats.

In the past year, Sally has begun taking care of her grandparents--sitting with them and cleaning for them. Overall you might think that this is not that remarkable. But Sally is special. She was born with a hearing deficit that caused her to be developmentally delayed. But that has never stopped her from pursuing anything she wanted, and generally obtaining it. She has taken up housekeeping, cooking, and the responsibilites of married life with eagerness and love. It does my heart good to see her growing in these areas. And I figure her chances of staying happily married are as good and maybe a whole lot better than most of us. She tries harder.
I love you Sally.

Jenn is my other neice, two years younger than Sally. She enlisted with the Army National Guard this year and has just completed boot camp. I'll admit I was scared out of my mind for her, but I had no doubts that she could accomplish the task at hand. Jenn is tough, smart, opinionated, and dependable. She holds a job and attends college and is very good at what she does. I know that she has what it takes to succeed and make her dreams come true. My heart swells with pride whenever I think of the sacrifices she has opted to make to serve our country. I love you Jenn.

I know I missed most of their childhoods. I wasn't there when they were born or when they were very young children. I know that sometimes it is hard to relate to us older folk. But I want them to know I care and will always be here for them, no matter what. I'm in your corner girls. Your mom and dad did good. Remember to thank them for it. Everything you are is because of them.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Congratulations are in Order

I would like to take a minute and say congratulations to my cousin Jaybird and his beautiful fianće Leah on their upcoming nuptials. We welcome you and your two precious ones into our family with open arms. It is especially heartwarming to see how happy you have made one of our own. We look forward to making many memories with you both as the years go by.

To love, life, and happiness. May God bless your life with joy.

Monday, January 09, 2006

On to more family oriented posts:

What weird weather we are experiencing for January. Yesterday it got up to 68 degrees. Today was just about as mild. My son wanted to play outside with his BB gun. So we went out and set up the targets and had a great afternoon. Yes, I know. I told Santa he was too young for a BB gun, but Santa didn't listen. So, he has supervised training sessions and protective eyewear. I suppose he needs to learn sometime. It brought back alot of childhood memories. And he's an excellent shot!

He is Star of the Week at school this week. He got to bring Baldy the Lakewood Eagle home from school for the weekend. Every day this week they focus on something special about him. He got to pack up one of his favorite toys--a truck I believe his Aunt Mona got him for Christmas, a favorite book (Disney stories), baby pictures, and one of his favorite movies (Rascal). Tomorrow his Dad is going to go and have lunch with him and read his favorite story to the class. I may go along just to sit back and take it all in. His teacher assures me he is an angel. I find it hard to believe he is as perfect as she lets on, but it still does my heart good to hear it. And I so appreciate Daddy taking time out to share a day at school with him. My son will have fond memories that I didn't have. I'm so glad.

Feel free to share any special childhood memories you have here with me. I'd love to hear about them. Especially if you have a funny story to tell. I could use a few laughs.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Don't forget the Video

This post and the preceding post are rated PG-13. The items mentioned are only recommended for married couples. This site (Beneath the Ivy Wreath) does not condone premarital or extramarital sex, consenting or otherwise. We do not support pornographic sites or recommend their usage. Viewer discretion is advised for the following link. It is not recommended for those with heart problems or sexual addictions. It is not recommended for those wishing to avoid pregnancy. The administrator of Beneath the Ivy Wreath does not endorse S&M, bondage, or any other sexually deviant practices which may/may not be alluded to herein and any practitioners of said deviant behaviors practice such at their own risk. Beneath the Ivy Wreath will not be held liable for any injuries sustained from use of any product(s) mentioned. If you choose to purchase said item, you are responsible for following all guidelines and some weight restrictions may apply.

Hips and Curves Dance Pole link

Don't forget to order your Lap Dance and Pole Dance Instructional Video!

Eye Candy

While searching online for writing jobs I came across this site: http:\\www.hipsandcurves.com. It's a lingerie site for full-figured women. They want someone to write product descriptions for their website as well as 500-1000 word fiction for their newsletter. Well, being the hippy, curvy kind of woman I am, I couldn't resist sending them some writing samples.

First I pulled up selections of their lingerie. There were some really pretty slinky gowns on this site. There was silk, satin, and lace. Just the kind of stuff us girls love to wear when we want to feel pretty. The first product description was easy to write. It was your basic long, silk gown with side slits and deep v neck. Then, I pulled up a red hot corset. I smiled to myself as I imagined me wearing it. Who knows, if I'm good, maybe they will give me a discount? Still, I made I up a hot description for the item listed and moved on. The next item was black vinyl--what I would call "kinky." I raised an eyebrow and continued to write. There was even a men's section. Imagine my expression as I pulled up a leopard print bikini cut pair of briefs. I imagined my husband in them. I kept my comments to myself, and typed out a hopefully convincing description: ANIMAL PRINT MESH BRIEF (MEN)

Want to bring out his wilder instincts? This leopard or zebra print mesh mens brief will leave you purring like a kitten with its form fitting rear and spandex contoured pouch. HOT!

Ok, you can pick your jaw up off the floor now.

Then, I moved on to the 500 word story. They said they wanted to create sexual tension without using explicit graphic content. "I can do this," I thought. So I proceeded to tell a short tale of your everyday married couple that has gotten a bit set in their ways. They have a spat over the husband complaining about the wife's tatty flannel jammies. So, the wife decides to get even. She goes to hipsandcurves.com and orders a long, black dress with a deep plunging neckline held together by a rhinestone buckle and open to the floor. The matching tap shorts beneath would surely make his eyes pop. I finished the story and sent it off in the email...thinking....could this possibly turn into a regular gig? I wish I could tell you the answer, but I haven't heard back from them. It's only been a couple of days or so.

I hope they like my work. The thing is, can I live with myself when my family and friends ask, "And what are you doing for work these days?" Can I smile and say, "I write ad copy for a lingerie company? I enjoy describing intimiate garments." At this point in my life, I'm sure I would say, "I found this great writing job. It's right up my alley, and I have plenty of material for it." Keep your fingers crossed.

One last note: My brother-in-law thinks I need to add naked lady pics to my blog to get more traffic. Sex sells, he says. Well, I don't have any naked lady pics. I don't have any gorgeous model type women flaunting their bare breasted nipples or tightly toned legs. I don't have any women posing seductively for hot, tight camera shots and sucking their fingers. I don't have any pics of strippers seductively humping a dance pole. But I do know where you can get your own dance pole...hipsandcurves.com has one on sale. Yep, that's right. My eyes nearly bugged out of my head when I saw it. Imagine the product description on that baby. Maybe I'll get one for my 10th anniversary.

But I ramble. I know this may seem a bit raunchy for my regular readers. I suppose it is a clever attempt to include in my post as many "naughty" words that an unsuspecting surfer might include in a search engine. My blog might pop up. I might get new readers. Who knows, the editors of hipsandcurves might even stop by for a gander. Maybe if they don't like my writing, I could apply for a position modeling. Wouldn't that just raise some eyebrows...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Silence is Deafening

I know I write for myself, but I need feedback. I haven't heard from you guys in awhile. Diane, I need an update on Gordy; I miss JL. You can tell him that. Lisa, you haven't updated your blog this year! And the rest of you, well, I guess you're blog shy. But no need to be. You can post anonymously, and I'll never guess who you are. Righhhhhhhht.

I suspect my family checks in routinely just to make sure I'm not betraying their secrets to the world. Don't worry. As you can tell, I've been blogging since October and have relatively few comments. It's not easy to be noticed on the world wide web. And I never use last names...hardly any firsts. I took your suggestion K. and shortened it to initials. But by and far, the people I have met here online have been friendly and decent people who share a common interest. Those that don't share a love of writing and God generally do not stick around past the first couple of sentences. People don't read anymore anyway. I can tell you're growing weary right now as I digress.

Anyway....I talked to a certain cousin this evening, who forgot to fill me in on his family's New Years. Anything special you'd like to clue me in on??? And now that you have a home computer I expect your feedback at least twice a month. If you stay home long enough to log in. That goes for the rest of you. Don't worry about being grammatically correct or anything like that. Just want to hear from you. I know, I know. That's what the telephone is for, but this is my link to old fashioned letter writing--an art form long forgotten and too expensive to dabble in anymore. But I'll save that soapbox for another day.

Don't make me have to bring out the big guns! Laugh.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Looking Ahead

Goodbye 2005. Goodbye bitter moments and bad memories. I have to let you go. I will not dwell on you for long. You cannot destroy me. You are history. You are past. I will take today to look ahead and resolve to live better, stronger, and wiser.

There is nothing I can do to change you, 2005. You are what you are. You will not be the standard by which I live my present. You will not control my future. You are gone. You will not weild the power to hurt me. I choose to let you go.

I will remember family get-togethers, laughter and smiles, eating Sunday meals with my extended family. I will remember my son's T-ball homerun. I will remember family around the fire and children running through my yard that fall. I will remember my son's first day at school and his Character Award. I will remember my nephew saying, "Aunt Cindy" and finally getting some hair. I will smile as I think of visits with my grandparents, the hugs and prayers we said as we parted. I will remember birdwatching at the Audobon museum with my husband and son. I will remember taking him to his first drive-in movie, "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." I will remember Thanksgiving and Christmas with my sisters, candymaking and passing dishes around the table and how much apple salad my Carson Bear put away.

I will remember it as the year I unlocked the box and started sending manuscripts around the world. I will remember it as the year I came out of my shell and started being the me I am--and not the me everyone expects me to be. And finding out that the two are not that different.One is just more afraid of rejection, I suppose. But hey, rejection makes you try harder. Rejection builds character. So, it's ok. It will all be ok. I am who I am.