Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Social Media: The Double-Edged Sword

I don't know about you, but some days I feel overwhelmed by the amount of "stuff" that ends up in my email accounts and flows through all the social media accounts I have. Yesterday I did something that felt great: I killed an account--LinkedIn. Let me tell you that it felt good. I maintained this account when I was working full time as it provided a basic networking service. (Yes, if you want a useful, fully functional experience, you have to pay a monthly fee.) Later I adapted my account to serve my writing interests and book promotion. But LinkedIn didn't serve me in a way that engaged. I no longer cared about maintaining business contacts, and no matter how I tried to inform people in my profile that I no longer was a technical writer, people kept sending me job offers or other information that clearly didn't match my revised profile. So I hit the Delete button and it's gone baby, gone. I feel a little freer.

Then there's the infamous Facebook. I admit it is a convenient way to keep tabs on family and friends and communicate with them. But then maybe I should pick up the phone or hop on a plane or just sit down and write them a real letter. Facebook gets junked up with ads and things I find annoying so I have to spend time filtering them out. It becomes an obsessive and mostly boring compulsion. How many videos of cute dogs and little kids do you have to see? How many selfies from a bar across town? How many obnoxious postings about politics and religion? I don't know but it just seems like Facebook is sometimes a dumping ground for all the stupid stuff you can accumulate in a day. I hang in there because every now and then I can glean a useful piece of information from the mess that is Facebook. Another annoying thing is that Facebook is always changing its complex privacy settings. It makes you feel like you're traversing a mine field.

Twitter? Meeh. It's a good mental challenge, I guess, to see if you can concisely convey something in 140 characters or less, but why? I do use Twitter occasionally and I try to embrace it, but once again I find it annoying and another garbage heap of information that you have to wade through no matter how carefully you set up your filters. I do not use Twitter for family or friends. It's strictly for hanging out with strangers with similar interests as far as I'm concerned.

Oh, there are all kinds of social media you can sign up for out there in cyberspace, but my favorite so far is Pinterest. First of all, it's visual. I've collected catalogs of images of things that interest me, truly  interest me--photography, cuisine, watercolor, ceramics, gardening, writing, foreign languages, and on and on. The focus of Pinterest is sharing information and ideas. You can link a visual you post with information you want to share--a technique, an idea, a recipe, etc. You can pin items from other users to your personal bulletin boards and you can share you're bulletin boards with your followers--or not. What I like about Pinterest is that it makes your brain work and it gives you a forum for sharing information without all the stupidity that seems to attend so much of social media. So here I am embracing information overload, but it's beautiful. It's information my visually-oriented brain can process. (Yes, I must have that recipe. No, I don't want to implement that landscape design.)

These days I'm thinking how I can make social media work for me rather than be something I want to stab with a steely knife. I don't want to drift into traffic reading my email on my iPhone and get run over. I don't want to spend hours involved in clicking on meaningless videos or quizzes and games. I don't want to deal with all the ego, venom, and misinformation that passes for communication. I just want to find a useful way to communicate that doesn't feel like a burden. What about you?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Where are We Going?


We are all creatures who seek joy and comfort—a beautiful place in the world, the company of someone we love, a good meal, shelter, health, freedom and peace. But the world is a troubled place. It has always been troubled but perhaps now it is far more so as we have overpopulated the world and our sins are finally catching up with us. Mother Earth is in a rage. She storms and shakes. She curses us with erratic weather, fire, floods, famine, disease and drought. We live shoulder to shoulder and the effects of our individual actions are felt by one another. Those-that-have try to insulate themselves and protect what they claim for themselves, cursing the have-nots. We close our eyes to the poverty, disease, and moral corruption surrounding us or we write a check and pray it all goes away. We squabble about God and do evil in His name. Some, however, understand that God is love and that he created the earth beneath our feet and the stars and planets in the heavens. A few understand that a blade of grass is a miracle and the earth is a living, breathing entity. She is our mother. We cannot live without her. Before we sever the umbilical cord, we had better find another place to live.





There are two good men in recent news who are warning us against our complacence: Pope Francis and Barack Obama. They have both made enemies by speaking the truth.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Definition of a Princess








If you are born healthy in mind and body, if you have the love and the good care of family, then you are royalty in every sense of the word.

To be four years old and to live such a life is magical, even in the face of future misfortune because once a princess, always a princess. It is a blessing that can carry one through even a difficult life. (Of course this theory also applies to princes, but that is a story for another day.)

Princess Kylie is an old soul--confident, happy, clever, wily, strong-willed, sensitive to the feelings of others, and perceptive. She engages easily with others but just as easily drifts off into a world of her own imagination. She can be a rowdy comrade to her brother or a fairy silently tripping through the woods in pursuit of butterflies.

I often wonder how this granddaughter of mine will turn out. She has clearly been blessed. How will she wield her magic wand before the weight of the world comes down on her shoulders? Will she stand strong and wise?

In the meantime, I am growing and storing a supply of chamomile because my little lady always demands chamomile tea with milk and sugar when she visits.



Sunday, May 17, 2015

Movie Review: Far from the Madding Crowd

It was a Friday night and I needed some escapist mind candy so I talked my husband into going to the movies.

There was a huge crowd of teenagers queued up at the ticket counters. I don't know what action-adventure or fantasy their minds craved, but mine needed something peaceful and far away in time--neither here and now nor impending sci-fi doom and gloom.

We checked into the nearly empty theater that was showing Far from the Madding Crowd based on Thomas Hardy's classic novel set in Victorian England. I've never read the novel so I wasn't quite sure what I was in for except some mindless romance.

The story is simple: a beautiful spirited young woman (Bethsheba Everdene) inherits a large, run-down country estate and sets off to become the new owner/manager. In this new life, she encounters three men: Gabriel Oak, the sheepherder who works for her; Mr. Boldwood, a well-to-do bachelor and neighbor; and Sergeant Frank Troy, a dashing soldier. The story revolves around the hardships she encounters and the men who want to win her affections. It is a romance and a study in relationships and personalities, but I have to say I found the characters somewhat two-dimensional. The dashing soldier was clearly cut from cardboard and neither his character nor his actions added up. Nor did it make any sense why Bethsheba would be interested in him except that he was handsome. Mr. Boldwood's character also seemed a bit disconnected from normal motivations.

All in all, it was pleasing mind candy, but it left you scratching your head in wonderment at the plausability of some of the characters' actions and the absence of adequate motivation. It was too much melodrama for me although I enjoyed the pastoral scenery and being removed from the realities of 2015.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

On the Way to Chernobyl


I have only a few more radiation treatments to go and it won't be soon enough. The other patients on the shuttle bus to the radiology center are also anxious to be finished with this phase of their treatment. The newcomers are just plain anxious and afraid.

We have all developed a gallows sense of humor over the last few weeks. We call the radiology center Chernobyl. The inept male nurse who administers chemo treatments is tagged Vlad the Impaler. And yet strangely enough we profusely thank the bus driver every day for safely getting us to the treatment center and bringing us back home. The future with a cancer diagnosis is uncertain but we all want to be home for dinner.

In my mind, I have worked my way through this disease. Cancer bores me. I can't live in fear. Whatever the outcome, I intend to live my life until I drop. I choose not to paint myself a gloom and doom prognosis and live within the confines of that belief. Somehow one has to allow the mind and body to push through disease and affliction.

And so I go about my life, engaging with all that I care about--family, writing, gardening, painting, cooking a good meal, travel and so on. There is much to celebrate in life and much to nurture and protect.


Watercolor Can Be Challenging & Relaxing


Nature is Full of Beautiful Forms and Colors

Food is Always Comfort (I love quiche)

Family is Best of All

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Short Story: Running Away (Le Fin)

I think I've lost my mind after four weeks of two-hour round trips for radiation treatment and I have certainly lost my way as far as this story is concerned. So here it is--Jack gets the last word. I'll take him to task when the spirit moves me.

Jack

I'm cool. In control. I hired a private detective and I believe sooner or later Lora will make a mistake. What I'm worried about is my senatorial campaign. All the endorsements and fund raising, all the carefully orchestrated speeches and event planning. I should have known something was up when she sat across the table from me and tapped her nails against her wine glass.

"Do you believe all that you say about small government and scaling back welfare and social security, shutting down the IRS?"

"Of course."

"What would Jesus say?"

"Irrelevant."

"Really? How do you reconcile the Christianity you proclaim with the cruelty of your political agenda?"

That's when I should have known Lora was about to turn my life upside down. That is the moment she stopped wanting to be my wife. She refused to join me at the podium at the end of my last speech.   And then she slapped we with the ultimate betrayal: she took our children and ran.

But finally I get the news that she and the children have flown to California. I am so certain we will catch her but I am wrong. Hawaii. Australia. We loose her trail. I know I have to focus on my campaign and how to spin her betrayal at least until the election. I long to press my fingers into the soft white flesh of her neck and interrogate her. Whatever made her think she could live without me?

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Short Story: Running Away (Part 5)

I have driven hard all day--long flat stretches of monotonous freeway, tires humming, music blasting, kids squabbling, and me worrying about my sanity. I wonder if Shannon found a public pay phone: it just occurred to me that these are hard to find these days. (I should have told her to try the court house.)

When the caffeine no longer works and the kids are driving me crazy, I stop at a Best Western just before I reach Chicago. I buy the kids McDonald's for dinner and then turn them loose in the motel pool in hopes they can burn off some of their pent up energy.

Late at night, unable to sleep, I watch my angels dream as the flickering light from the TV plays across their serene faces. I wonder how I got to this place in life. Blindness. Blind stupidity. As my sister would say, I have an inability to see beneath the surface of things, to read body language, to hear the falseness in words, to know.  I have no clue about that sixth sense my sister seems to live by.

I should be focused on where I am going but instead my brain spins round and round trying to figure out how I got so many things wrong and worried that I am setting myself up for a repeat performance. What if this? What if that? I cannot shut off my brain. I pop a couple of Advil PMs and hope that in the morning I will not feel like I've been run over by a Mack truck.

To be continued