The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

On Fire

      I recently got a book from my husband. No, he didn't read it. He doesn't read unless he has to. But I won't admit I'm enjoying it because he heard about it on NPR.

      NPR and I are like oil and water. When I am speeding driving down the highway, I enjoy listening to music. Loud music. Some voice droning on and on does not appeal to me while I'm tooling around. (Yes, I know I'm missing out on wonderful stories and interviews. If I was guaranteed I'd be able to avoid Prairie Home Companion, I might try it out. But Garrison Keillor is lurking around every corner.)



      John O'Leary, when he was a kid, caused an explosion in his family's garage. Their house burned down. John got third degree burns over all of his body except for his face and scalp. 

        Immediately after the explosion, John asked his two younger sisters to go into the burning house and get a knife. O'Leary wanted to kill himself. Instead of getting a knife, his youngest sister got a cup of water and threw it on John's face... and she did it once or twice more, which is why his face is not as burned as the rest of him.

       There's a "philosophical" page between each of the sections, but I'm skimming over those. I'm reading it more as a memoir than a life-changer.

        It's an interesting story, and since O'Leary lives in St. Louis, who knows... Perhaps I might run into him some day?

        Is there a book that changed your life? I'd love to know what it was.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Back-of-the-Book Blurb Friday # 22

       Before we get to writing a book blurb, I must report: I have a dream job. The students are delightful and so kind (genuinely kind) to each other. The parents are incredibly involved (in a good way). And the staff is a friendly, supportive, close knit group.

        I'm really fortunate...

        Now... onto writing a book blurb.
  • Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your book.
  • You choose the genre. A love story? A limerick collection? A fantasy? You decide.
  • Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Lisa Ricard Claro is the original brains behind this writing exercise. Her third romance book just came out in July (Love to Win) so she's lounging on the couch right now, watching reruns of Castle as she takes a tiny break from the drudgery of marketing her books. 
  • Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post. 
  • Link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is charming and easy. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is.
  • Check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.
  • And most importantly, have fun. This is supposed to be enjoyable.
          Here is the photo for this week, and my finished blurb:





The House That Mick Built


Mick was a man on a mission. He wanted his estate to set the world record for having the most outbuildings, and his mission kept him busy.


He used cargo containers to create sheds. He used his toenail clippings--glued together with Modge Podge--to make small shacks. Mick even used raggedy pairs of his tighty-whities--stiffening them up with starch--to create a cotton version of a log cabin.


But while thumbing through a magazine while sitting on his throne, he saw a photo of an upside-down house. His jaw dropped open. He stopped breathing and started drooling.


That is going to be my next project!” he exclaimed.


Will Mick be able to pull it off? (The construction, not the underwear) Will his family stick by him, or will they conspire to kill him? Or will the house itself be the death of him? (141 words)






       And for my hundreds dozens handful of one follower, here is the photo for next week.






Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Using What You Know

           New job. New building. New set of keys (seven of them--Yikes). I knew I needed a new lanyard (I like them longer than the store-bought ones usually are) so I headed to Pinterest, then to Michael's (craft store). The knotting pattern was not complicated, but when it came to finishing the knotted part, the directions I had didn't seem too reliable/permanent. 

         "Cut the ends off and burn the end of each cord." Certainly, burning the end off would have prevented the cord from unraveling, but what would keep the cord itself from becoming unknotted?

          Because I knew that paracord melts and becomes plastic-y when set on fire, I took the ends (and kept them an inch or so long) and burned the cord until I could melt it back onto the lanyard... and I only got one small blister on my finger and avoided setting the house on fire in the process, which is a huge success in my book. 






           Another thing I know: dogs, when stuck between uncertainty and a warm lap, usually succumb to the lap. This is a picture of one of my sister's dogs. She's a chihuahua mix, and I do not like chihuahuas. They're small and yappy and I tend to (accidentally) step on small dogs. When I first met her (an adult rescued dog) the feeling was mutual. She had prejudged me just like I'd been prejudiced about her. 
           
          However, this pup is part terrier-something, is built like a miniature horse, and runs like a greyhound. The next time we met, it was pure love.




         This is a picture of my daughter and her family at a local sculpture park. My daughter is cussedly independent (I don't know where she got that trait) and refuses to listen when I say things like, "We don't need your help with this yard/house project." She shows up anyway.
          
        Most years, when our dog rescue group has silent auctions, I bid on things that she and her family would enjoy. A free night at a funky hotel. A pair of baseball tickets. Restaurant gift certificates. So when she said this year, "Don't bid on anything for us," am I going to listen to her since she didn't listen to me?

       Definitely not.





           And my final utilization of what I know (for the moment) is this: it's important to keep your eye on what's important. (This picture is a huge sculpture at the same park as the previous photo.) 

         In mid-July, an editor at a conference asked for my manuscript. She gave me a time-frame when she would look at it. That time period is long gone. However, in my opinion, it's more important to give her time and not aggravate her than it is for me to email her and say "Haveyoureadmymanuscript?Haveyoureadityet?Whatdoyouthinkofit?Whatkindofastronomicalcheckareyougoingtosendmefortheprivilegeofpublishingit?




          Nope. I ain't gonna do it. Instead, I'm going to patiently (or semi-patiently) wait... for a little while longer. 

          What kind of knowledge/wisdom have you put to use lately?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Back-of-the-Book Blurb Friday #21

     Writers write tight(ly).

     Writers choose their words carefully. They write a draft, distill it down to its barest bones, and then flesh it out a bit here and there wherever the paring got too brutal.

     This exercise helps with the succinct skills. Would you like to join us this week? Dive in. It's easy and fun. Here are the guidelines:
  • Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your book.
  • You choose the genre. A how-to book? A haiku collection? Chick lit? You decide.
  • Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Lisa Ricard Claro was the creative brain behind this activity. She is too busy serving as vice president of Amazon's new "Fairness to Authors When It Comes to Book Reviews" department and cannot be bothered with silly blog stuff like this.
  • Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post. 
  • Link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is charming and easy. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is.
  • Check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.
  • And most importantly, have fun. This is supposed to be enjoyable.
          Here is the photo for this week, and my finished blurb:



The Perfect Man

“When is your first day back at school?”
“How fast were you going when you got that ticket?”
“Did you eat the last ice cream bar?”

He asks the questions, gets answers, and then hours (or days) later, asks the same questions.

It's not Alzheimer's. It's not deafness. It's just aggravation. Tired of the endless string of repetitive questions, she turns to pins and needles. Pins and needles and a voodoo doll, that is.

When she put the first needle in, it seemed too flimsy to do any good, so she shoved seventeen more in—quickly.

And after she set the doll on her dresser, she went into the back yard. And saw her husband, now reduced to a stone statue.


Things had gone quite awry. Will she try to undo her voodoo gone wrong? Or will she plant some flowers around her new lawn feature? (145 words)



           And for my only regular player--Val/Kathy--here is the photo for next week, so while you're lolling around in your jammies all day and cruising around on the internet nonstop, you can also start thinking ahead. 




Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Joy! What is it Good For? Absolutely Somethin'!

        Recently I had an electronic conversation with a writer friend. They were sharing how much social media work--work that is devoid of joy--it takes to promote a book. This writer does appreciate their success (several published books and a mob of loyal followers) but occasionally (as we all do) they lose sight of their joy.

        When I watch my dog race around the backyard, chasing after a frisbee or a squirrel (thankfully, the squirrels always allude him), I think of the joy Radar experiences all the time. Being petted results in him wiggling his rear end in excitement. Just the sound of our key turning in the lock when we get home... and he's turning tight, fast circles of anticipation. If we say "blinky ball" (his ball that lights up and squeaks) he's like an unstoppable horse as he heads for the backdoor.

        Radar knows nothing but joy. It's something he experiences all the time. He's decided that life is nothing but one big party... and he's the guest of honor.

        Last night we went and heard Compton Heights Concert Band play. It was their last summer concert. These are free, and are held every Sunday and Monday during the summer.

       Every summer they have Hugh Smith join them. Smith is a tenor--one that I enjoy. What's the connection with joy and some guy who sings? Last night, it was obvious how much he was enjoying himself as he sang. Yes, there are tenors who are way more famous than Smith. And yes, he may never be remembered as one of the greats. But when he sings, he's joyous.

       It reminded me of one of my favorite Harry Chapin songs--a song that never made it on the radio waves. "Mr. Tanner" tells the story of a singer who loved singing, then his joy was taken away... You have to listen to the song to find out what happened. (If you want to skip Chapin's intro to his band, go to the two-minute mark.)





      What brought you joy today? Or yesterday? Or last week?

Friday, August 5, 2016

Beginning of Post-Retirement Work... and Back-of-the-Book Blurb Friday #20

          Yes, while some of my newly-retired writing friends like Pat and Val/Kathy are lolling around in their jammies all day (Every day is Saturday!) I have officially started working this week. Official meaning all-day workshops and schlepping stuff up to my third floor classroom. (I did some unofficial work last week with some of the heavier things.)

            Yesterday, as I made my sixth trip up the steps with a tall stack of stuff, the custodian said, "You should have put it on the elevator." For a millioneth of a second, I thought it might be possible I'd missed a door that said "elevator," but then he laughed.

          Hysterically. 

          I already have a plan to prank him back.

          So Val/Kathy and Pat--drink some Diet Coke or coffee while you're lounging around the house this morning... and afternoon, and take a few sips for me.

           Now onto book blurb fun.
  • Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your book.
  • You choose the genre. Romance? Sci-fi? Contemporary lit? Nonfiction? Poetry anthology? A collection of polka lyrics. You decide.
  • Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Lisa Ricard Claro was the creative brain behind this activity.
  • Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post.
  • Link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is quite easygoing. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is.
  • Check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.
  • And most importantly, have fun. This is supposed to be enjoyable.
          Here is the photo for this week, and my finished blurb:





They Never Forget

She stared at him. The man who screamed at her. The man who humiliated her. The man who jabbed a bull hook into her so many times, she had scars on top of scars.

And then she let loose.

She let loose of all her heartache over having babies wrenched away from her. She let loose of all the humiliation over having to perform for a jeering crowd. She let loose of all the pain she felt every day: a small stall was no life compared to being free in a herd of elephants.


Tossing her trainer in the air, she trumpeted her joy as he catapulted across the circus ring and landed with a loud thud. And then she trotted towards the audience to try and tell them her story... so they'd never go to a circus until all wild animals were retired and sent to sanctuaries. (148 words)



       And for those writers who want to work ahead, here is the photo for next week (August 12th):


(This is a photo by Lynn Obermoeller.)