Friday, October 27, 2017

Building Bridges

Thought for the day:  Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.  [C.S. Lewis]

Most of us encounter countless little grievances every day, whether it's someone cutting us off in traffic, stepping on our toes, or hurting our feelings in some way, and for most of us, those things are fairly easy to forgive.

But how about the REALLY BIG things? How well do you handle that kind of forgiveness? How well can anybody handle it?

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. [Mahatma Gandhi]

The first time I personally witnessed genuine forgiveness in the face of something seemingly unforgivable occurred some years ago, when the widowed mother of one of Smarticus' coworkers opened her home and heart to a troubled teenager in need. The girl robbed, brutally attacked and killed that loving lady, but our friend forgave that girl, completely and absolutely. By Mahatma Gandhi's definition, she was (and remains) a very strong woman. She forgave... even when forgiveness wasn't asked of her.

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless. [C.K. Chesterton]

[image courtesy of wikipedia]
Then there's another case of forgiveness, in which the evil-doer did ask for forgiveness. For many years, Elwin Wilson, filled with hatred, supported numerous KKK activities, including the brutal 1961 beating of iconic freedom fighter John Lewis, who later became (and still is) a member of Congress. Like most civil rights pioneers, Lewis did not resist.

... do to us what you will, and we will still love you. [Martin Luther King, Jr.]

... we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. And one day, we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves. We will so appeal to your heart and your conscience that we will win you in the process. [Martin Luther King, Jr.]

It took a while, but Mr. Wilson had a change of heart and came to regret the things he'd done as a young man. Hounded by his conscience, he went to Washington, D.C. in 2009 and offered a face-to-face heartfelt apology to Rep. Lewis. Not only was forgiveness granted, but the men embraced... and together, they wept.

                                                 Love can... and did... overcome evil.

[image courtesy of Morguefile]

On October 2, 2006, 32-year old Charles Roberts, a husband and father of three, entered the one-room West Nickels Mine Amish School in Pennsylvania, ordered the boys and adults to leave, and then he tied up ten little girls between the ages of six and thirteen. He shot all ten girls, killing five, and then he killed himself.

In the hours after the killings, an Amish man named Henry visited the shooter's parents to give them a message. He put his hand on the father's shoulder and called him... friend. Not only did the entire Amish community forgive the killer's parents; the couple was embraced as part of their community. Men and women, some of whom had lost daughters at the hand of Charles Roberts, approached his parents to offer condolences over the loss of their son. Thirty of them attended Roberts' funeral... so they could form a wall to block out media cameras. In the years since the attack, the relationship between the Amish community and the Roberts family flourished, demonstrating over and over again the unstoppable powers of love, compassion, and forgiveness. Mrs. Roberts died this summer, but during her 13-year battle with cancer, members of the Amish community provided endless support, love, and assistance to her and her family.

In this photo, Terri Roberts holds a photo of her son, and over her shoulder is a hand-carved gift... Forgiven... which was presented to her by the Amish community shortly after the shooting. But the community didn't just give her and her husband a lovely wall-hanging... they gave them the immeasurably priceless gift of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the final form of love. [Reinhold Niebuhr]

Hopefully, none of you have anything so horrific to forgive, but here's the thing. Holding a grudge about something, big or small, whether it occurred years and years ago or as recently as today, only serves to strengthen the venom of hatred. So if you think about it, withholding forgiveness is like trying to poison someone else by swallowing the poison yourself.

Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner. [Max Lucado]

So why a post about forgiveness? Because there's an enormous amount of vitriol in today's world, threatening to tear us apart by building walls between us and dividing us by our perceived differences. But we are far more alike than different, and we don't need more walls. We need bridges of love, compassion, and forgiveness to bring us together. In the face of insane happenings in the world, I must believe that love can... and will... overcome evil. And it begins with each one of us.

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

Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. [St. Francis]

Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace. [Mother Theresa]

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Grace-ful Tale

Thought for the day:  Finishing a good book is like leaving good friends. [William Feather]

That Feather dude knew what he was talking about, didn't he? That's exactly how I feel after I finish reading a good book, and exactly how I felt after finishing the book I'm gonna tell you about today.

The lovely Carol Kilgore launched her latest book earlier this week. Okay, so maybe it's a little late to announce the lift-off.  By now, her book is waaaay up there in the stratosphere somewhere, but at least by waiting until today to post about her book, I can honestly say I've already read it... and I LOVE it.

There are many terrific characters in this book, but Gracie is the good friend I'm most looking forward to reconnecting with in the next book. She's klutzy, lovable, brave, super observant, and smart, smart, smart. I can't wait until Book Two launches!

Wanta hear more? Read on.

A Hot and Spicy Taste of Murder – and Beyond

Law enforcement consultant Gracie Hofner is assigned to a trendy San Antonio pastry shop to watch for a delivery. In addition to the intoxicating aromas of sugar and chocolate, she also has to fight her own attraction to the man working beside her, Donovan Beck. He’s a hunk and a half and perfect for a spring fling.

If she had more time, Donovan would rank higher on her to-do list. But the number one spot is occupied by her search for a missing little girl, the target of a killer. Gracie needs to find her pronto, and the odd super-instinct quirk that’s started plaguing her may help. If not, she can always see what happens if it tells her to buy a lottery ticket.

Jalapeno Cupcake Wench is the first book in The Amazing Gracie Trilogy, a story so big, it takes three books to tell it.

Brief Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Cold! Cold! Gracie Hofner looked down. I can’t believe I did that. While reaching for her buzzing phone, she’d poured the remains of her water bottle, intended for her impatiens, over her bare feet. She pressed the button. “Hi, Nicky.”
“Morning. I’ve got something you may want to see.” The voice on Gracie’s phone belonged to Nick Rivera, her partner.
Former partner. Their paths had been the same—patrol, homicide detectives, and then detectives in the San Antonio Regional Intelligence Center—SARIC. San Antonio Police Department all the way. Except unlike her, Nick had found his niche there.
In addition, they were friends. “Fun or work?”
“Nothing fun about murder, Gracie.”
She went inside for a pad and pencil, greeted by the aroma of the coffee that had brewed while she jogged. “Are we cleared?”
“Negative. Double homicide. Missing family.”
“If the family’s missing, who’s dead?”
“Hector and Therese Cantu. You ever heard of Cantu Electric?” 
“Don’t think so.”
“Good reputation on the West Side. They’ve been around since my dad was a kid—started by Hector Cantu’s father back in the fifties. The old commercial was like Cantu can do. Hector’s son runs the business now. Mr. Cantu’s retired. Rephrase—now he’s good and retired. He and his wife are the deceased.”
She moved to the table and put her phone on speaker so she could take notes. “Who’s missing?”
 “The Cantus have three kids, two daughters and the son, all grown. Besides the electrician business, the son owns an upscale retail lighting store. High end only. Kim and I went in there after we bought our house. I couldn’t afford a switchplate, much less a lamp or fixture. The son and his family are missing.”
“How many?”
“Three. Husband, wife, daughter.”

Visit the “Look Inside” feature here to read more:

About the Author:

In addition to Jalapeno Cupcake Wench, Carol Kilgore is the author of three romantic suspense novels: In Name Only, Solomon’s Compass, and Secrets of Honor. She’s married, guardian to two quirky dogs, and lives in San Antonio, the setting for the trilogy.


                                       Doesn't it sound terrific? (That's because it IS!!!)

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

This 'n' That

Thought for the day:  Compassion is language the deaf can hear and the blind can see. [Mark Twain]

[image courtesy of morguefile]
Yes, I agree with Mr. Twain, because compassion is communicated heart-to-heart. I'm all in favor of compassion and understanding, and I wholeheartedly applaud the laws which were (finally) enacted to level the playing field a bit for people with certain disabilities. A caring society should do no less than to provide equal access to all citizens whenever possible.

And yet... there's THIS...

I honestly don't know what to think about a newspaper article I read earlier this week, so I'm gonna throw it out to you guys, and see what you think.

Movie enthusiast Paul McGann asked a Cinemark theater in Pittsburgh to provide a tactile interpreter so he could see the movie Gone Girl. [FYI: Tactile interpretation involves placing one's hands over the hands of an interpreter, who then uses sign language to describe the movie's actions, etc.] The movie theater denied Mr. McGann's request, and the gentleman took them to court. As of now, an appeals court has ruled that according to federal disability law, theaters are required to provide specialized interpreters for blind and deaf patrons. This case will likely go through more appeals before a final decision is made, but what do YOU think?

[image courtesy of morguefile]

Is it reasonable, or even possible, for every movie theater to hire interpreters? How would they even do that? Have a number of them on call and summon one to the movie when needed, or would they have to pay a flat rate to keep interpreters available, whether or not a patron ever requests their services?  Mr. McCann uses American Sign Language, but would it be sufficient for theaters to hire ASL interpreters? How about the patrons who use a different sign language...? How cost-prohibitive would this all be? Could this signal the end of movie theaters altogether?

Seriously, I'd love to know what you think about this matter.

And now... on to THAT...

[Dot and Dash]
It's no secret that Smarticus and I have two very spoiled and most-loving-in-the-whole-world cats. Lots of you guys have much-loved kitties... and dogs... too, and I know you're every bit as attached to your critters as we are.

Another newspaper article highlighted a different sort of furry companion that's expected to hit the markets next summer. An invention of Japanese company Yukai Engineering, Qoobo has fur, a twitchy tail, and even vibrates like a purring kitty, but it doesn't eat, or ralph up hairballs all over the house, or gnaw on your plants, or need a litter box... because it, um, has no head. It's essentially a round 2-pound pillow with a tail.

Some outraged pet owners say it's ridiculous to think anyone could ever love one of these things, and it's insulting to think it could ever replace sweet little Fluffy or Fido.

And YET... I believe this gizmo will find a niche. Not for those of us who are able to love and care for our pets, but how about for certain nursing home patients (or others) who may not be of sound mind or body? Wouldn't it maybe provide them some of the valuable serenity and calmness ordinarily found by holding and petting a real living, breathing purring kitty? What do YOU think?

Now that I've covered THIS and THAT, it's time for me to scat. (ahem) Dot and Dash are seeking my services...

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Writing with Sense

Thought for the day:  You can't blame a writer for what the characters say. [Truman Capote]

Mr. Capote was right. I would NEVER use some of the language (tsk!tsk!) my characters use... but some of the people I know might...

Hi-ya. It's that time again, folks. Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

Okay, before I answer this month's question, let's take a minute to consider how we can incorporate sensory perceptions into our writing, shall we?

Studies indicate that the male brain, not to mention certain other sundry body parts, responds more enthusiastically to visual stimuli than the female brain. That is, the sight of bare flesh has the tendency to rev up a man's juices faster than it will a woman's. That doesn't mean men are more responsive to non-sexual visual stimuli, however. Smarticus considers traipsing around behind me in an art museum to be a scant step above having a root canal. Nor does it mean women are immune to the visual appeal of certain male physiques, either. I've heard some women say the only reason they watch football is for the sheer pleasure of ogling all those tight bottoms clad in tight breeches. (Not that I've ever noticed, mind you. I watch it purely for the game.)

An excellent athlete, I'm sure.

To varying degrees, we all react to visual images. Females respond viscerally to the sight of babies, both human and animal. Men are more apt to notice an anomaly in their surroundings. Or in a movie. This, however, may be due to the fact that while a teary-eyed woman is absorbed in the story, her man may be bored out of his gourd and is therefore itching to poke holes in the movie for his own perverse entertainment. (I mean, really, who CARES if a Roman gladiator is wearing Reeboks, right?)


The point is, yes, men react, women react, we all react to what we see. But why do some writers work so hard to reproduce a specific visual image in the minds of their readers while completely ignoring the value of our other senses?

Like hearing. It would be totally cool if life were accompanied by a soundtrack, wouldn't it? If music could warn us when danger's coming, or if maybe a goofy-sounding ditty could've let my son-in-law's Uncle Mike know I was just joking when I told him we'd already met our quota for Mikes at the wedding, so he'd have to leave. (Thankfully, after a brief awkward moment, he DID laugh ...)

If your entrance were marked with music, what do you think it would be?

I'd like to think mine would be some really cool, sexy down and dirty sloooow sax music with a nice bass backbeat, but unfortunately, I'm more of a bouncy Mancini's Baby Elephant Walk kinda person. (sigh)

Some writers listen to music when they write. It helps them tap into the proper mood they're attempting to recreate with their words. Kinda like adding a soundtrack to their writing. Do you think it's possible for a writer to provide some semblance of auditory stimulation for his readers, as well?

Yeah, I think it is. Can't provide a full-blown soundtrack, of course, but word choice makes all the difference. Take the statement: The dog barked. Sure, it provides us with the basic information, and we understand what the words are saying, but how about this statement: The chihuahua yapped like a pit bull on helium. It provides the same information but in a manner such that we can almost hear the little mutt.

Certain sounds leave indelible marks on our psyches, like fingernails scraping across a blackboard, a bugler playing the haunting notes of Taps, coyotes howling, and bombs exploding. When a writer successfully taps into the sounds existing in our collective psyches, he may indeed make it possible for a reader to clearly hear the action in his mind. (And let's not forget the potential power of POW-BOOM-SPLAT onomatopoeia, either.)

Incorporating taste and touch into our writings is also possible if we take advantage of common sensory experiences. Most of us are familiar with the taste of blood, salt, and vinegar, and the feel of silk, satin, and sand paper.

But I'm more interested in the sense of smell.

Smells have the uncanny ability to evoke very strong deep-rooted reactions and emotions. Don't believe me? Have you ever experienced the phenomenon of catching a whiff of baking bread, a dank musty cellar, a certain brand of perfume or aftershave, or even the scent of sulfur, and been immediately gut-punched by an unexpected memory?

Does the smell of sulfur elicit any memories for you?

Psychologists say our brains are hardwired to associate smells with memories. It's only natural that whenever I smell a dank dusty smell, I am immediately transported to my maternal grandmother's scary cellar. There's a certain expensive brand of make-up ... I don't know what it IS, because I'm ... er ... thrifty ... but whenever I catch a faint whiff of it, I'm cuddled up next to my paternal grandmother again. Old Spice? Can't smell the stuff without thinking of my father.

So, the wise writer will make an effort to incorporate smells into his work. Take advantage of your capacity to stimulate associative memories with your smelly words. Because the bottom line is, evoking a reader's reaction to the smells you describe in your writing will also evoke a strong reaction to your writing itself.

Ya know? Kinda makes me wonder if when I'm long gone, my children and grandchildren will associate any particular scent with me. 

                                         Hmmmm, maybe I'd better lay off the baked beans...

Question of the Month: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose? 

Hey, I'm no Hemingway, but I think he was right. To create realistic characters, I think it's only natural for writers to draw from some of the real people they know in real life. Kinda like making a witch's brew: a little bit from this one, a little bit from that one... such that characteristics we admire in certain people we know will logically find their way into characters we want readers to like, and traits we dislike may influence the portrayal of our villains. 

One could say that certain traits of my husband may have found their way into the portrayal of my character George in Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade... but in no way was the character an accurate portrayal of my hubby as a whole. When Smarticus read the book, evidently he must have related to the character... so much so that he said, "Hey! I never said (or did) that!" 

Ditto, actual events from our lives may find their way into our books. For example, many years ago, one of my cousins really did toss her entire dinner out the door when her hubby came home from work acting like a jerk, and my memory of that led me to include a similar scene in my book. I mean, really, that's too priceless not to include. So, yeah, bottom line, I've done these things on purpose

However, I think the characters in my current book originated entirely within my imagination. (I am kinda accident-prone, though...)

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