Mystery...Romance...Sci Fi...Humor... The joy of writing fiction - meeting brand new people in places that don't yet exist.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gee, That's Terrific...I Think

November 1.  A new month - and I'm glad to bid this October goodbye. But almost lost in an overall unhappy month were a few bright moments and I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge them before I get on to the question of the day.

First - Although Brandi's eye surgery didn't go as hoped (the graft failed), some significant healing took place while her eye was closed - so much so that our vet now believes there is a good chance it may finish healing on its own.  Her next "weekly" visit isn't until the week of Thanksgiving.  A very good sign.

Next - I was awarded the One Lovely Blog Award by Mason Canyon.  I was especially pleased to receive this from Mason because her blog is one I particularly enjoy.   Now I'd like to pass this award along to a couple of others:

Maria at Maria Zannini  - Maria does a great writer's blog with some wonderful personal notes mixed in.  It's informative and fun.

Dru at notes from me - Dru is an avid reader who offers reviews, news, great bits of trivia, and more.

I hope you'll stop by and check out both of these blogs if you're not already a follower.

Moving on - I've got to mention I ran my first 5K race since I started running again this year. I didn't quite make my target pace but I did manage to come in 12th of 57 in the little old ladies division.

Okay, now for the topic of the day.  At work I receive a lot of e-mail, letters, etc. congratulating me on being selected for the latest who's who of whatever and offering to send me a beautiful leather bound copy of the registry for the low price of...  These offers, of course, go directly into the trash.  Then I received an e-mail a couple weeks ago telling me my short story "has been awarded 88th place in Genre Short Story category of the 79th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition" and "the Grand Prize manuscript, the First Place manuscript in each category, and the names of the top 100 winners in each category will be printed in a special competition collection" which I may wish to order.

I honestly don't know how to react.  I mean, based on the total entries in last year's contest, I'm estimating well over 1,000 entries per category so making the top 100 puts me in the top ten percent, which isn't bad.  And this was my first attempt at a mystery short story.  But it's still 88th place and I don't want to get all excited over something that's just a ploy to get me to order a "special edition".   I'm actually feeling a bit stupid here.  So I'm looking to my more experienced writer blog buddies to help me out.  Is this cause for a small woo woo or should I quietly delete this post and hope no one noticed it?  I'd really like your opinion.

Unwriting progress: From the original 150,000 words down to 109,874 (No progress at all for the last couple weeks.  Pitiful.)

I'm currently enjoying: Just finished ROOM by Emma Donoghue. (I pulled an all-nighter finishing this one.)

Groaner of the Day: King Ozymandias of Assyria was running low on cash after years of war with the Hittites. His last great possession was the Star of the Euphrates, the most valuable diamond in the ancient world. Desperate, he went to Croesus, the pawnbroker, to ask for a loan.

Croesus said, "I'll give you 100,000 dinars for it."

"But I paid a million dinars for it," the King protested. "Don't you know who I am? I am the king!"

Croesus replied, "When you wish to pawn a Star, makes no difference who you are."

(Okay, I'm sorry.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I'm Too Old for Football.

I'll love to be posting today about writing or reading or at least about all the great blogs I've been visiting and commenting on all week but since my world is still consumed by a backlog of work at the office and cleaning out Eleonora's home, I've done none of the first and very little of the other two.  So instead I'll share my latest bit of insanity.

We took a break this afternoon to drive down to Cincinnati where my granddaughter had a soccer game followed by my grandson's football game.  We actually were helping out their parents by providing chauffer duties for the soccer game so we had to arrive early.  I thought I'd sit and read a bit until game time.  My grandson had other ideas.  He'd brought his football.

I was up for just tossing it around a bit but he wanted to play a little one on one.  In deference to my old age, he suggested one-hand touch.  No way - that meant I'd have to outrun him.  I held out for tackle. My first drive down the field, I managed to score by dragging my tackler along with me.  Then he scored - by the simple act of running around me (fast little sucker).  Then I flubbed the kickoff.  Loose ball. We both went for it. He went down.  I went down.

I'm too old for football.

Oh - my granddaughter's team won their game. It was the last game of the post season and the win gave them first place!  The football game - the official one - ended in a tie but my grandson had his first interception of the year.  A good day for cheering.  I should have stayed in the stands.

Anyone else do something really stupid lately?  Aw, come on.  Fess up.  I told you mine.

Friday, October 22, 2010

History in a tattered, yellowed envelope.

Just want to let my followers – the few and the faithful – know I’m still here even though I’m behind in my blogging (and commenting).  My world for the moment has been reduced to bouncing between work and cleaning out dear Eleonora’s home. With the occasional youth football game thrown in.

It’s been an experience.

There have been aw’s – “Aw, look at these cards the boys made her when they were little.”

And aw’s – “Aw, Mama, you were supposed to use this stuff.” (unused Christmas gifts tucked safely away in the closet)

And oh hell’s – “Oh hell, how can I go through her recipes and find the family favorites? They’re all written in Polish!”

Then came the “Oh, wow, look at this!”

Going through her personal documents, my husband found the travel papers, boat tickets, permits, etc. from their emigration to the United States in 1951. There were also papers from the refugee camps they’d been living in since the end of the war and from the forced labor farm where Eleonora and her husband Tony had been prisoners during the years before that.

History in a tattered, yellowed envelope.

Got to get back to it.  We have to be done by the end of the month.  If you can, send some positive energy to keep me going. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Twelve Year Weekend

My grandkids love for me to tell them bedtime stories.  I realize this has less to do with my wonderful story-telling abilities and more to do with them not wanting to go to sleep, but I indulge them anyway.  They especially like stories about their father, which I tell and he denies.

Last weekend, I told my grandson how our dog Chance came to be a member of our family.  It was the Friday before Mother's Day, twelve years ago. My son called early that morning to tell me he had the perfect Mother's Day gift for me.  He knew I was thinking about getting a companion for our dog Brandi and he had just the dog - an apparent stray who had followed my daughter-in-law home on her morning jog.   I reminded him I was looking for a female puppy.  He countered that this adult male was "really cute" and he knew I would love him.  I held my ground.  He agreed he would find another home for the little guy but he was going out of town for the weekend and could I help out by taking the dog until he got back?  I don't remember agreeing to this but somehow there he was.  Our weekend guest, who arrived on Friday and never left.

When I finished the story, my grandson said, "So Chance just stayed with you for a twelve year weekend."

I guess that's what it was.

This story is in memory of Chance, whose long weekend with us ended last Wednesday (we miss you, buddy).  But it's also about things that are supposed to be temporary and somehow go on and on.  What about you?  Have there been things (houseguests, jobs, responsibilities, etc.) in your world that were supposed to be short term but didn't quite turn out that way?  Will you share one?

Unwriting progress: From the original 150,000 words down to 109,874.

I'm currently enjoying: Just finished really enjoying Touch of Fire by Maria Zannini

Quote of the day: “Nobody can be as agreeable as an uninvited guest” - Kin Hubbard

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A One-two Punch

I really don't want to turn my blog into a litany of poor me's, but some days life just hands you a one-two punch that leaves you staggering.  I had one of those days today.

 I've decided nothing good happens at 5:30 AM.  Last Friday, I received a phone call at 5:30 telling me my dear mum-in-law had just passed away.  When I woke at 5:30 this morning, I thought I was just restless because her services were today.  Then I realized what woke me was the sound of labored breathing.  Chance, our 12 year old beagle/basset who has congestive heart failure, was struggling.  He's been short of breath off and on for the past couple months but I could tell this was different.  My first thought was to take him right to the vet.  My second was, I can't, we have to go to the funeral home.  So I just sat with him and petted him until it was time to get ready.  Then something bizarre happened - he disappeared.  We couldn't find him in the house or the yard.  I didn't think he was well enough to be romping the neighborhood (a bad habit from his wild and reckless youth) but I was afraid he might have wandered a little way from the house and collapsed.  We searched as well as we could, then had to leave.

The funeral service went well, or as well as these things can go.  There was the early visitation followed by the church service followed by the graveside service.  There were lots of tears but we got through it.  And in the back of my mind the whole time was the question, where was Chance?

Well, lo and behold, when we got home he was in the yard, just where he was supposed to be.  Still no idea why we couldn't find him that morning.  But he was in bad shape. His breathing was worse, he was drooling, and he turned down a piece of roast beef.  He never passes on roast beef.  I juggled the next couple hours between talking with the family and friends who had come back to the house and checking on Chance.  Then everyone left and we headed for the vet.  I had an awful feeling this was going to be his last trip, and it was.  The vet confirmed that Chance's heart had enlarged to the point that it was constricting his airway.  No way to reverse it.  So we did what had to be done.  We kissed him and petted him and talked to him, while the doctor slipped a needle into his vein.  And he was gone. 

But I told him before he died that, if he hurried, he could probably catch up with Mama, and they could make the journey together.

Okay, give me a day to get past this and I'll get back to a regular blog.  Thanks for sticking with me.


Monday, October 11, 2010

More Time

I would like to thank my on-line friends who have sent kind words via e-mail, Facebook, and this blog on the passing of my dear mum-in-law.  I hope to get caught up on reading and commenting on your blogs in the next couple days.

At some point in the coming weeks, I'm going to tell you about her, a little snippet of her life story.  She was a very special lady. In the meantime, I just want to share this...

I thought we had more time.
The doctors said it would be weeks,
Not days. Not hours.
Not now.

There were things I planned to do.
Take a notebook with me,
Ask her questions about the old days,
And write down the answers this time.

She asked me to bring her a card
For her great-grandson's birthday next month,
So she could sign it
Just in case.

I asked her about stuffed pancakes
From Bob Evans.
I would bring her some on Sunday.
She said that would be nice.

I thought there would be warning signs
That would tell us to stay there,
Close beside her,
Holding her hands.

Not a phone call in the night,
Not a stranger's voice
Telling me
She was already gone.

I thought we had more time.

Ja chi kochem, Babcia.

Quote of the day: Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. ~From a headstone in Ireland

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sitting on the Floor

I'm not a poet.  I don't write poetry, rarely read it, never studied it, and the only rules of poetry I know is the 5, 7, 5 count in Haiku.  But as I was sitting in the vet's office this morning, this came to me almost intact.  And since I have no bright ideas for a Wednesday blog (and no time to come up with any), I'm offering this.

I sit on the floor
Of the examining room
With her.
There's a chair,
A hard wooden one.
But there's no room
For her to sit beside me.
And she's too big
To perch in my lap.
So I sit on the floor.

She's afraid.
We’ve been coming here
Every week for many weeks.
But last week
I went away
And left her alone
With these kind strangers.
They put her to sleep
And when she awoke,
Her world was different.

She's afraid.
When she walks,
Things hit her.
Things she cannot see.
She doesn’t understand
That her eye is sewn shut
To protect the inner stitches.
The doctor’s careful work,
Trying to save her eye
So it doesn’t have to be sewn shut

She's afraid.
I see it in her trembling,
In the way she pants.
I tell her it’s okay.
Just a re-check today.
He’s just going to look,
I’m not going to leave her.
But my words mean nothing.
She presses against me
Seeking comfort.

She's afraid.
So I sit on the floor
With her.

Okay, as I said, I'm not a poet.  I just felt like writing this.  Do you ever get the urge to write something that's not at all your thing?  Different form, different genre?  How does it turn out?

Unwriting progress: From the original 150,000 words down to 110,937. (Did you notice?  I actually squeezed in a little re-write time this weekend.  Finally got under 111,000.)

I'm currently enjoying: Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian

Quote of the day:  A poem begins with a lump in the throat. - Robert Frost

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pieces and Parts

Aw, phooey.  My weekend ended up being consumed by visits to Hospice, grandkids, post-op pooch care, and trying to keep the house one step ahead of the health department.   No writing time and only managed a couple comments to my blog friends (my apologies to the ones I missed). 

But I am determined to at least get in a blog post for Monday morning, so here goes.

A question for writers: How do you keep track of all the pieces and parts in your stories?  I'm talking about different storylines, characters, etc.; making sure each one gets enough time and re-appears at reasonable intervals.  I use a rainbow.

I'm a plotter.  I've got most of my story worked out from the beginning, although I revise and re-write a lot as I go.  On my monitor I have two Word windows for the story and one with a running timeline which includes a quick mention of every scene.  On the timeline I use the Word highlighting tool to mark each scene according to whether it's part of the main plot or a subplot (and which one).  I also color code things like "cop work", romance, backstory, clues, and certain characters who are important but remain in the background most of the time.  The colors let me see where I am on balance and spacing so I can make adjustments as I go.  Sometimes a storyline needs more attention, sometimes it needs to be trimmed, sometimes it needs to be cut completely.  Or my rainbow may show me where I need to rearrange scenes, i.e I've got too many blues together, I need to slip the red scene in between. 

So, what about you?  How do you keep track of all your pieces and parts?  Any other rainbow users out there?

Unwriting progress: From the original 150,000 words down to 111,618. (If I don't manage to get some serious editing done soon, I'm going to be too embarrassed to keep this line in my blog.)

I'm currently enjoying: Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian

Quote of the day: “Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true” - Lyman Frank Baum