Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Deadline - Three Days and Counting

A goal is a dream with a deadline. ~Napoleon Hill

Persistence is the word I always tell aspiring writers they need to be sure is in their arsenal of writing tools. It's good to have a gift for words. It's even better to have the imagination to come up with unique and exciting story ideas. Enthusiasm for any project is a necessity. But if you want to succeed at writing, you have to be persistent. Persevere. Keep on keeping on when the enthusiasm flags, when the words desert you, when the imagination dries up like a shallow pond in a drought. Persistence is the stream of creativity, the thing that wears away the rock of doubt in your writing ability. 

Persistence is how books get written. One word after another. One sentence after another. One chapter after another. Having a deadline makes persistence a necessity. Deadlines mean you can't put off writing until you're feeling more creative, until life is less hectic, until summer vacation is over. I have a deadline in three days. I've scheduled something on two of those days. I'll have to go to the nursing facility to be with my mother part of the time on all of those days. Mother is not doing well so there will be no way I can work while I'm sitting with her. But I intend to meet this deadline. I think I can. I hope I can.

I read the new story over. It isn't perfect, but I think the story is there. It was hard writing all the way through. Some books are. Some books are easier. For the books that are hard, it's good to have a deadline. Something to keep your fingers on the keyboard when you feel drained of words and ideas. 

For years I worked without deadlines. That's because I wrote without having contracts. I wrote the book and then hoped an editor somewhere would like it. Less pressure. More freedom. Less success. I like having a deadline. It keeps me motivated. It keeps me pushing to get the stories written. But even when I didn't have contracted deadlines, I set goals for myself. Those dream deadlines.

July 1 is an exciting date for more reasons than my deadline. It's the release date for The Gifted. I hope to get a newsletter out on that date. Another deadline to meet. Bought a couple of prizes for my Celebration Giveaway. Come back Sunday for details.

Thanks for reading! Oh, and one of those scheduled days is a book fair in  Horse Cave, Kentucky. I hope to be there - unless Mom is worse. If you're in the area, come out and check out the writers and books.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Editing - Then and Now

My goal is to strip things down so that you need just the right amount of words or shape to convey what you need to convey. I like editing. I like it very tight. ~ Maya Lin

That's what I'm doing now with my current work in progress - editing. If, as a writer, I work hard enough then the reading is going to be much easier for the reader. That's my purpose. I want the reading to be so easy that the reader forgets he or she is reading and is simply caught up in the story and riding along an imagination train watching the story unfold before his or her eyes. 

I don't mind editing. Well, maybe I'd better qualify that. I don't mind editing if it's my idea. Sometimes I'm not as happy about the editing when it's somebody else saying this or that should be done differently or better. Not that they aren't right, but I think it's harder for me to get into their mindset. So it's harder for me to make the changes they suggest. But now I'm in the first part of editing. My part, where I read the story over and change every word that clangs in my reading ear. Sometimes I change it by deleting. That's the easiest way. Sometimes. Sometimes not easy because I will have reworked the passage a dozen times when I finally realize I don't need it at all. But just think of all that practice I got switching words around. 

The picture above is the way I used to edit prior to writing on a word processor. Yes, I know some of you can't imagine that long ago, but some of us can. I was slow to the technical age anyway because those word processors used to be really expensive when they first showed up on the scene. Back then I typed all my first drafts and then rewrote them by slashing and marking out and adding in. You can see I even have some written in the margin. Then there were arrows and lines. I was never a cut and paster the way some writers were, but I did a lot of scribbling between lines and x-ing out unnecessary words.

Now I do everything on the computer. Words deleted fly off into the never-to-be-recovered land. New words are inserted with ease. Want to change a character's name. No problem. You don't have to read through and mark out the old name, add the new one, and worry you forgot to change it somewhere in the writing. You can hit the find and replace and change a hundred Harry Browns into Perry Jones in five seconds. 

But however it is done, editing needs to be done. So now I'm taking my first chance to improve and tighten the story. Plus I need to cut some words. I always write too long. But the good thing is that I will get those other chances to edit with the fresh insights of editors who aren't as attached to the words of the story as I am. New eyes see new ways to tell the story better. So tonight and next week, I'm trying to make my eyes new so I can work hard to make your reading easy.

Nothing much has been easy around here lately though with Mom not doing well at the nursing home. She hadn't slept for 36 hours before tonight, but she was finally asleep when I left. However, I'm expecting a call any minute saying I need to come back, that she's awake and trying to get out of her bed or chair. The dementia keeps her in a panic, especially at night. Typical, they say, of dementia patients. So I'm hoping she'll have a good week so that I can have a good week editing and make my deadline.

Thanks so much for reading. I appreciate each and every one of you. And I am going to have that giveaway for The Gifted very soon. I've found some Shaker gifts, so stay tuned.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book after Book

"But how do you come up with enough to make a book - book after book?"

Once more I've written those two very important words "the end." And of course, I had to shout about it on Facebook. That's what Facebook friends are for, to help you celebrate the ups and send you {{{hugs}}} during the down times. So naturally I shared with my FB friends that I had found those words for the who-knows-how-many time. I've published over twenty books, but I've written way more than that. Some that will never be published. Some that might have a chance of ending up in front of a reader some day. 

This story that I finally found the end on has a very good chance of being published. First, I have to clean it up, tighten the words, make sure it's at least halfway okay in the next week or so before I show it to anyone. Editing waits in the wings. 

But one of my FB friends asked me the question above. How do you come up with enough for book after book? A very good question and a daunting one when you are a writer - whether you're a beginner or an old hand at writing. A book is a lot of words. Words that have to tell a new story each time. There are only 26 letters in the alphabet but they go together in amazing ways. I'm sure someone out there knows how many words there are in a dictionary. I don't. I just know it's a lot and that those words can be put together in endless ways by writers as they think up new stories, hunt fresh ways to describe things, create new people with different characteristics. 

How do we do it? I suppose the simple answer is one letter or word at a time. And there's truth to that. But the answer my reader was seeking is more complicated than that. So complicated that it will take a smarter person than me to answer it. Boy, that was a cop-out, wasn't it? 

So okay, although I can't answer for the great mass of writers out there arranging and re-arranging those letters and words into stories, maybe I can answer for me. Each new book grows in my imagination, little by little. Each one starts with an idea. A lot of time a what if question. Sometimes it starts with a character. Sometimes an event or place and the characters spring from that. I don't wait for the story to be fully formed in my imagination. I let the characters grow and the plot develop as I go. And somehow the words keep spilling out, sentence by sentence, until I do have enough of them strung together for book after book.

The first book I wrote was the hardest and the easiest. The hardest because I'd never done it before. I didn't know if I could even find that many words to tell a coherent story. It was also the easiest because I'd never done it before. Every description I came up with was fresh and new. Now I have to try not to echo my other books and find new and different ways to tell a lot of the same sorts of things. That can make book after book challenging. But it is good when I get to those two words that never change from one book to the next. The End.

If you're a writer, what do you think is the most challenging thing about writing book after book or story after story? And if you're a reader, what do you think would be the most challenging if you did try to write a story? 

Thanks for reading. And I know. I let Wednesday slip past me again. The out-of-state grandkids spent the night here Monday, and I knew it would make me forget what day it was the rest of the week. Top that with Bible School and Mom having some rough mornings and no wonder I don't know where I am or what I'm doing sometimes. I am hoping I knew what I was doing when I wrote the end. That remains to be seen when I do my first read through.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers and Ice Cream - a Recipe for Good Times

A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty.  ~Author Unknown

When my dad was living and we all went home to celebrate Father's Day, we nearly always made ice cream. The same was true when we gathered with my husband's family in the summer time. I think they must have decided on June for Father's Day because they knew most dads love ice cream. 

My dad had a White Mountain ice cream freezer. The kind you cranked yourself. Those plug-in types like the one you see in the picture where we're making ice cream last year on Father's Day, they weren't the real thing. If you wanted to make the good ice cream, you turned the crank with muscle power and not electrical power. That was part of the fun on Dad's day. Taking turns cranking the ice cream. Even the little kids got in on the action in the early going before the ice cream started to harden.

Mom made the stock, then generally we added bananas, some cream or half and half and vanilla. Sometimes, if we had fresh strawberries or peaches, Dad would let us vary the flavor, but he liked banana best. So did my father-in-law. So does my husband. I think I experimented with a chocolate recipe once. All the guys considered it a waste of time and effort and next time went shopping for bananas. Once Mom had the canister loaded with the ice cream mix she turned it over to the guys and kids to freeze.  

Of course it was Dad who knew exactly the right mix of salt and ice to freeze it the fastest. Nothing was really going to happen until water started coming out of the overflow hole in the wooden tub. Then you were getting somewhere. Finally Dad would declare the crank too hard to turn, open the top very carefully to keep the salt on the outside and not in the ice cream, and pull out the dasher. Mom would pass out spoons to the kids to get a taste from that. Then Dad would put a cork in the top, drain off the salty ice water somewhere it didn't matter if the plants died. Always a great way to get rid of stubborn poison ivy plants. Then he would pack in more ice and salt, tie newspapers around it with baling twine, and cover it with a thick blanket. After an hour or so, the wraps would come off and it would be ice cream time.

We don't make ice cream as much as we used to while Dad and my father-in-law were living, but the memories live on. And I do have my mother's recipe for the stock if you want to give it a try. Beats the mix hands down.

She cooked it in a double boiler, but you can also probably microwave it or cook it carefully with a lot of stirring in an iron skillet. This made about a gallon. You adjusted the amount by adding the mashed fruit and additional milk.

Stir 1/2 cup all purpose flour into 2 cups sugar. Add 3 eggs, beaten. Stir in 6 cups milk. Cook over hot water (see note above) until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and beat hard. To the above mixture add sufficient milk, a pint of cream (or half-and-half), your choice of mashed fruit (for banana ice cream, mash up 6 or 7 really ripe bananas) or flavoring. Stir well, pour into your ice cream freezer and have fun making some yummy ice cream.

Do you have a favorite ice cream recipe? Share it with us. 

Thanks for reading. Hope you had a blessed and happy Father's Day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Good Dog - Coal

 "It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are." --Unknown

Most of you know that I'm a dog person. I got the dog hunger as a kid and have never been without a dog, sometimes two or three, since I got my first one way back when. That's a lot of dogs to take a piece of my heart with them when they passed on. The last few years my dog friends have increased to not only my own dogs, but the neighbor dogs who like to walk with me and my "granddogs," my children's dogs. That means I get to enjoy the fun of these dogs becoming part of the family and them coming home to visit with my children. It also means I have to grieve along with them when they lose one of their four-legged friends. And today, we're missing Coal. 

Coal came into my son's family after they lost Hank, a dog my daughter-in-law had for years before she and my son married. Hank lived to the grand age, for a dog, of 17, but finally he gave up the fight. They got Coal from a rescue place four years ago. He was supposed to be part Australian Shepherd and not get over fifty pounds. But he was solid black except for a spot of white on his chest and he outgrew their predictions by a lot. The kids named him Charcoal because of that black fur. 

He went through his puppy stages but from the beginning, it was obvious he was a  very intelligent dog. He would sometimes herd my grandkids up on the couch if he thought they were straying away too far. He was a tremendous watchdog who could make even the most courageous door to door salesman back up. He didn't like men and for a long time he had to be banished to the backyard if either grandfather came to visit. But he loved me from the start. I'd have to pet Coal when I went in the house before I could even give the grandkids a hug. He wasn't allowed to jump up on people, but you know how grandmas are. He'd jump up on me and put his paws on my shoulder. I think he was trying to teach me to dance, but I've always had two left feet. 

He naturally enough hung around under the baby's highchair. She naturally enough shared her food with him - sometimes giving him a bite of her bread or whatever and then taking a bite herself. He never tried to take it all. The second youngest girl was two when Coal became part of the family and the two of them had a very special friendship. He was her pillow while she watched cartoons. He let her dress him up as a princess although he looked very put upon in the picture that resulted. 

With the idea that he surely had a great deal of lab in him, my son threw him in the pond when he was still a pup thinking he'd enjoy the water. Coal ran out of the water and as far away as he could get from that pond. He missed the lab genes there. But you might say he was a retriever. He could leap high in the air and retrieve any unwary birds right out of the air. 

When he first got sick, that's what we thought had happened to him. That perhaps he had caught a bird, tried to eat it, and got a bone stuck in his throat. He was losing weight. I hadn't seen him for a while but when I went in to keep the kids while my daughter-in-law took Coal to the vet, my heart sank. He looked so sick, but he still came to me and jumped up for his hug. The news at the vet's was worse than anything we could have imagined. Cancer of the spleen with the tumor already so big that it was pushing up into his chest area. 

So Coal came home to die. And he had a few more good weeks with the kids and his beloved family. He kept trying to catch those birds. He kept sitting with the girls as they watched their cartoons. Last week, he even made one of his famous escapes out the front door to run around the neighborhood with the older kids chasing him. He kept being Coal. 

Two days ago he quit eating. Last night he went out into the backyard and lay down and didn't get back up. He turned four years old this week. He was a very good dog. 

"...a good dog is one of the best things of all to be." Dean Koontz

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Moments of Kindness

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.  ~Saint Basil

Those of you who read my blog last week know it wasn't a very good week for my mother and me and my sisters. If I had thought it was hard sitting with Mom at her house - and I often did - then it was three times as hard sitting with her in the hospital and now the nursing home after she suffered her broken hip. Her dementia makes everything more difficult since she can't remember that she can't walk or even that it is going to really hurt if she tries. Memory is a very good thing to have and a great sorrow to lose.

So it's been a hard week. The kind of week many of you understand because you've experienced like weeks or weeks even worse. Perhaps because I've missed sleep and been tired, I've been tiptoeing around the rim of the canyon of discouragement. So much so I've often felt near tears when someone says or does something kind to me or Mom. 

Moments of kindness mean so much and are often so easy. A true sympathetic "I understand" look. An attentive ear that really listens. An ER doctor, rushed out of his mind, but taking time to be gentle. A young nursing home aide giving my mom a kiss and telling her she loves her. A hug from someone who truly cares. The nursing home dietician who brought me a sandwich and juice after the all-nighter at the ER. My reading friends sending me encouraging messages and praying for Mom. Others sharing their stories of hard times they've been through to help me know there's a lot of company on the dementia road. 

Even a butterfly on a flower can be a kindness moment. Such blessings bring a little brightness to the day. Blue skies with cotton clouds. The sight of a spotted fawn. A testimony of belief at church. So many reasons to be cheered and encouraged and to feel loved. So many moments of kindness to remember and try to pass on as I continue down my road.

"Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world." ~Annie Lenox

Thanks for reading and for your kindness. Oh, and before I go, here are my winners of my May giveaway. I'm a little late with drawing the winners, but last week was so crazy I couldn't keep up with everything I planned to do. Here are the winners and the books they picked: Donna V. of KY (Words Spoken True); Lyndia T. of OR (Angel Sister); Armeda F. of GA (Angel Sister); Selina W. of PA (The Outsider); and Nancy C. of MN (Orchard of Hope). Thanks to all of you who took part in my giveaway fun. I had a lot of entries and enjoyed hearing from you all. If you didn't win this time, maybe next time. I'll be doing that Celebration of The Gifted very soon if things settle down a bit with Mom.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Emergency Rooms and Other Places to Avoid

How many emergency rooms have you been to? I've gone to my share. Some with my kids. One whose aim was bad with a tobacco knife and chopped his hand instead of the tobacco stalk. Ended up with a hand specialist after two emergency rooms. Another took a hit to the eye with an elbow in basketball practice and cut his eyelid. Then there was the time he broke his leg at a camp. And... well, you get the idea that my youngest was an accident waiting to happen at times. It's a different experience going with a kid or even a like adult. I went with my diabetic sister once when her heart was racing and she was going into a diabetic coma. That was not fun! 

But it's way different going with my mother with her dementia problems. Not a good different. Yesterday - I think it was yesterday. Feels like two weeks ago right now. Yesterday around 2 p.m. Mom was released from the hospital and moved by ambulance to a nursing facility. She must have enjoyed riding in the ambulance. I went home around 7 p.m. First mistake, I suppose, but she seemed fine. Told me to go home. Waved at me with a smile as I went out the door. Things must have gone downhill after that. By 11 p.m. she was in the ambulance again headed back to a hospital. I picked a different destination this time - I suppose I needed variety. But I had picked this particular hospital as the one of choice on my paperwork. I had not expected to darken the emergency room doors for a few weeks at the least. 

This time Mom fell out of a wheelchair. She was agitated and afraid and wondering where everybody was. So she tried to stand up and go see. They strapped her to a back board and put her in a head restraint - a very uncomfortable and frightening restraint that often slipped and covered her mouth. I wasn't but a few minutes behind the ambulance, but when I buzzed through to say I was Mom's family, they didn't waste any time opening the door. She was giving them fits and wouldn't even let them take her blood pressure. She calmed down with me holding both her hands or holding one hand and stroking her shoulder. Never completely calm so I had to stand beside her examining stretcher/bed the whole 4 plus hours for fear she would catapult herself off the thing or sock one of the nurses or the nice doctor. Not my regular sweet Mom, but who wants to end up a regular sweet anything?

Turns out her new injuries were mostly bumps and bruises to her old, well not so old, injury except her hand that had a major skin tear. So we had to wait for the doctor to be ready to treat it. Unfortunately for us and also definitely for the patients, a heart attack came in and then a girl who had been stabbed multiple times. Police filled the emergency room. Her stab wounds were superficial, but they certainly delayed Mom's hand treatment. I suppose the doctor had to be sure there were no deep wounds. So we waited and I talked a blue streak to keep Mom calm. Finally they glued the skin back together.  Seriously - they used glue! And then they called that ambulance and sent Mom back to the nursing facility. I went with her, afraid she'd fall again. Spent from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. talking her out of getting up to go home, seeing about the children, turning the stove off, cooking breakfast, etc. and finally to see a doctor because she was hurting so badly. 

So my advice is that if you're looking for somewhere to stay awake 24 or 36 hours, what better place than a hopping emergency room? I think I'd take sleep and go to the beach. Right guys? But I'm not at the emergency room now and someone else is keeping Mom from standing, so time for a nap.

So what gets your vote as the place not to be? Today mine is definitely an emergency room.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Sad Path of Dementia

Every day can bring a blessing or many blessings, but then there are days where the shadows of hard things happening make those blessings more difficult to see. This weekend has been like that. My mother fell on Friday morning. At first we hoped she was only bruised, but as the day went on, it was obvious something bad was wrong. She couldn't bear to put weight on one of her legs. Much to her distress, we called the ambulance and brought her to the hospital. She has a fractured hip socket. The only treatment is to keep the weight off that hip socket. So she has to stay in bed and not put any weight on her leg. Easy enough or might be if she remembered breaking her hip. The dementia makes everything more difficult. The pain is not bad as long as she's sitting or lying still so she thinks she's okay. Every few minutes she wants to get up, find her clothes and go home. Every few minutes I have to tell her she has a broken hip and has to stay in the hospital.

Many of you have walked this same sad path with your parents or relatives. There are no easy stops on this dementia path. We can only send up prayers for patience, prayers for pain relief, prayers for courage for her and for us daughters trying to help her. And many friends are praying for her and us. That is so touching - to know that people will take time to pray for us. I believe in the power of prayer and that prayer makes a difference.  

The picture above is of Mom and her only niece a few weeks ago. Linda was the youngest of our cousins and she would come to spend a week with us every summer. She would sit out on the back rock and feed our hens corn until she managed to catch one to stroke its feathers. This is a picture of me and Linda back in her chicken catching days. She has her own pet hens now, she told Mom when she came to visit. Mom enjoyed talking with her about those days. 

Mom always liked her hens too and raising chickens. So many good things she's done. She's always been tough and did whatever had to be done. Now she's been hit with a problem she can't overcome. Not the hip. While that might be difficult, it is possible that it might heal. The dementia is what can't be overcome. And that's sad for all of us.

Thanks for reading. I hope your blessings are bountiful this week and that the sunlight falls on your path and makes every day bright for you. With Mom in the hospital, I haven't had a chance to pick my five winners in my May giveaway, but I will before Wednesday. I appreciate all of you who entered. Thanks a bunch.