Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Burying Under the Covers

In the last few hours I've noticed numerous errors in postings on Facebook. One particular comment string has a funny selection. The thing is... what author aspires to be the focus of such a string? Really? Employ a competent editor!

Some of the examples:

culvert operations~~covert=secret, culvert=usually a concrete tunnel beneath a roadway. I suppose a spy could have a covert operation in a culvert.

burying under the covers~~bury=placing an item in the ground (usually a dead body), burrow=digging a hole or space. So making a warm space under the covers could work.

carpenter tunnel~~carpenter=wood worker, carpel=a specific location on the wrist. However, a carpenter could have carpel tunnel.

sin drone~~not quite sure where to begin with this one. If one has carpel tunnel, it's a syndrome.

And my favorite, shuttering in passion~~shuttering =protective covers for windows. It should be shuddering= trembling with passion. Unless...the writer was intending something like 'banging like a shutter in high wind' with passion...

Now, folks might initially find the above examples amusing. But if they aren't incorporated in the writing on purpose, then who wants to be laughed at? If the writer isn't aiming to be humorous AND doesn't understand the differences in meaning, then it's best to HIRE an editor that does understand. None of the above examples will be picked up by spell check because spell check doesn't determine definitions. All of the examples are spelled correctly. But they're the WRONG WORDS.

An individual I critiqued a long while ago had a manuscript riddled with such errors. And when I pointed them out, she brushed me off. She didn't believe it was that important. I'm a reader. And it's important to me. When a manuscript has numerous errors like the examples, then I know the author A) doesn't care enough to learn the definitions, and B) doesn't believe their readers are worth the effort to produce a quality product.

C) I won't buy any more of their books.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Hidden Additives

Last night my neighbor (and friend), Jane stopped by with a bag of homegrown tomatoes and onions. Today or tomorrow she promises cucumbers and zucchini. She grows fabulous tomatoes, but she doesn't eat them. Tomatoes are not her thing.

Now see...I can't seem to grow anything except cactus and I'm not always successful at that. However, I DO like tomatoes and all that other stuff so we have a deal. I can make zucchini bread in exchange.

Today I'm researching about canning the veggies. Commercially canned veggies don't agree with me so I'm very excited about the prospect of having home canned veggies. A great friend from Facebook gave me a few tips. If any of you out there have tips I'd appreciate your help.

I remember when home canning was a standard part of summer. My plan is to phase out commercially canned goods (except those in glass jars) and use only the stuff I've canned myself. I suspect there are hidden additives (totally unnecessary!!!) that are making me sick. For instance...

Corn syrup (bad for diabetics)
Aspartame (gives me migraines)
Salt (bad for my blood pressure)
Food coloring (do I really need red dye?)
Preservative chemicals (aren't we already preserved well enough?)
Soy derivatives (bad, bad, bad for folks on thyroid meds)

I look at labels all the time. Soy, especially, is in EVERYTHING. Corn syrup, too.

What's in YOUR food?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Invoking the Name

Much has been written about the importance of a name, both in story-telling characterization and as a recognition symbol for the author.

For instance, most folks have heard of Harry Potter, Stephen King, and Finding Nemo. Instant recognition. But... how about Phaedrus and Babrius? Hmmm?

I studied myths and legends as part of my English curriculum, like most students in my generation. I confess that while I enjoyed the various tales, the names mostly turned me off or just plain confused me. Why couldn't Zeus be named Bob? Oedipus? Puh-leezzz. What would be wrong with calling him Eddie? And the female names were simply horrendous.

Have you ever noticed you are more likely to remember someones name if it's easy to pronounce and the arrangement of letters is familiar? For instance...Plato vs. Aphthonius. Which would you still remember this afternoon? Tomorrow?

Originally, names had specific meanings. They might commemorate something like 'gift from God' or 'rowed the boat down the raging river' but they meant something. Now many names are created because they sound pleasing.

That's okay. As long as our eyes recognize the groups of letters. For instance, a little girl in my youngest daughter's kindergarten class was saddled with Gynnyphyr. Which translates to Jennifer. Really?

Names evoke images. Robert, Rob, Bob, Bobby, Robby... all create different pictures in our minds. Edward vs. Eddie. Margaret vs. Maggie or Peggy or Margie. See?

Our choices--of character name or pen name--also reveal something about us. What do your choices reveal?

Friday, July 26, 2013


"Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Hellen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein." ~ H. Jackson Brown
So...tell me again how you don't have enough time to...
Pray or meditate
Walk in the woods
Call your parents or siblings or write to a long-lost friend
Make that doctor's appointment or mammogram
Take your kids to the zoo...or read a book to them
Write, read, make the bed, garden, go back to school, do your nails, try a new hobby, chat with that lonely neighbor, fold your laundry, cook a special meal for the spouse, travel, attend church, visit the library...
The truth is we always find time to do those things that are important to us, whether they are trivial or not. It's a matter of prioritizing and choice. 
So what do the things you find important say about you?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Keep Swimming

"Just keep swimming, keep swimming..." Dori in Finding Nemo

It's good advice. In one form or another, we've been telling each other to hang in there, keep trying, don't give up, or something similar for centuries. Poets, scholars, clergy, and religious leaders have all exhorted us to continue our endeavors in the face of adversity.

No one has explained why.

What is to be gained from keeping on, keeping on, keeping on? Is there some lesson to be learned, some end goal that will be eventually reached? Is success a matter of persistence? Is it really all about faith? If I had 'truly' desired to be an astronaut, despite poor choices to reach that goal, would I now be an astronaut?

I don't think it's all about keeping on. No, it's about stopping, taking time to reassess the goals and making adjustments in our path to those goals. It's also about assessing whether our goals might have changed.

Truth? Long ago I acknowledged I didn't really have the drive or desire to be an astronaut. That was a goal I ceded to other men and women who were willing to sacrifice everything to reach that goal. That wasn't me.

There are so many things I would like to know. So many places I would like to see. So many experiences I would love to have. Reality intrudes. We are only given so much time on this earth and our choices determine what we will see or participate in or learn. Further, our abilities often hem us in with constraints.

I will never be an opera singer or a country star. But that doesn't keep me from singing for my own enjoyment. If that's mostly in the shower, what of it? Does that negate the enjoyment I receive?

I will never be a Rembrandt or Constable. But I love painting for my own pleasure and if I choose to hang those pictures on the wall, why not? Must perfection always be the goal?

Perhaps the exhortation to 'keep swimming' is not so much about continuing in the SAME direction, but rather to keep moving in SOME direction. Don't stop dead in the water, paralyzed by fear and doubt, thereby making yourself a target for bigger, scarier predators. Keep swimming.

If that means taking a sharp right turn and arrowing off in a new direction, well then, that's still swimming, isn't it? We're still moving, right? Who knows what new wonders we'll discover in the unexpected direction?

Keep swimming.

Monday, July 22, 2013


Somewhere, deep in their darkest, most secret places, every person on earth craves recognition. Some deny the need and stuff it down so far inside they can't even acknowledge it. Others pursue career paths that feed the craving by such means as publicly performing in the arts or sports arenas.

For a writer, the most basic recognition is their royalty statement, followed by reviews, awards, and fan mail. When those dry up, many writers move on to other endeavors. We all want our creativity recognized.

When we receive a rejection (as I did recently), it's difficult to stay on balance. A rejection is a direct assessment of our abilities. We aren't 'good enough'. At least that's what our heart tells us. Our heart doesn't see it as a business decision on the part of the publisher. Hearts are funny that way.

Intellectually, we can self-assess and realize that savvy business decision has nothing to do with our abilities, but that really doesn't help, does it? No.

I've done a lot of soul searching. Considered a lot of options. And found the recognition wanting. It's lowering to realize I'm only a legend in my own mind. Yes, I have many readers and friends and professional colleagues who have encouraged me and cheered me on. The difficulty with an honest self-assessment is numbers seldom lie.

Truth often hurts.

I can't make a living at writing. I can't even support it as a hobby or justify the hours I spend on my butt, sitting in front of a monitor. I don't know what I will do. I have a couple pieces I need to finish. After that... well, I have other creative outlets that offer better monetary returns. We will see.

In the meantime, about those readers, friends, and colleagues--Thank You. I would never have made it this far without you!


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Places and Stories

The hunk and I have a couple television series we've been watching on Netflix in the evenings. Last night he made a... snide comment about the musical background for one of them. And we ended up flicking through various episodes of different series comparing the music.

After a while, he conceded the music for the particular title was not only appropriate, but greatly enhanced the setting and mood. At the time we were comparing various programs, I noticed the programs with the most evocative music were all produced by the same company. Interesting. The credits, the music, and the settings were all carefully chosen to enhance the end products.

Consider. There are only so many story types. After that, the differences are all about how we arrive at the end. That's accomplished by externals. In the case of visual media, music and setting help exaggerate the differences.

But how can we accomplish the same thing in written media? No music. No pictures. Alas, we are limited to description of settings and characters. Too often, the setting is ignored or at best wallpaper. The best books have what I describe as deep background.

Now I'm not advocating pages dense with never-ending description. A tree is a tree is a tree. Or is it? A grove of pine trees singing in the wind is very different from a grove of shady oaks deep in the forest or a grove of knobby kneed cedars in a swamp. A beach can be sandy, stony, outright rocky, sunny, moonlit, small, vast, with dunes or flat. Neighborhoods are quiet or noisy, depending on time of day or week. Saturday mornings might echo with the roar of lawnmowers or the shouts of children playing. Monday would be very quiet as everyone is off to work and school. Which day would you choose for a violent murder? Why?

Television series and movies have artificial sets where the action is filmed. As viewers, we observe the sets without really concentrating on them. They're there, providing information we absorb subconsciously. The library of a rich man tells us things about the characters without uttering a word. So does the small apartment in a ghetto. Those are visual cues.

The writer has to provide the same cues using words--without intruding on the story. Some are more skillful at this. A creative writing instructor once assigned my class a two page task. The parameters were deceptively simple. It was to be single spaced with one inch margins. At least one half page must be dialogue with no tags. The settings--and characters (no more than two)--were to be so clearly delineated he could instantly place location and assign recognizable actors to the parts.

Many years later, this two page assignment was the core of my first book, Dancer's Delight. When I go back to read the two pages, I see the seeds of all the ideas, humor, and descriptions I incorporated in my story. That is the essence of setting.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Hot Summer Entertainment

In my very early years, there were no libraries around. To tell the truth, children's books weren't exactly thick on the ground in back-water Arizona. My parents provided a reading library for me--seventeen books in a set of a collection of children's stories. There were adventure stories and science fiction, mystery and poetry. It was a marvelous introduction to reading and I still own that set of books--and read them.

Then after my mother died and we moved to Indiana, I discovered the book mobile (or as our British friends call it, the mobile library). I loved it. As a lonely grieving girl I found the solace of books very comforting. I used to read under the covers at night with a flashlight.

From then on I was a voracious reader. One of my cousins had a bookcase FULL of Hardy Boys and Tom Swift. I devoured them, sometimes three and four at a time when I went to visit. Always a speedy reader, one or two books was never enough for me.

Once we moved to Chicago, I lived at the local library. In very short order I read all of Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, John Irving, every mystery I could locate and all the autobiographies the librarian could order for me.

During my teen years (actually, the entire time I lived at home) we did not own a television. The little television I watched was at friends or relatives' homes. No, reading was my entertainment of choice. We didn't have air conditioning, so I packed my bag of books and a blanket and went to the local park where I kept a weather eye on my brothers while reading in the shade. Chicago summers were never cool in my memories, but the scent of fresh cut grass and the welcome shade of gently swaying trees made my summers bearable.

Sadly, most kids today miss that. They watch television or play video games or text their friends instead of daydreaming beneath a shade tree or getting lost between the pages of a book. I don't envy them. If I had it to do over, I would still take my summer over theirs.

And yes, I still read. Everyday.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Round vs. Square

Every time I start a new series, I start creation of a new world. It's time consuming work. As a creator, I have Mystic Valley, planet Avalon, planet Elyria, and now Cabhán Geal to my credit. Each world must be distinct with its own flora, fauna, people, monetary system, government, and cultural rules. If I repeat too many of the variables, then the readers write to me about that. One fellow writer pointed out that I seem to have a lot of CAVES in my books. Or cavern-like substitutes. Of course, in a primitive setting there aren't very many ready-made shelters other than caves. And most of characters--at one time or another--end up in primitive settings.

I suppose that's a recurring theme I explore--man against nature. It's not usually convenient for the purposes of the story to provide a tent or other dwelling.

My friend maintains I'm figuratively trying to return to the security of the womb. I'm not convinced. But her comment did make me more conscious of my 'cave' settings.

The earliest shelters man contrived outside of the caves were round or dome shaped. Even today, primitive societies live in round huts and tents. The more 'civilized' the society the more corners are incorporated in their shelters. I wonder why that is.

Corners aren't very useful except as storage. We don't sit in corners. Unless a room is very small, we don't sleep in corners. No...corners are reserved for 'things' and usually, those things are storage containers of one sort or another. So maybe that's the purpose of corners. The more stuff we acquire, the more corners we require for the storage of our stuff.

My characters don't have much stuff when their stories begin. And as they acquire stuff through the story, it's always a problem of how to deal with their new acquisitions. stories don't reflect an instinctive return to the womb, but rather how man copes with the constant proliferation of possessions.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Booby Trap

So I went off last week for my annual mammogram. The tech smushed and tugged and pulled and then did it all some more. My left side is significantly bigger than the right so she even spent extra time on it. By the time I came home I was about smushed out.

Today, my doc called and said there was an anomaly on the RIGHT side. Hmmmm. Once I receive the letter from the radiology place I'm to make an appointment to go back for more smushing and tugging. Plus an ultrasound.

Now I know the chances are good this 'anomaly' is nothing serious, but you know? It's still a scary deal. Women face this everyday, all over the world. It doesn't really seem fair to me that we have to have the babies AND deal with the fear of breast cancer. Really.

So. If you can spare a few positive thoughts or prayers over the next week or two, I'd appreciate it. Blessings on your weekend.


Thursday, July 11, 2013


After my mammogram (have you scheduled yours this year???) the hunk and I shopped at various places before going home. While he ran in at Home Depot, I waited in the car, keeping our frozen food cool. There were a lot of folks shopping at the Home Depot so I entertained myself by trying to guess what they were buying.

Folks of all shapes and sizes came and went. But when a skinny young Asian man strolled by, it occurred to me how guilty I am of my own version of profiling. If I were doing a commercial for Home Depot or Lowes, for instance, I wouldn't have thought to feature an Asian individual. Rather, I would have chosen a beefy, brawny laborer. The Asian gentleman would star in a technology commercial (phones, computers, or medical technology).

Then I considered why that would be so. I am guilty of categorizing people by ethnicity and color. It is an ugly admission BECAUSE until yesterday, I wasn't even aware I was doing it. Worse, it's based on false premises from the very beginning. Why shouldn't the beefy guy be the computer specialist--and the Asian fellow be a craftsman?

I wonder...

The hero in my current work in progress is of Japanese/Apache background for no particular reason except I sought a more interesting character than the the usual white-anglo-saxon-protestant. Then having chosen an interesting background for my hero, I instantly pigeon-holed him in the appropriate ethnic behavior I envisioned for such a man. Why? I'm ashamed to admit it was sheer laziness. A short-cut to character development.

For a while, I've grappled with this story, wondering why I couldn't seem to come to grips with my hero AND my heroine (which I ALSO pigeon-holed).

In my daily life, I've met thousands of people in all walks of life, of all ethnicities and colors and occupations. And apparently, I have learned nothing, blindly accepting my own assumptions about who and what my fellow men and women were.

It's not enough to pick an individual who stands out and acknowledge their value regardless of their color, if we then profile the rest of their fellows. Why do we categorize folks? Until yesterday, if you had asked me my personal opinions on profiling, I would have vociferously denied doing so. And yet... there was that jarring realization that I was wrong.


Monday, July 8, 2013


While on vacation at my daughter's place we were introduced to the wonders of Netflix via the Wii. Behold our joy when we discovered we could watch the two or three shows we've only enjoyed up to now on PBS. Unfortunately, the signal from our local PBS station is frequently scrambled, limiting our viewing time.

After some close questioning, the hunk and I decided we could make it work at home... so last evening we embarked on the adventure of obtaining our own access to Netflix. Now, I'm sure most folks are scratching their heads by now, but you see we are NOT technologically savvy. And I'm sorry, but the terminology doesn't make the experience any easier. No doubt the average user knows exactly what they're supposed to do, but we didn't have a clue...

First of all our Wii controllers were twitchy. You know what I mean. That stupid little hand leaps all over the screen. Just when you think you have it in the right spot and press one of the buttons, it jumps away like it's seen a ghost.

Finally, we downloaded the Netflix app, but when we tried to go to the next step, we were stymied by a demand for a password. After looking high and low for the elusive password--in vain--I called the help number.

The very patient young man on the line walked me through deleting my Netflix and then reinstalling it because (of course) we did it all backwards. Eventually, we were all straightened out. And lo...we had access to our programs. Imagine our glee when we discovered one of them had 80 episodes we've never watched!

Immediately, we agreed we would only watch 'TV' after dinner. Otherwise, we could both see ourselves whiling away our days in front of the boob tube. It's a good thing we don't have cable.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4th

When you allow your grandchildren to practice their budding nail tech skills on you, it's no telling what you'll end up with. Witness the hunk's fabulous toenails. His left foot is rather plain with turquoise polish, but by the time she got to the right foot, she was far more varied.

He had plain polish, while my fingers and toes are truly ready to celebrate the fourth with a mix of polka dots and sparkles.

It's hot in New York. Very, very hot. Except for actually cooking the burgers and dogs on the grill, we're hanging out in the AC, enjoying visiting and talking and sharing our news. Hope y'all are having a fabulous day!


Monday, July 1, 2013

It's Her Fault

Women are under attack across the globe. Some live in daily danger in obvious ways. For others, there's a more subtle battle in progress. In both cases, a massive power struggle is taking place.

Whether you are of a religious bent, fervently believing the Genesis account of the beginning of life on this planet--or more inclined to take the scientific road--women have been the 'bad guys' from the dawn of life. Men both fear and revere women because we are necessary for one single event...the birth of the next generation AND this gives us great power.

Already, there is a war against women taking place, both public and private. But if men ever figure out how to produce sons (not daughters) without the benefit of a woman, life for all women on earth will not be worth a plugged nickel. Consider. In the Biblical account, Eve tempts Adam with the fruit (surely an allegory for sex, I believe) and thereafter, all the bad things that happen are blamed on her.

Personally, I think it's a clear illustration of Adam's weakness. He fails the very first test of his morals. And from that point, there's a constant stacking of the deck in his favor. Without being shored up with various laws that were favorable to men, women would obviously be ruling the world.

In the very early religions, men and women ruled equally. Then a powerful patriarchal religion swept the world and the female goddess was suppressed...and disappeared. With that suppression, woman's place in the world changed. Her position was relegated to baby-maker and servant. Religion constantly reinforces her unworthiness and second-class status in society--regardless of country or culture. It isn't about equality or the right to vote or the right to work. (What woman in her right mind wants to work both in the home and outside it?) This is about the deep cultural attitudes that keep men in power. Attitudes so subtle they're nearly impossible to change.

One of the ways this is reinforced is by blaming the woman for rape. "She was dressed provocatively." "She was acting sexy." "She was dancing or singing or...just enjoying herself."

No one mentions the male who commits the crime. Like Adam, he is too weak to control his urges. His fellow males make excuses for him, pointing out the overwhelming power the woman obviously exerted over him. Otherwise, he would normally be better behaved...right? In other words, every man on the planet--given the right provocation--will rape a woman.


Two young women in Pakistan were dancing in the rain. And for this terrible crime, they were murdered. What crime, you say? The terrible crime of behaving immodestly.

A girl is gang-raped in the U.S.A. When she seeks justice, her reputation is smeared by the press while the young men who committed the crime are excused because 'boys will be boys'.

A law is changed in a Middle Eastern country allowing men to take wives as young as nine years old. No one calls it what it is--perversion and pedophilia.

Are there any so-called 'real' men out there? Yes, of course. They're going about life, doing what they have to do, defending the weak and defenseless, protecting their families, honoring their wives. Unfortunately, the clamor of those others--the ones without honor or morals--is louder and growing in influence.