Thursday, October 12, 2017

In-Laws

I don’t get telling in-law jokes. My late mother-in-law was a dear woman. We never had a cross word. My late father-in-law was always cordial if distant. Perhaps it was a cultural thing. My sister-in-law, as in my husband’s sister, has always been cordial. She was still a teenager when Dan & I got married. She didn’t say much, but I always felt welcome in their home. We don’t see her very often, but we have a good experience when we do.
            My mom as a mother-in-law? I can’t speak for my husband, except to tell one experience we had early in our marriage. We were selected to as one of the couples to play The Newly Wed Game at a church function. My husband was asked, “Who the weirdest person you two know.” I don’t know how long he took to ponder, but his answer was my mother. When it came my turn to answer the same question, the whole group inhaled, and didn’t exhale until I gave the same answer. There was no other answer. Years after her death, we’d both still give the same answer. Love her very much, but she had some very strange ideas. No room to discuss those here.
            Moving on, my sister had the audacity to marry my elementary school principal. (She’s 18 years older than I am and is still living, however, Don passed a few years ago.) Thankfully I didn’t get sent to the principal’s office except for not completing class work and having emotional trauma. He was fun to be around. One problem I had was trying to remember to call him Mr. Venne at school, but to call him Don at home.
            My late sister-in-law, Lois, played a big role in my life. She was pregnant with their second baby, and their first was 1 year old when the man Mom was going to marry eloped with someone else a week before the wedding. The house we’d been living in was rented to someone else. We’d been living on welfare, and that was cut off. If it hadn’t been for she and my brother Mom & I would have been homeless. They took us into their small home where we lived for 9 months while I was in the 8th grade. Mom took in ironing while looking for a job. She found employment babysitting and cleaning house for a family with 3 boys. Lois was a steady hand during a difficult time of my life. One thing she taught me that I still remember is, “Buy clothes that are tight enough to show that you’re a lady, but lose enough to prove you are.” I could do a whole post on her. She was always there for me when the chips were down.

            What can I say about my other sister-in-law Vinnie? First thing I remember where she helped me: Soon after she married my brother, she told him that at 18-years-old, I was too old to be swung around like a little girl. She’s only 1 ½ years older than I am. I could also do post on the help she’s given me. Not as much in my late teen years because they didn’t live close to us like my other siblings. We lived in the same town for several years after I was married, and she was always there for me, supporting me when I felt inadequate as a young mother. She married my brother when she was only 16-years-old, so she had more experience. Yes, they’re still married. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Writer Preparedness

           No matter where we live, we’ve been told to prepare for natural disasters whether hurricane, flood, fire, earthquake, blizzard or something else. Most often having a 72 hour kit and with the necessities for 3 days on top of the list. We don’t usually think about being prepared with our writing in mind.
            I’m sure you know the first rule. Backup. Backup. Backup. But do you backup consistently?
My preferred method is using the cloud if you can afford it. It isn’t that expensive. I have several reasons why it works for me. First of all, it’s automatic. Every time I make changes—boom it’s there. Secondly, it’s not in my house. An external hard drive, won’t do you any good if it’s near the computer when disaster strikes and you aren’t home, or don’t have time to take anything but the clothes on your back.
Another method is sending your writing to an out of town/state/country contact. I did this in 2003 when the Cedar Fire hit our area. We self-evacuated because we lived a couple of blocks south and west of the cross roads for the evacuation area. I sent all of my writing to a writing buddy in England who happened to be on-line at the time. This became valuable a few years later when I couldn’t find the most current outline for the semi-autobiography I dabble in between novels. He salvaged it out of his old computer.
You can also use thumb drives, re-writable CD’s & DVD’s. Whatever you do, backup often, and have it somewhere besides in your house.
Also, keep your favorite books on writing with your grab and go items in case you have a few minutes to gather important papers, pictures and such. Especially if they are out of print, marked, or hard to find. Keep a list of the books you have and the authors so you can replace them if needed. This can be on paper with the important books, or on your chosen backup device.
In short, a clear safe backup plan can save you tears and that hollow feeling of losing hours of work. You may attempt to re-write what you have, after all those are your stories, but they will never be the same. I know about that too. In the long ago days BC (before computer) I had several hand written chapters of a speculative fiction novel that was tossed out. I’ve tried to re-write it, and have done some of it, but it isn’t the same. The characters aren’t the same. I may or may not ever finish it. It’s especially true for non-fiction and research.

So my friends protect your work. Have a plan in case Murphy takes his hand at your work. Foil him with preparedness.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Farewell AOL

It’s been a long run, and for the most part it’s been fine, sometimes even great. We came on board in the late 1990’s. You were young and popular at the time.
            I gained a lot from your Writers Club. I attended over a dozen various writing chats and honed my writing skills. I still have contact with 2 of the people I knew back then. It’s sad to let go of Joyfulbee8. It was fun being called Joy. I wondered at the time if I would turn around in a crowd if I heard someone call out, “Joy.” I’ll never know.
            My husband cut his e-mail baby teeth on your service. You helped him shake hands with the technological age outside of his job. We stuck with you even when the rest of the world laughed at us.
            Today, I deleted you from my life. Another phase put behind me. I must admit I’ll miss your news. It was fun not knowing what the next click would bring: real news, fake news, who’s dating/cheating with whom, interesting tidbits, foods to eat/avoid and more. Never read about celebrities unless they’d passed on, or most of it, but it was fun glancing through anyway.
            We put up with your slowness, and other quirks. However, to ask us to PAY for the service no matter how much better you say it’ll be. Forget it. You won’t even tell us how much the “small monthly fee” is until we sign up. I don’t buy anything on the shelf if the price isn’t posted, no matter how much I want it.
            I’ve been trying to get my husband to leave you for quite some time now. You hit him where it hurts—in the pocket book. It’s worth the frustration, hours, and technical questions changing e-mail addresses to be rid of you once and for all.
            Don’t get me wrong. I liked AIM when several of my friends used you. My favorite was the Writer’s Club. I even hosted a chat for several years. But now I say farewell for good. I wish I could find out what percentage of customers you’re going to lose. The few people I know who clung to AOL are also leaving.
            I bid a fond/not so fond farewell.

Joy

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Writing Dilema

            A potter finishes his/her pot, paints it, and puts it in a kiln. Once fired, it’s done. Once an artist applies the last stroke to a painting, it’s finished. When I create counted cross stitch or Swedish weaving projects, after working the pattern, it’s complete. Not so with writing. Writing is never finished. There simply comes a time the author sends it out. There are always improvements to be made. That brings me to my current novel.
            I’m at a crossroads with my Latter-day Saint romance, Hidden Heritage. Do I send it out next month, or wait until I go to Time Out for Writers conference in September and make even more changes? Either way I’ll work on something else this summer.
That presents another dilemma. Do I edit the completed Escape from Fire, or fill in the partial Car Crash? Maybe I could even dig out Divine Love and its sequel Diane’s Story. Then there’s always my semi-autobiography.
            But I digress, back to the topic. With writing, like in music, there’s always room for improvement: This sentence might be better if I use a fancier word. Perhaps that sentence sounds too pompous. A paragraph may need more description. Another one slows down the narrative with too much description. Would this scene work better later in the story? Does that dialogue sound realistic? The list goes on without end.
            Beta readers are valuable with their opinions, but they’re just that—opinions. Don’t get me wrong, I love the improvements made when I have beta readers.
Whether novel, or note I find better ways to say things nearly every time I go over stuff, even my Face Book posts. One of my college professors said, “Writing is never finished. Just send it out there.” He told us about a famous poet that had 2 or 3 versions of the same poem in print. How do I know if it’s time for Hidden Heritage?

            I don’t expect the reader of this post to tell me. You haven’t read it. I’ll decide when I finish this time going through it. I already have the dreaded Synopsis, query letter, and such because I’ve sent it out before. Naturally I made changes in those as well.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Mom's Birthplace

The first day of our trip to Iowa was emotional for me. We visited the place where Mom was born in 1905, Valley Junction Iowa. I knew the town had been swallowed up in Des Moines, but I wondered if I could find an old map that would tell me where it had been. When I checked, I found out it’s a thriving historical district.



The cement sidewalks were made of wood planks in those days, and the streets made of dirt. Mostly horses and buggies drove down those roads. Autos had been invented by then, so I assume there were a few around. Mom always told me she grew up in an amazing world that went from horse and buggy to men on the moon.


This picture is of me with my husband Dan and son Brian.


As I wandered down the street, I wondered which brick building had been the candy store. When Mom and her friend managed to get a dime each, they went to the candy store. Mom bought a handful of chocolates because they were so delicious. Her friend bought a full bag of cheap candy. They went back to the farm and savored the chocolates first. Then they would dig into her friend’s bag which would last the rest of the day.



Grandpa Stacy worked as a farm hand, so there wouldn’t be a record of their residence. The farm would be paved over by now anyway.

In 1910, her family was still in Iowa, but by 1920 they had moved to Missouri where she finished growing up. I don’t know how old she was when they moved.

The town hall was finished the same year she was born.




It was a fascinating experience with a feeling about the past I can’t describe. I never knew Grandpa Stacy; he died 3 years before Mom and Dad were married. Grandma lived with us until I was 9-years-old when she passed on.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Kanarraville Falls

I loved this hike with my daughter and her son. It’s a moderate to difficult hike, but not horrendous. Part of the hike is on a path, and some through the water.




The first time you need to choose, chose the water. If not, you’ll find yourself balancing, or sitting down and scooting across a pipe over a ravine. (Our pictures of it didn’t come out.)

If you plan to visit southern Utah, I highly recommend hiking Kanarraville falls after hiking the Narrows in Zion.






Do NOT attempt either one if there is a chance of rain. Not even a 5% chance.

Kanarraville Falls is more adventurous, what’s more it’s free. Just take the Kanarraville off-ramp from I 15 between St. George and Cedar City. Follow the road east to the town. Look for the small sign that points the way.




We went up the first ladder, including my 6 year-old grandson. The falls were outstanding. I managed to tweak my ankle and jerk my back when I fell, but on the doctor’s scale 1-10 for pain, I was about a .4, so I continued on.




Was it easy? No. Was it worth the effort absolutely yes! Not everything in life is easy, the truly important and exhilarating things are hard, but enjoyable at the same time.






Monday, March 7, 2016

Escape from Fire (Pizza Night)

Today I thought I'd post a tidbit from my novel Escape from Fire:

Mara opened the door and her niece, nine-year-old Celeste, burst through with a big hug, her six-year-old brother Eric tackled her from the other side, and they all landed on the floor with two-year-old Leanne climbing on top of them.
            “Mara! What did you do to your hair?” Lydia’s disapproval came through loud and clear.
            “Donated it to Locks of Love,” She enjoyed the perplexed look on Lydia’s face, a mixture of irritation and amusement. However, she felt a little guilty for not having told her before she came.
            Graham, Lydia’s husband was out of town for business, so he couldn’t make it. Lydia stood with her mouth open, not speaking while the rest untangled themselves and stood up. Lydia gave Mara a hug and said, “That’s so like you to help children. You can grow it out again.”
            Mara shook her head, “Not on your life. I don’t have headaches any more. That alone is reason enough to keep it short.”
            “But it’s so much a part of you.” Lydia reached out and stroked the ends of Mara’s shorter locks.
            Mara stepped back, “Not anymore.”
            Lydia glanced at her children. “Well, you sure look different.”
            Celeste piped up, “I like it. You look prettier. Put on makeup so I can see how pretty you look.”
            Mara gave her another hug, “I think you want me to put some on you, and paint your nails.”
            Celeste looked at her nails, “Cool.”
            “We’ll do that after dinner, but it’s time to make pizza.”
            Lydia’s children loved coming over to Aunt Mara’s for pizza. She made individual sized crusts and baked them until they barely started to brown. She also made sauce from scratch. She kept left over crusts in her freezer, and made pizza for a quick meal more often than she wanted to admit.
She took the toppings out and set them on the table: pineapple, olives, onions, tomatoes, bell pepper, Canadian bacon, sausage, and pepperoni. Mozzarella cheese finished it off. Eric loaded his with pepperoni and added one olive in the middle. Celeste put on everything except the bell pepper. Lydia added pineapple to Leanne’s, and put everything on her own. Mara used pineapple and olives on one side with pineapple and Canadian bacon on the other.
            The scent of pizza filled the room while the children ran around the cabin checking to see what Mara had saved from the fire. The deer were there along with the framed pictures including the large photo of the ocean her grandmother had taken that had hung over the fireplace.
            Eric tugged on Mara’s hand. “I want to go see where the house burned down.”
            “Me too,” Celeste chimed in.
            Lydia gave them a mommy look. “I’m sure Mara’s seen it enough times. Besides, it’s going to be dark soon.”
            “Maybe tomorrow?” Celeste had hope in her eyes.
            Lydia and Mara glanced at each other before Lydia responded. “Maybe we could go help clean the property with Helping Hands, if it isn’t on a school day.”
            Mara grabbed them into a big hug. “I’m glad you’re interested in my property, but I want to think about other things right now, okay?”
            “Like eating pizza?” Eric pointed toward the oven.
            Mara spread a beach towel under Leanne’s chair. The wooden high chair her grandfather had made out of scraps had gone up in smoke, but she was big enough to sit at the table on a phone book. That highchair was one more irreplaceable thing. It cost zero dollars, but was priceless.
            After they finished the pizza, Mara turned to the children, “I bought a couple of games yesterday, who wants to break them in?”
            Eric looked worried. “Why do you want to break new games?”
            Lydia turned to him. “To break in is an expression that means to be the first to use something. You’ve heard about breaking in horses.”
            Eric said, “Oh, that kind. I want to, if it isn’t a spelling game.”
            Mara took the games out of a cupboard. “One rule, this evening’s for fun. No more mention of the fire. I want to think about other things.”
            Celeste looked at Mara. “What about makeup and painting my nails?”
            “Your mother and Eric can break in Bople while we do that.”
            “Only four colors?” Celeste glanced at Mara. “Oh, I forgot.” Celeste’s eyes filled and she swallowed hard. “I like your whole bunch of eye shadows.”
“I forget sometimes too.” Mara picked out hot pink for her toenails, and Celeste chose the red. When the nails and makeup were finished, they joined the others in the living room.
            Lydia turned to her children, “Why don’t you two have some cookies and watch Leanne while I look at Mara’s room.”
            Mara knew why Lydia wanted to see her room without the children. She wanted to ignore the request, but knew Lydia meant well. She’d always looked up to her big sister, but her motherly attitude was getting worse since their grandparents’ death and becoming more and more aggravating. Sometimes she wanted Lydia’s suggestions, but not all the time, especially when she didn’t ask.
            It’d been like that all of her life. She remembered their mom telling Lydia not to be so bossy when they were little. She’d been twelve and Lydia almost sixteen when their mother died of the flu. Their father had died six months before that of double pneumonia.
Their grandparents had finished raising them. Mara didn’t need mothering any more. She needed an equal sister to lean on, part of the time, but she wanted the support to be mutual, and Lydia never asked her for anything, not even a cup of sugar. They reached the bedroom door. Mara gripped the handle for a few moments before opening it.
            Lydia looked around, “Your room’s cute.”
            Mara closed the door and put her hands on her hips, “You didn’t bring me in here to look at my room. What is it? My hair cut or do you also want to know whether I’m going to sell or not like the rest of the world?”
            Lydia brushed her fingers through her sister’s shorter hair, “You don’t look like yourself.”
            Mara retorted, “I’m not the same. Running from a fire’ll do that to you. I thought a lot about my life while driving down that smoke-filled road even with a stranger in the car.”