Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Don't Set Yourself on Fire

So, my ancestors probably sat around a fire and told tales of yore - myths, mysteries, and (half of my kin were Irish) more lies. I received this lovely fire pit for our patio and I have visions of gazing into the flames seeking truth and depths to characters in my books.
Or, here in Texas, the wind could kick up and it could snow on Christmas Eve Day. So much for roasting marshmellows.

Snow flurries on December 29th did not bode well, but now December 30th it's mid 50s and not too breezy. We'll see what happens for New Year's Eve.
As a child I remember Mom and me begging Dad for a fire in the fireplace. After much grumbling, stacking of firewood, placement of kindling, stuffing of newspaper, lighting of many, many matches, smoke, mild oaths from my father, and more kindling, the fire might be roaring by the time I had to go to bed. Mom and I had long lost interest and retired to the other room to read.
Poor Dad - never a Boy Scout, would fail on Survivor. Mom and I learned to stop asking for fire. And now it is part of my mythology, a tale of old, and perhaps a humorous interlude in an upcoming book. I'll have to work on that chapter by my new fire pit. Thanks, Ray.
Happy New Year and Happy Writing in 2010.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Texas White Christmas

Awoke to 38 degrees and supposed rain today. Christmas Eve Day. Ray and I saw Up in the Air - huge thumbs up. Came out of the theater to SNOW!!!
This is Texas, the Sunbelt...........what is going on? Am I dreaming? Truly all is calm, all is bright...

Great day to finish errands, tuck in under an afghan, watch the snow fall, and read. I finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett - wow, amazing first novel. Another friend said she finished A Graceful Death by Ann Summerville and thoroughly enjoyed her first cozy mystery.

Ready to have a Merry Christmas with family tomorrow. The little pecan pies are baked and now we watch our Christmas lights reflect off the snow. Supposed to dip into the 20s tonight so this snow shall not disappear.
I truly wish for Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards Men.
Merry Christmas

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dreaming of a White Christmas

This sled is almost 50 years old. It hangs in my father's garage and was used by all three of the Crowther kids - Joanne, David, and Lori. It dreams of a white Christmas. That's what it's all about - the songs, the stories, the myths.

The white Christmas came early this year. Here's my sister's deck patio in DE. She shoveled 18 inches and groaned all the way. Somehow, as an adult, it's not as glamorous as the myth or movies.

Nonetheless, Lori got an extra two days off for the Christmas holiday. She got her driveway shoveled and could get to a bookstore if she wanted to. At this point Christiana Mall (Newark, DE) is open and praying for customers before Christmas. The perspective between being an adult who has to drive in the darn wet stuff and the kid who's hoping for a sled or coaster or skis or a snowboard is beyond description.
As a transplanted Northeastener, the myth lives. I want to look out the window on Christmas Eve and see snowflakes falling. Then again, we don't own a snow shovel, so there better not be accumulation. Best to read about it in the newspaper.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Destined to Write

The manilla paper is crumbly and the old purple mimegraphed pages are fading, but the collection of Mrs. Baldwin's 2nd Grade Class - Christmas Stories lives on at my home. West Point Elementary School is long gone, but perhaps this booklet was my first taste of seeing my name in print. Sadly I still have POV shift problems. Some things never change. (and repetitive word use, too)
Here's the story. Keep in mind, I was seven years old:
When the Toys Came Alive
It was midnight when the Christmas toys came alive. The drum said, " I'm going to run away from Santa Claus." All the toys decided to run away with the drum except the doll. She said, "Just think of the little children. They won't have any new toys to play with. And just think, Santa won't have any toys to take to the children. He will have to make all new ones and you wouldn't like that.
Then it was quiet and the toys thought a moment. The toy bear said, "I'm not going to run away."
But the drum was still going to run away, so he did. He didn't really like it out in the cold. But he wouldn't go back.
Back at the workshop, Santa was packing the sled. He went to all the houses. Finally the drum decided to come back. But all the other toys were gone. Then he knew where they went. He was sad. Next time he is not going to run away. by Joanne Crowther
Artwork courtesty of seven year old Joanne - left-handed scrawl and all.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ornamental Stories

Tell her a story, about traditions and memories and perhaps the time it snowed on Christmas Day.
Tell her a story of lights and snowflakes and magic - good times and bad times, too. There's a lot of sorrow and drama in people's lives no matter the season.

My mother loved Christmas and I enjoy putting out decorations she gave me. She grew up on farms during the Depression and reluctantly told us tales of very lean holiday times. Knowing her history makes me appreciate my childhood Christmases that much more. I can pass on the stories.

Each ornament has a little story, whether it is a souvenir from a trip, or from a fun shopping excursion with friends. My husband treats me to an ornament each year - some are pretty, some are humorous - either way it's a tale. I enjoy small picture frame ornaments that capture a moment. And the best ornament of all is the hand decorated toilet paper roll. I think it was supposed to be a toy soldier and Kevin made it in kindergarten or first grade. He groans when he see it, but it's a part of December history and we'll tell her the story.
I hope you have grand stories to pass on too. First let's heat some hot chocolate.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday Magic

15 month old Makyla is watching Pop-Pop put up outdoor lights. Getting ready for holiday magic

Busy fingers are tempted by holiday decor.

lights at night. Ready to read "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr.Seuss, "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote, and of course, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement Moore. It's never too early for holiday magic.

or you can always chew on a penguin.......

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Expect the Unexpected

December 2nd in Texas and it snowed. I was stuck in traffic on I820, so I did not take a picture. Thus I'm stealing this from Linda T and Cecil - their lovely backyard patio coated in the white stuff. "No accumulation," said the weatherfolks.
Well, expect the unexpected, folks and this applies to writing. As the writer, we need to throw stuff at our readers that makes sense but that they don't anticipate. As a reader, that's the joy - turn the page and go, "Whoa! I didn't expect that."
I started to outline my NaNo novel to see what the heck I wrote in 29 days and if it was coherent after all. I did manage a few surprises and I can see where I should add a few more twists. Plus it's amusing to see where I drifted - names changed or people were in two places at one time without the benefit of time travel.
This is definitely an adventure. Will it snow in August in my book? Hmmm......

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NaNo Winner 2009 - "First Jump"

50,434 words. Novel name is "First Jump" and I like it. I wrote the last words and cheered. It's been an exhilarating twenty nine days - yep, one day early. Whew!

My fingers aren't bleeding, and it seemed proper to finish it on a dark and stormy day. Now what's next?
It needs to simmer and stew a bit. I know I have some timing issues, and maybe hair colors to change. Um, a few confused names and plot lines. But the bones are there for 2010 - rewrite, then rewrite some more. Edit, critique, and re-write even more.
Aim for publishing. Guess I have a New Year's goal. Time to jump!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Documentary Friday and Only 5000 Words to Go

Only 5000 words to go to hit my NaNo goal of 50K. I'm typing furiously, but I also take breaks. Decided it was documentary Friday, and I rented two small films. Both different and yet very much alike as they follow two men with dreams, who see their version of art as a challenge, and both achieve their goals.

Valentino: The Last Emperor is about Valentino the haute couture fashion designer who celebrated his 45th year in the industry. As a boy in Italy he watched Hollywood movies and desired to design dresses for the Ziegfield girls - Hedy Lamarr and Lana Turner. He worked hard and ultimately created his own line. Soon Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, and Princess Diana were clients.

Known for using red, for splendid draping, and for elegance, Valentino is synonomous with quality. The movie introduces us to his team of seamstresses and we witness the skill and attention to detail. Everything is handsewn and monitored by Valentino.

The film also follows behind the scenes money issues and unfortunately we see why Valentino retires. Instead of family owned, it becomes a conglomerate and the fashion money is made on accessories, perfumes, and handbags. It's not about the dresses - the true dreams and creations of Valentino.

Another man with a dream, a high flying dream, Phillipe Petit is a high wire walker who planned and executed the most daring walk of all - between the Twin Towers. Sure enough in 1974, he and his team eluded security, hauled equipment in a freight elevator, and 104 floors above New York, Petit walked a wire. He allowed for the wind, the twist of the wire, and the sway of the buildings. Man on Wire is fascinating. Who would do such a thing? And yet, when he talks about his dreams, it makes sense. Why not balance high above the earth between two objects? To him, it was a challenge and a thing of art.

So that's the key between the two men and the two films - dreams, challenges, and art. Creation and execution of art. Truly inspiring.

Now, for me, only 5000 words to go for....dare I call it? Art?? !!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Clive Cussler Discussed, But Did Not Cuss

Another great author night at Bass Hall in Fort Worth. Thanks to the Star-Telegram, various Trusts, and UT-Arlington for continuing to sponsor fun free events. (Parking is free too - hooray for Fort Worth).

Internationally renowned author, Clive Cussler, was delightful as he discussed his new book The Wrecker, his many other series, his most famous character Dirk Pitt, and writing in general. He came from an advertising background and decided to try his hand at writing a book. He read avidly and basically studied genres he admired - i.e. action/thriller. He chose one word names for his character (like a James Bond) so it would be easy to type and he was off and running.

He did comment that he and Dirk were both age 36 when he began. Clive's now 78, but Dirk is only 45. Said that wasn't quite fair. I'd say Mr. Cussler is keeping up pretty well. Looking dapper, he's working on approximately four books in various stages; he's pursuing a shipwreck; and he still has over one hundred cars in his collection.

The man has a twinkle in his eye and many a tale to tell. He said he considers himself an entertainer. I'd say he's certainly succeeded.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Graceful Death, Indeed

Proud to announce the release of A Graceful Death by Ann Summerville.

Writing is a solitary venture, and yet there is support in the writing community. I'm proud to have heard her read chapters aloud and witnessed the progression in her story. Characters came alive. The pacing quickened, and I wanted to know what did happen to Aunt Grace.

Set in a tiny fishing village on the Cornish coast, A Graceful Death introduces you to a vibrant cast of characters, a mystery, love lost and gained, and a satisfying ending. Along the way, you'll want to drink a cup of tea as you enjoy this cozy mystery.

Check out or on Amazon see ISBN 160844211X.

Now I'm ready for her sequel. Cheers to published author, Ann Summerville.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Talking Turkey plus NaNo

Sometimes you just have to declare it's Thanksgiving. Work schedules, custody schedules, traveling, in-laws, outlaws, and any other life excuse can get in the way of a family gathering. Thus, Sunday, Nov. 15 we had a feast (see above -Ray's Norman Rockwell turkey) and then visiting and of course, a Cowboys game (oops. They lost). This cut into my NaNo writing schedule, but I crammed out words last night and hit the halfway mark at 25K words. My book takes place in the summer and even I won't declare Thanksgiving when it's in the 90s. I might be writer crazy, but I'm not insane.
Saturday, I was out to the arboretum for a chocolate class (yum). Did make time to view gorgeous colors and be re-inspired since my story begins there.

Again, pumpkins and fall colors will not be a part of the book's descriptive pictures, but the Dallas arboretum is inspirational nonetheless.

Back to Sunday. Observed a 15 month old (Makyla) toddle about and the little arms can reach a mile, the little legs can maneuver pretty well. A little tipsy at times, but recovery time is quick. However, I believe I have the details down for my little protagonist and her foray near (and into) the lily pond. Teaser - Dylan, Jay or Summer, or Allie, Terri, Tom or Brooke.....their stories are building. All good people with foibles and anxieties and maybe a few have a fear of water.
I'm not sure what's going to happen..........but it's getting good.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why Didn't My Father Write a Book?

"So, who are we seeing tonight as part of the Ft.Worth Star Telegram Author Series?" I asked Ann.
"Jeff Shaara."
"Who?" Well, turns out I did recognize some titles the man has written as a New York Times list author. He wrote Gods and Generals, a prequel to his father's Pulitzer prize winning novel The Killer Angels, a book about Gettysburg. Specializing in military fiction, he went on to write the sequel too. (His father died at age 59 from a heart attack, before success hit - book and movie). Jeff picked up the torch and ran fast. He then hit the American Revolutionary War, the Mexican-American War, World War I, and now finished a trilogy on WWII. (Latest is No Less Than Victory) Actually his trilogy will have four books - three in Europe and one on the Pacific.

Jeff Shaara's key is characters. He loves the history but he seeks out the interesting characters and brings them to life through the common man. His enthusiasm was contagious and it seemed appropriate that his Q&A was on Veteran's Day. Held at UTA, there were ROTC candidates in the audience. When Jeff Guinn, our host for the night, asked for veterans to rise, the room was full of men and women standing. Wow!

From the sound of it (and yes, I plan on reading a Jeff Shaara book or two or...), he's been respectful of our armed forces and heroes and portrayed them well, both on and off the battlefield. Thanks to UTA, Star-Telegram, and the Trust Funds that helped underwrite the night. Interesting and compelling.

Okay, so I was driving to the talk, when my car turned over 100,000 miles on HWY 157. Yikes. The old Pontiac Grand Am GT has worked hard for me. I told Ray I hit 100K and he asked, "Words?" Not quite there on NaNo - I should cross 20K tonight. Maybe someday I'll write a 100K word novel - sounds daunting. I'm aiming for 50K by November 30th and an oil change!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

NaNo - 13,772 words

It's been a week and I've stayed on task. Actually I'm ahead with 13,772 words to my novel. I've decided the working title is First Jump. I checked Amazon and that exact title did not exist.
I've learned a lot since last year's NaNo Experience. I have less characters to keep on the move. Last year I was afraid to not have enough action or drama for the month and so I had the story stuffed with too much. I lost track of and interest in some of the people. I dragged them along, but they were dead weight.
This year, I have Dylan, a family of four (that includes the "evil" (at least in Allie's mind) stepmother), and a young couple - Jay and Summer. They were all at the arboretum on that fateful August day for Julie Lin, age two. She's currently floating face down in the lily pond.
Back story time - April/May: Poor Dylan can't catch a dating break. He's bumbling about and certainly doesn't seem capable of saving the child. Jay and Summer just broke up in Ft.Worth. What happened and how will they get together again by August to be at the arboretum discussing wedding plans?
And Allie - my artistic Goth teen who keeps rolling her eyes and sighing at Terri, the stepmom. She has spunk. She's feisty. She's popped into Dylan's storyline and also was at the Ft.Worth water gardens when Jay and Summer strolled by.
It's almost time for her April/May story. I've got lots of words to type and character flaws to expose.
Who are you rooting for to save Julie? Who will jump first?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NaNo - over 7000 words

This picture just gives my readers something to look at. So, day Four of NaNoWriMo and I still like my story. We'll see what happens by day 23 - ha. I'm at 7128 words. The goal for Day 4 is 6668 words, so I'm ahead. It's difficult to cram in 1667 words in a day. I don't set my alarm like some friends and type way early. Ray would kill me.

I type all day at work. Non-stop report documentation. I get home and don't want to sit at the computer. I go for a walk, crunching on acorns and admiring fall foliage. I read a bit (The Defector by Daniel Silva - good thriller) Then I turn on the stereo, crack the knuckles, and buckle down.

So, little Julie Lin is face down in the lily pond. Who, if anybody jumps in to save her? Hmmm.

I'm currently exploring Dylan's life. He's 40, a widower, and trying to get back into the dating pool. He's clutzy, clueless, and hapless. Would he have the guts to jump in and save the child. So far, it certainly doesn't look possible. BUT, Dylan's a good guy. Maybe there's an underlying hero.

We'll find out together.........NaNo is an adventure. I have a tentative outline. One more day of Dylan's April/May backstory. Then we move on to Jay and Summer, our engaged couple. They are lurking - both spoiled brats who want Dylan out of the way.

Typing furiously. So far, so good.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Vanquish the Fear - NaNoWriMo

November 1st, National Novel Writing Month begins and I'm already procrastinating by using my time to post this blog. But that's the way writing goes sometimes. The goal is 50,000 words in one month. 1667 words per day for thirty days. At the end of November, I should have the bones of a book - some characters, some plot, a story arc, and hopefully an ending. I wrote 50K last year, but never did arrive at a conclusion.

I will tell you this, my novel shall begin at the arboretum, and a toddler falls into a pond like this while trying to reach a water lily. What is her fate? Or is the focus on all the people in that area at that exact moment?

Stay tuned and wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fear, Frights, and Terror (and candy)

Fear - it's the creepy crawlies, the willies, things that go bump in the night. Read Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King, or Jeffrey Deaver's works and I dare you to turn off the light.
Vampires, zombies, ghosts, and ghouls. A haunting - perhaps The Turn of the Screw

Halloween is a bit of a silly season, yet the bright orange pumpkins and scary masks are harmless fun. When else do you take candy from strangers? Play ghostly organ music, conjure up a phantom, or watch old Vincent Price or Bela Lugosi movies. I can remember, as a kid, tromping about our neighborhood in PA on a Halloween night with my costume on and a winter coat (due to snow flurries). That diminishes the oomph of the presentation.

I vant to suck your blood - say it with your best Transylvanian accent. Or dance the Time Warp again a la Rocky Horror
Eat gobs of candy corn. Just don't step on the scale. EEEEEEK!!!
Happy Halloween

Saturday, October 24, 2009

NaNoWriMo Prep - Voyeurism

What better way to prepare for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which begins November 1st, than to walk through other people's backyard gardens?

This is legitimate voyeurism. Pay admission (Garden Conservatory's Open Days Garden Tour) and enjoy other people's hard work, vision, and nature. (and obviously an affinity for Skyy Vodka's blue bottles)

Highland Park, Dallas; Lakewood area, North Dallas - we followed maps and checked off the list. I really liked this sculpture, but couldn't fit it into my purse. This was research. Possible settings, potential characters - who lives in these homes? Are they happy? (My guess is yes - they are coping quite well) And if I write a murder mystery, where would I tuck the body?
Perhaps this gated door holds a clue...

This sculpture sums it up - curiousity. This quote sums up the 50,000 word task ahead:
I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork. Peter De Vries, 1957

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pumpkin Parade

Mini-fake pumpkin patch in the front entrance brings me Halloween joy. I love October and have to contain myself before hauling Halloween decorations, mid-month, from the attic. As I was putting these posts into the ground I was pummeled by acorns dropping from our live oak trees. Aaahh, fall!
This October has been rainy and seemingly "cooler" than some previous Octobers. One never knows in Texas. Hence, the following poem is not truly applicable this year, but I'll share it anyway:
October Heat

October, burning leaves
it’s in my memory, inhale,
nose tingles
deep in my blood,
burnt leaf smoke oozes from my pores
airy wisps of ash encircle my head
seeps into my hair.
erie figures drifted in and out of the haze,
rakes in hand
swooshing crimson, orange, and yellow leaves

today, October in the South
air-conditioner whir kicks on at six
wheezes to a halt late evening.
dollars fly about the room
distilling humidity, cooling tepid air,
I sweat.

step on crunchy grass
wind chimes still
flags slacken, droopily oppressed
scurry back indoors
soul compresses

yearn for fire reds, golden, and deep oranges
brown, drab leaves herald fall this year.
it can’t be October.
pumpkins will explode in this heat,
melt into a pumpkin pie
not glow with Halloween candles.

I think I'll go eat some candy corn

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Different Views

My husband is off to Bronte, Texas where he enjoys time with one of his sons, with our brother-in-law, and other assorted family and friends. They are putting up a new deer blind this weekend in preparation for November's opening of deer hunt season. The pictures above are from his game cam -the 10/4 collection.
I grew up in a very non-hunt oriented family. This weekend, I'm reading, writing, and contemplating life in the comforts of my home. (No roughing it for me...ever!)
It's ironic that my father has larger deer roaming his neighborhood in PA and generally presenting a hazard on the roads up there. If nothing else, the contrasts in my life inspired the following poem.
Hunters’ Delight

deer wander suburbs
hoof prints embedded
poop piles on lawns
bucks could ring doorbells
like a Far Side cartoon

deer forced from wooded
protection by
developer buildings

the same men who lease land
sit in camouflage blinds
aimed to shoot deer that

meander backyard America

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Going Crazy for U2

Thirty years of timeless anthems - U2 - packs a punch with thoughtful and thought provoking lyrics set to a tireless bass line. With a soaring ache in his voice, Bono, reaches millions and I was one of the faithful last night at Cowboy Stadium. Prior to the concert, outdoor screens set the tone for excitement to come.

Opening notes brought a smile as I recognized With or Without You, Where the Streets Have No Name, One, Beautiful Day, and the crazy Vertigo.

One of the very best songs of the night, sadly is still appropriate in today's world. Sunday, Bloody Sunday. I quote and Bono's plaintive voice carries through the arena, "How long must we sing this song?"

Here's the set and yes, we were high up in section 417 of Jerry World. Alas, mush and echoes prevailed. We ended up walking down to stand at a railing so we could hear the worthwhile music and words of U2. They pack a powerful punch and stay relevant in their message, while providing entertainment and energy. Just a little Dublin rock band!