Friday, August 11, 2017

Deja Vu to the Max

Thought for the day: Life is an ongoing project. If you think you've already arrived, you may no longer strive. [author unknown]

Hi-ya. Yep, I'm still editing. I'm so slow, I make tortoises look like speed demons. So, continuing with my lazy ass  summer of reruns, today's post originally appeared in August, 2011, as Gotta Get it Right the First Time. I hope you enjoy it.


















Thought for the day:  Make each day your masterpiece.


Did you ever hear of a turritopsis nutricula? (And if you did, I am REALLY impressed!) This creature is also known as the immortal jellyfish. Immortal, because as far as scientists know, this jellyfish lives . . .  forever. Once it matures and reproduces sexually, it reverts to its juvenile state and starts the whole maturation process all over again. There doesn't appear to be a limit as to how many times the process can be repeated, either. So it's an endless cycle. Cool, huh? Kinda like the movie Groundhog Day, only this critter keeps reliving its entire existence instead of a single day.

We people don't have that luxury. As far as we know, this isn't just a dress rehearsal. We don't get any do-overs, and we don't get to experience things all over again for the first time. So we've gotta do the best we can with what we've got. Now. We can't keep putting things off until tomorrow, because we may not have a tomorrow. How many times have you heard someone say when something happens, then they're gonna do so-and-so? If we allow our lives to be so tied up in the uncertainties of when and then, we're giving our here and now the smelly end of the stick. So, I say, let's all toss that smelly stick and carpe the hell out of the diem.

Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons.   [Ruth Ann Schabacker]

So, would you like to go back to your juvenile days again? Go through the whole maturation stuff all over again? Some things might be fun to revisit, but as for me ... one trek through adolescence was more than enough. Being an old broad ain't half bad.

Before I go grab hold of my day with both hands, I'll leave you with a few signs. Nah, not signs like woo-oo-oo kinda weirdo stuff. Signs . . . real signs. Hopefully, signs that will make you smile.



(Thanks, Bill!)





And a fine, TOO?
                                                                             







Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. And, hey! Carpe that diem, y'all!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Walking Our Pet Peeves (in the Tinkling Rain)

Thought for the day:  I had a friend who believed in me, and I didn't have the heart to let him down. [Abraham Lincoln]


We all need somebody to believe in us, no matter which paths we choose to take in life. For writers, finding that support is as easy as going HERE and joining the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Members of this fine gourp, founded by ninja writer Alex Cavanaugh, share an IWSG post the first Wednesday of every month, which is... today.

Since I'm still knee-deep in editing, rather than write a new post before answering the question of the month, I'm gonna share a largely ignored one from June, 2011, originally titled Secrets to Spinning an Original Tale. I was a newbie blogger back then, so you could say this old post still has the tags on it... never been worn.

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Thought for the day:  If you can't win 'em over with facts, dazzle 'em with malarkey.  


[image courtesy of Morguefile]
Ever catch any of Judge Judy's shows on TV? She's a little bit of a thing in a lace-collared robe who peers over the top of her bench like Kilroy while banging her gavel, wagging her finger and screeching at the people appearing before her. She's feisty and funny as all get-out at times, but I've seen enough snippets of her in action to know I sure as heck wouldn't want to face her in court. I can imagine how that would go. She'd be screeching, "Button your mouth, you old bag! I'm not interested in what you think! Just tell me exactly what happened." And she'd probably laugh me right out of the courtroom if I tried to explain my trips into fantasy by telling her I'm a writer. But I ask you, don't writers have a certain latitude when it comes to spinning our tales? Hmmmmph. Not to Judge Judy, because that lady has a built-in Malarkey-o-Meter the size of Montana.

I dunno. There's something about her that rubs me the wrong way. Strident? Oh yeah, but it isn't that. And did I happen to mention she screeches? That's a real nerve-grater, for sure, but it isn't that, either. She's just too darned ... how shall I put this? She's too doggone judgmental! I mean, who made HER the judge of all she sees? Oh. Yeah. (ahem) Never mind.

Anyway, Judge Judy wrote a book with one of the best titles of all time. It's called, Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining. Priceless, isn't it? Or maybe worth, say, sixty-four thousand dollars, anyway.

And the sixty-four thousand dollar question for the day is : HOW do we writers make our readers believe we're tinkling rain??? HOW do we make the implausible plausible, the insurmountable surmountable, and the outrageous the norm? To find the answer, let's take a gander at the gurus of garbage, those writers with unsurpassed skills in turning tripe into something that passes for truth. I have no names for these people, but believe me, their skills are vast. I'm talking about those nameless instigators who post something on the Internet and then sit back with smirks on their faces while their post turns viral and essentially morphs from fabrication into fact.

WOW.  How can WE harness those skills? I suggest to you ...

Three simple steps:

  • Include a smattering of verifiable facts in your writing. It'll demonstrate how smart you are, and establish you as an authority.
  • Write with confidence and authority. In fact, if you demonstrate ample confidence and authority, you don't have to concern yourself with facts at all.
  • Never be afraid to address hot-button topics. In fact, embrace them, baby. Any segment of society with a strong enough bias about any given topic will gladly believe whatever you tell them, as long as it reinforces the beliefs and hatreds they already harbor. As for facts? Pffffft. Don't need 'em. When readers go all Judge Judy on a topic, they're in danger of developing a serious medical condition known as psychosclerosis. Otherwise known as hardening of the attitude, this is not a fatal condition, but has been known to kill conversations and end relationships. (So, how'd I do with that one? Make your malarkey-o-meter tingle?)
WOOP! WOOP! WOOP!


OK, so we're not really interested in manipulating the minds of our readers, but you gotta admit, it's downright phenomenal how successful others have become at doing just that, thanks to the viral potential of the Internet. For some reason,  people who wouldn't dream of turning to the National Enquirer as a source for the latest news have no problem believing an article they find on Wikipedia or within a zillion-times forwarded email they receive from a friend. (Would you believe a new error-laden fourth grade social studies textbook entitled Our Virginia, Past and Present had to be recalled earlier this year because the writer of said textbook gleaned her erroneous "facts" from the Internet?)

Seems to me, we should all learn, not necessarily to be Judge Judy-ish, but at least to learn to take the things we read with a grain of salt. But oh, what we write... now that's another story. We don't WANT our readers to reach for the salt shaker. We want to spin locations, characters, and stories that are so well-seasoned and believable, no extra salt is ever needed. How can we do that? Let's backtrack to those three steps:


  • By all means, weave verifiable facts into your story. Unless you're creating a fantasy world that defies our laws of physics, it's best not to buck science. Two examples where writers tried to do just that: In one book, the good guy electrocuted the bad guy by tossing an old capacitor (that he'd been carrying in his pocket for decades) into the sink while the bad guy was washing his hands. WOOP! WOOP! WOOP! Ain't gonna happen. In the second case, the damsel in distress successfully prevents her pursuers from following her by removing the valve stems from the tires of their car ... and thereby flattening the tires! More WOOP! WOOP! 
  • Writing with confidence and authority is always a good bet, even if you have to fake it. (Also known as flying with the eagles when we feel like a chicken on the inside.)
  • And finally, the hot-button topics. Well, that's up to you. Some excellent books have been written about some of these topics, and they've been written with great sensitivity and intelligence. And I already know that all of you have sensitivity and intelligence out the wazoo, right? Now, I'm no Judge Judy, but if you DO tackle one of these hot potatoes, please rely on verifiable facts, okay?

After all, too much salt isn't good for anyone.





Okay, now for the question of the month: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

I'll just address the reading side of this question, because I honestly can't think of any writing or editing peeves. (Probably because I'm in the driver's seat when it comes to those areas, while as a reader, I'm locked in the back while somebody else does the driving.)

Anyhow, the number one thing that makes me want to throw a book across the room while screaming like a banshee is (insert drum roll here) cliffhanger endings. ARRRRRRGH!!! It's absolutely infuriating to purchase a book and invest the time in reading it only to be cheated out of a proper ending simply because the writer wants to manipulate readers into buying the next book. (or books) I get it. Series are hot, but please, please, please provide a resolution of some sort at the end of each book. Aim for readers' satisfaction, not frustration.

#2 I also wish writers would ix-nay the unnecessary repetition. Really, I got the point the first time... there's no reason to tell me fifty more times that the chick has blue eyes with long eyelashes. (or whatever) Beating issues to death by repeating them over and over is insulting to readers' intelligence.

#3 Based on the earlier part of this post, it should come as no surprise that blatant errors and an absence of common logic annoy the stuffing out of me, too.

Like everybody else, misspellings and grammatical errors stick in my craw, too, but the three issues already highlighted are at the top of any reading pet peeve list for me. How about you?

                                Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.




Friday, July 28, 2017

Spread 'Em!

Thought for the day: People are like stain-glassed windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is  out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed. Only if there is a light from within. [Elisabeth Kubler-Ross]

[image courtesy of Morguefile]
So how's your inner light these days? Feeling good about yourself and the world? Yeah, I know it can be a challenge some days, but the light is right there inside you, if only you dare to let it shine.

We all possess certain talents and gifts that are unique to only us. You already have everything that you need to start living an extraordinary life. It's up to you to turn on the switch and let your light shine. [Randa Manning-Johnson]

Continuing with that train of thought on my journey of summer re-runs, the following gently-massaged post originally ran in June, 2011, as Open Up Then Wings, Baby! I hope you enjoy it. (I'm even going to re-run those six-year old weird stories of the week, because... why not? They may be old, but they're still still funny... kinda like some people I know...)

A good attitude is contagious, but don't wait to catch it from somebody else. Be a carrier.

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Thought for the day:  Just because you're sitting  in a garage doesn't mean you're an automobile.


[image courtesy of Morguefile]
It's too hot for a heavy meal today, so how about a little food for thought? The following is loosely based on a  James Agreey story, The Parable of the Eagle.

While traipsing through the woods one day, a farmer happened upon a solitary eaglet sitting on the ground. He scooped up the young bird, cradled it oh-so-gently in his arms, and carried it home with him. There, he secured it safely in the barnyard with his chickens, and before long, the eagle learned how to walk and squawk like a chicken and how to peck chicken feed from the ground.

A naturalist stopped by one day and demanded to know why the king of birds was confined to a barnyard, scratching in the dirt like a common chicken. The farmer claimed the bird was now a chicken. He'd been raised like a chicken and never taught to fly, so he was, in fact,  no longer an eagle. But (naturally) the naturalist insisted the bird still had the heart of an eagle, and could surely be taught to fly. And should be. Finally, the farmer agreed to let the naturalist try.

The naturalist picked up the eagle, and told him, "You're meant to be the king of the sky. Stretch forth your wings and fly!"

But the eagle couldn't do it. He was frightened. He looked down at all his chicken friends pecking corn from the ground and jumped back down to join them.

The next day, the naturalist tried again. This time, he took the eagle up to the roof. Again, he told him, "You're an eagle, the king of the skies. Stretch forth your wings and fly!"

But once again, the frightened bird jumped back down to the safety of the chicken yard.

The third day, the naturalist carried the bird to a nearby mountain. He held the eagle high above him, and said, "You are an eagle, the king of the skies. Spread forth your wings, and fly!"

The bird hesitated at first. He looked back toward the farm, back to the only life he knew. Then he trembled, stretched his mighty wings, and with a triumphant cry, soared into the sky.

It's possible the eagle sometimes misses the chickens; he may even visit the barnyard once in a while for old time's sake. But as far as anyone knows, he's still living life as an eagle, the king of the skies... just as all eagles should do.
*****

How about you? Are you still hanging around in the barnyard because you're too frightened to stretch your wings? Never let someone else's definition of you and your capabilities prevent you from trying, because, you too, are an eagle, and you owe it to yourself to fly. Schoolchildren aren't the only ones with untapped potential.
*****

[image courtesy of Morguefile]
                                                       

OK, here we go, the WEIRD STORIES OF THE WEEK:

***  While enjoying an airboat ride on the Suwannee River in Florida, a young lady unexpectedly crossed paths with a sturgeon. And lost. The sturgeon, between five and six feet long, and weighing approximately seventy pounds, jumped out of the water and into the boat, and unfortunately, broke the damsel's leg in the process. Although some tried to characterize the encounter as as "attack", it wasn't. Nothing personal, lady. Sturgeons jump. That's what they do. Three days earlier, the state issued a warning about the potential danger posed to boaters by jumping sturgeon, but now I'm thinking ...  maybe the sturgeon general should've issued one, too.

*** Another Florida story, and this one's about a St. Lucie couple who are serious about their shooting. Most people have a TV in their bedroom, but this couple upped the ante considerably. They have a wood and metal target inside their bedroom closet. Handy when there's nothing good on TV, I suppose. Anyway, neighbors called the police on this frequently fighting couple recently, and when police arrived, the wife said she fired an AR-15 rifle at the target in her future ex-husband's bedroom, missed, killed a washing machine, and accidentally flooded the place. Yes, a considerable amount of alcohol allegedly led to the death of the innocent washing machine.

*** The final story is from Lithuania, where an online survey held by a local radio station indicated Lithuanian men felt the need for a day set aside to honor them. So, the station obliged. They declared a National Men's Day, and to commemorate the auspicious occasion, hosted an unusual swimming competition. Inflatable sex dolls were used as rafts. More than two hundred men registered, but only twenty were selected to participate. And that .... is all I'm gonna say about THAT!


                        Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.



Friday, July 21, 2017

Cultured Pearls of Wisdom

Thought for the day:   Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused. 


When it comes to editing my newest book, I sometimes feel like I'm following the one step forward, two steps back methodology. Cut three paragraphs here... good, good... and now add four more new ones here... rats!

Oh well. (One forward, two back, cha-cha-cha... might as well make a dance of it.)

Continuing with my whirlwind of mildly edited summer re-runs, we have for your reading pleasure today a gently-used oldie but goody that first appeared in August of 2011 as A Little Culture to Enlighten Your Day. I hope you enjoy it.

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Thought for the day:  A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition.   William Arthur Ward

Chinese writing is more than writing. It's like artwork, which may explain why so many people sport lovely-looking tattoos of Chinese characters on their bodies. The ones on the left are supposed to mean tranquility, harmony, serenity, and peace. 

Nice, huh? I think we can all agree they're sentiments we can heartily embrace. Nonetheless...

Not that I'm inclined to get a tattoo, mind you, but if I were, it wouldn't include a single one of those lovely Chinese characters. Not that I don't appreciate the sentiments they're supposed to represent, but that's just it . . .  supposed to represent.  Just my luck, I'd get some smart-ass tattooist who'd adorn my body with a very lovely-looking Chinese obscenity just for the helluvit. I mean, how would I know? Yep, to spare myself any potential embarrassment, I think it'd be best to stick with a very safe itty bitty butterfly tattoo. Or maybe a cosmic tattoo of the earth... from reeeeeally reeeeeally far away. (Unimaginative people might call it a blue dot...)

Anyhow, today we're going for something slightly more cultured than tattoos. (WHAT? Hey, I can do culture...) We're going to talk about pearls. No, just kidding. We're actually going to talk about the great Confucius. He lived in China from 551 until 479 BC and was a great thinker, political figure, and educator. And man, was he ever wise. His words continue to resonate today, and not just in fortune cookies, either. Consider the following:
  • Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two holes.
  • Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.
  • Forget injuries; never forget kindnesses.
  • He who will not economize will have to agonize.
  • It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
  • Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.
Brilliant, right? But suppose there were some other things he meant to say. Y'know, things he would've said if he were sitting around, sipping wine, and chilling with his pals? In the best interest of furthering your education, it's only fitting that I share with you what some of them might have been. If he'd only thought of 'em . . . 




  • He who sling mud at neighbor will lose ground.
  • He who live in glass house better dress in basement.
  • War no determines who is right. Determines who is left.
  • Man who sit on tack get point.
  • He who laugh last not get joke.
  • The early worm catch fish.
  • When you angry at neighbor, walk a mile in his shoes. Then you be a mile away from him, and you have new shoes.
  • Crowded elevator smell different to midget.
  • Passionate kiss like spider's web. Soon lead to undoing of fly.
  • Man who run in front of car get tired.
  • Man who run in back of car get exhausted.
  • Man with hand in pocket feel cocky.
  • Man who scratches butt should not bite fingernails.
  • Man who eat many prunes get good run for money.
  • Pregnancy happen when woman take seriously something poked in fun.
  • House without toilet uncanny.
  • Man who cut self while shaving lose face.
  • Man who fart in church sit in own pew.



See? I bet you feel smarter already.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.






















Friday, July 14, 2017

A Salute... and a Toot... to Sophisticated Humor

Hi-ya. I'm still in the depths of editing, so here comes another slightly updated summer re-run. It originally ran in February of 2012 as Blowing in the Wind. (Don't think of it as an old post... think of it as a ripe one.)

P.S. This one is for you, Kati... think of it as a late birthday present.

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Thought for the day:  Beans, beans, the musical fruit; the more you eat, the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you'll feel, so beans, beans for every meal!

Nope; it wasn't ME!
Have you ever wondered what makes something funny? What makes one person laugh uproariously at a comedian, while the next holds his nose and says the routine stinks?  I mean, we all laugh at something. Even little babies laugh.

Music and laughter ... universal languages. Is there anything better than the sound of a baby's unbridled belly laugh? That in itself sounds like the sweetest music, doesn't it? So we cross our eyes, stick out our tongues, and make all kinds of faces at babies. We tickle their chubby little bellies, make utter fools out of ourselves, and generate weird noises... all in the hopes of getting to hear their precious laughter.

And what, I ask you, does almost every baby in the world think is funny?







                                    Apparently, they're partial to... farts ... those musical toots.

Please don't think lesser of me, but (shhh!) so am I. There must be something wrong with me. Maybe a twisted kink in my DNA helix has stunted my maturation process. That would explain it. Why else would a woman my age still think flatulence is so darned funny?

I know. Embarrassing, isn't it?

What three qualities matter most to you in the people you hang around with? For me, it'd have to be kindness, intelligence, and a good sense of humor. But lately, I've begun to question the quality of my sense of humor, because I must admit, few things are off-limits when it comes to cracking a joke or twisting words into a groan-worthy pun, and it doesn't take much to make me laugh.

Like last week. While talking to a  gastroenterologist's appointment nurse on the phone, I asked her where I should report. Upstairs, where my regular doc saw patients? No, I was to go downstairs. "Figures," I said. "In the bowels of the building." Nothing. (Tough audience.) So I apologized, and said she must hear that all the time. Nope. I was the first. See? Sick sense of humor.

Then there was the time Smarticus came home from a hunting trip and told me about a harrowing experience he'd had after one of the other fellas fell out of a tree stand. While driving his friend to the hospital, my poor hapless hubby looked out his truck window and saw a wheel roll past... HIS wheel. Needless to say, he got everything fixed, and got the guy to the hospital okay, but what would YOU have said to him under the circumstances? Me? I sang. Uh-huh. I sang, You picked a fine time to leave me, loose wheel ...  See? Sick, sick, sick.  But not as sick as my penchant for potty humor.

Years ago, when our daughter was about eleven, she ... how shall I say this ... cut the cheese in church. Not noisily, mind you, but with an exuberant and lingering bouquet. Most normal mothers would have scolded her for not saving her stink for the bathroom, or at least given her a suitably disapproving look. Not me. I leaned over and whispered, "Gives a whole new meaning to church pew, huh?"

Fortunately, we weren't asked to vacate the premises.

This is an ACTUAL musical!
But I can't help it. I think the sounds of  flatulence are absolutely hysterical.

Call me gauche, but the very idea of a musical about a man's fartistic abilities strikes me as fall-down-on-the-floor funny. (I mean, really! Can you imagine a man on stage tooting his arse  like a trumpet?)





                                         






  Can you watch this video without laughing? I can't.






A few years ago, Smarticus and I saw two boys in a Dollar Store aisle playing with Whoopee cushions they'd pulled off the shelf. The more rude noises they squeezed out, the more they laughed. Um, me too. Matter of fact, I just HAD to get me one of those things. For one of our grandsons, of course. Didn't mean I couldn't entertain myself by squeezing it as we went through the store. (WHAT? I had to make sure it worked, didn't I?) Anyhow, the intended recipient of the grand gift didn't enjoy it nearly as much as his younger siblings. Especially the twenty-month-old, who would squeeze out a good one, wrinkle his nose, and say, "EWWWWW! Schtinky!" Then he'd laugh hysterically. Um, me too.

It was about then I began to wonder if some aspects of my humor weren't a tad juvenile. I mean, laughing at the same thing a twenty-month-old found amusing? The same thing that makes babies all over the world laugh?

But, as it turns out, I'm not alone. That book on the right? Belongs to my husband. One of our grandsons picked it out for him. The shameful truth is ... our whole family cracks up at bathroom humor.

And we aren't the only ones. The reason for this, I don't know, but many people find flatulence hilarious. Not burps, or hiccoughs, or sneezes ... just poots.










Smarticus once emailed me a newspaper article about a little girl who won a speech contest with her speech about ... you guessed it ... farts. I even read an article in a scientific journal about a medical researcher whose major focus is studying ... you guessed it ...  farts. (Guess his lab is in the bowels of the building too, eh?) Sorry. And another about an Australian study to determine whether pooting in the O.R. could contaminate the field of operation. The conclusion? There's a minute possibility, but only if the perpetrator is naked and taking direct aim at the surgical site. But, don't worry about your surgeon eating beans. According to the study, flatus germs are as benign as the bacteria in your yogurt. Both of these article, I must say, although reporting on the results of serious studies, (or as serious as studies in this particular field can be) were full of puns, innuendos, and fart jokes. Y'know, like something I would've written.

                                                               Kinda made me proud.


So, um bottom line, maybe I'm okay after all. Right. I'm a mature sophisticated woman. (Shut up. This is MY fantasy.) And maybe I'm not the only one with an inner child squealing I don't wanta pull your finger.



So, how's the wind blow with you? Fart jokes crack you up, too, or do they just plain stink?  And what's the most inappropriate thing you've ever said or done in the name of humor? Come on. You can tell me ...

                                There was an old fellow named Clyde
                                Who fell into an outhouse and died.
                                One day, his brother
                                Fell into another,
                                And now they're in-turd side by side.


                                 Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.




Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Getting Rid of the Clutter


Hi-ya. Welcome to this month's edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group meeting... er, virtual meeting, that is. This, the first Wednesday of the month, is the time when writers all over the world post about the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the ins and outs... of writing. We celebrate... we complain... we commiserate. Whatever we need, this is the place to find it. Humble thanks and a jolly tip of the hat go to Alex Cavanaugh, our fearless ninja leader and the originator of this fine group. If you'd like to join (It's FREE!) or would like to read some of the other posts, please go HERE

First off... YES!!! I finally finished writing the first draft of Blast Rites. (Thank yew, thank yew, thank yew very much...) Now comes the fun stuff. I'm currently deep in the throes of rewriting and editing, so before answering the question of the month, I'm gonna share a gently-used and slightly updated post from May, 2011, originally titled Some Pets Have Gotta Go! Yep... it's about the joys of editing. Kind of appropriate, don't ya think?

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Thought for the day:  If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one, what do you call it?


It's hard to say goodbye.

Do you have a bunch of stuff around your house that you can't let go? I'm not talking about necessities; I'm talking about those unique treasures from your past that still manage to pluck your heartstrings like a two-bit harp.

Like my cheap-o fifth grade orchestra pin. It still occupies a place of honor in my jewelry box, along with a "lucky stone" I found when I was in second grade, and a neat-o metal typeset of my name that came from a field trip to the Baltimore Sun (newspaper) building, which I, in fact, missed, because I had the measles. None of those items will mean anything to our children when I'm gone, but somehow, I can't bring myself to part with them.



                                    And records. Have I ever got records! My favorites are the 45s.


It's probably time to tell those records sayonara, but like Celine Dion sang, "It's hard to say goodbye." Not that any of these records are anywhere near as recent as Ms. Dion's birth. No, these treasures are Elvis records, Little Richard, (when he was still a young rough and tumble rock 'n' roller) the Coasters, Nat King Cole, Chuck Berry, and Rosemary Clooney singing about "This Ol' House."  They're the Drifters, Dion & the Belmonts, (before he went solo) and Eddie Fisher singing "Dungaree Doll." The McGuire Sisters, Artie Shaw and his orchestra playing "Star Dust"  (one of my favorite songs of all time) and Jerry Lee Lewis on the old Memphis, TN Sun label. Treasures, I tell you, treasures!

                                    Not that I've played any of them in the past forty-five years.


The fact that I don't have a good-working turntable is beside the point. If I wanted one badly enough, I'd buy one. But why should I? I don't NEED one.

No, all I have to do is look at these old records and admire their brightly-colored labels and sleeves to remember my first record player with its wobbly turntable, which could only play one record at a time. To play a 45, you had to put a plastic piece into the larger record hole to make it fit. Had to tape a penny to the arm to make it heavy enough to play the records right, too. Then, my brother got the portable RCA player. All it played was 45s, and you could put on a whole stack at one time. (Like Sarah Vaughan crooned, The record player's automatic ... ba-by.) One look at these records, and I'm bopping in the club basement with my girl friends, or dancing cheek-to-cheek at the teen center. So I don't have to actually HEAR them ... to hear them in my heart.

What got me to thinking about those old records is the editing I'm doing on my novel right now.  Know what? It's every bit as hard to cut words as it is to get rid of records. What's funny is that some of the parts getting the axe are the ones that I sweated the most blood over while laboring to give them birth. Witty stuff. Clever stuff. Stuff that makes me smile and laugh out loud.

But it's gotta go! Because it injects ME into the book and serves to draw the reader away from the story. No matter how much I love those words, it doesn't serve the book if the reader stops to admire my writing. Damn it.

So, the words are going. I delivered 'em, and now I'm killing 'em. And the book will be better for it. And some day, those records will go, too, I promise. But not yet.

How about you? What treasures are you holding onto from your past? No matter how illogical it is to hang onto them, they sure do bring us comfort, don't they?

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And now, it's time for the (ta-DA!)...
Question of the month:  What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?

Hmmmm, let me think about that a sec...

Okay, I've got it!

I've learned that writers are the most creative, supportive, insecure people in the world. That means they've got my back, and I've got theirs, so none of us is ever...

alone.


Our craziness, imaginations, and love of the written word unite us, and that is abso-freaking-lutely awesome.









Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Summer's Bounty

Hi-ya. How goes it? This week's post originally ran in August, 2012, with the title Trowel and Error. In case you can't tell by that cutesy title, it's about the joys of gardening in steamy buggy Hot-lanta.

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Thought for the day:  When weeding, the best way to make sure you're removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it's a valuable plant.

















Are you a gardener... or are you a garden-dreamer, like me?

I mean, I harbor amazing delusions of grandeur while browsing through garden catalogs and piling a cart high with purchases from the local nursery every year.

And then something happens.

I like to call it reality.

Gardens are not made by singing, 'Oh, how beautiful' and sitting in the shade.  [Rudyard Kipling]

Darn it. (I'm really good at sitting in the shade.)

Kipling was a real kill-joy, huh? I do fine getting all the stuff into the ground, and for a little while... just over twenty-three minutes, I think... the garden looks marvelous. Then come these things:


                                                                      Yep, weeds.

The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over never weeded a garden.   [Ray D. Everson]

It's a little-known fact, but I'm pretty sure weeds are organized. Not unionized yet, but they're definitely working together. Just think about it. They grow at precisely the rate you pull them out. Yank a weed from one part of your garden, and boing! another one pops up in another part. Really. I've seen it happen.

Even with the whack-a-mole racket weeds have going for them, I don't mind weeding all that much.

At first.

And then something else happens.


I like to call it debilitating heat. In Georgia, that could happen just about any time of the year, but as a rule, by the end of springtime, (which could occur as early as February...) perspiration is pretty much flowing like Niagara Falls around here.

                                                                     I'm talking ...  
Oh, and did I happen to mention our annual summer droughts? And the outdoor watering bans? And whattayaknow? While flowers and vegetables gasp for water, weeds seem to thrive under these conditions.

Crabgrass can grow on bowling balls in airless rooms, and there is no known way to kill it that does not involve nuclear weapons.  [Dave Barry] 

They say hard work doesn't hurt anyone, but at my age, why take chances? I tend to agree with good ol' Tex here:

The best way to garden is to put on a wide-brimmed hat and some old clothes. And with a hoe in one hand and a cold drink in the other, tell somebody else where to dig.  [Texas Bix Bender]

Alas, nobody was around who was willing to let me stand around giving orders, so I tempted fate last week and went outside in the early morning (before the heat index hit triple digits) to weed and prune. I know. What a trooper, right?

So I grabbed a rug to protect my dainty little knees, my handy-dandy gloves, hand hoe, clippers, pruners, and trowel, and I was ready to go. Approximately two minutes later, the attack began.

First, the reconnaissance mosquito swooped down to sample the cuisine. Then came the rest of his brigade.

You think weeds are organized? They've got nothing on mosquitoes.

So, I tore into the house to swap shorts for sweat pants and to douse myself in bug spray. Which, I'm pretty sure, the mosquitoes around here actually like. Kinda like a finishing sauce.


But, I eventually managed to finish the job. (Which, of course, could stand to be done all over again now.) For some reason, our front garden is a flipping magnet for wild onions. Pain in the derriere to keep digging them out and digging them out, too. But didja know if you don't dig 'em out, they grow pretty little purple flowers? (ahem)  I may have read that somewhere ... yeah, that's the ticket...

Anyhow, the task gave me plenty of time to hum and think. Like, about editing. Wouldn't it be nice if it were as easy to axe the deadwood from a written work as it is to prune it from a bush? And, watching all those tiny bugs scurrying around, I thought about how tiny we are in comparison to the universe. Suppose we're part of some kind of a cosmic garden, waiting for the Master Gardener to come pull weeds? Then the question becomes: are we the weeds... or the flowers? (Yeah, I was getting a little heat-addled by that time.)

Even so, it kinda made me wonder. Who am to decide which plants should grow and which should go?



Some...  no... most... wildflowers are beautiful.







And Ralph Waldo Emerson, a very wise man, I might add, said, What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.

I think he's absolutely right! So, I may just have to reconsider this whole notion of pulling weeds. Because, if you think about it,

                                                              Dandelions are quite dandy.

(sigh) If I could only grow green stuff in my garden like I can in my refrigerator... [unknown]

                                          Okay, hands up. I give. Time to throw in the trowel.

For now. I have been looking at topiary pictures lately. That just might be the way to go, ya know? Think our neighbors will be impressed?


                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

** All images, except the last one, come from morguefile The topiary shot is courtesy of seniorark