Tag Archive | writers

Getting out of “Dodge”

travelI hope some of you noticed I took a hiatus from blogging. Being missed by someone is a compliment, so I guess I’m also being presumptuous you’re glad I’ve returned.

Grounded No More,” my seventh historical novel has been keeping me away, but this morning I put the finishing touches on it to go to my editor. I so enjoy historical fiction. I love researching other time periods to catch a glimpse of the people who lived those years. I’ve zeroed in on the World War II era because I find the sacrifices and hardships people endured amazing. I enjoy how people faced their fears and carried on in the face of adversity–particularly the women who were expected to become someone else in a blink of an eye. Through propaganda campaigns, they entered the workforce in all kinds of jobs, including some very dangerous ones.

The other fact that has kept me away from blogging is personal. I’ve been soul searching for some answers. Being a caretaker impacts a person in ways you never expect. As you might imagine, Ken’s Multiple Sclerosis can be trying at times. I must continually remind myself what he does is the disease and not him, but sometimes I drown myself in something artistic to put down my emotions of losing him bit by bit.

The winter has kept us both in the house longer than usual, so I haven’t been outside to start my spring clean-up and plant my flowers. We’ve been together 24/7 for over three years, and I need a respite, but going on such a journey has turned into an overwhelming task.

Because Ken would rather stay home than go to a care center, the quest is more difficult. I need to find him a qualified person to provide 24-hour care. When I expressed my frustration with the woman who acts as our coordinator, she said she’d work with the nurse and help me get this done. I guess it helps to whine once in a while.

Another part of my challenge is myself. My heart needs to stay home, but my head realizes without a break sometime in the near future, I might snap. My patience will wane, and I’ll do or say something I will regret. I equate the emotion to putting my little girl on the bus for kindergarten, only this time I’m the little girl.

My ordeal now boils down to letting go. When I must release my hold on something or someone I love, I need to take small steps, so when a girlfriend invited me to go “up north” with her for a weekend, I could consider her offer. I realize baby steps will be best for both Ken and me, so we’ll muddle through this first short separation, and if things go well, perhaps then I can plan a trip to Florida to visit my dear friend Kay–which was my original intention when I began this respite quest. I’m simply not ready for such a long separation.

Ken and I are lucky.  Through our relationship of nineteen years, we enjoyed many wonderful trips together. Timeshares in different parts of the country. A couple of cruises. Weekend getaways in quaint Bed & Breakfast places or swanky hotels. I am thankful for all of the good times, but I’m sad we will probably never travel together like this again.

 

My Writing Process

ground_hog_2007Have you ever felt like you were on the set of “Ground Hog Day?”  You know the movie. Bill Murray relives the same day over and over and over again. There seems to be no way out. I think I know how he felt.

This winter has been horrible for everyone. People living in the northern states have learned how to endure the never-ending grey, COLD, snowy days. People in the southern states say have winter–temps in the 50s and 60s, but this year there has been ice and snow in Atlanta.

Everyone is talking about the weather, even though I try to keep my comments to a bare minimum, but being retired now, this weather is holding me prisoner.

One day my car didn’t start because even sheltered in the garage, the temperature was ten below zero. One day my back got a chill and the muscles seized up which has put a severe pain in my backside.

Ken and I feel like a couple of grounded teenagers. Worst of all, this inclement weather has emphasized the sameness of our “normal” life. When the temperature rises above zero, we have two or three inches of snow to jazz things up . . . and because Ken’s wheelchair doesn’t have snow tires, he can get stuck in the stuff.

The one good thing this sequestering has done has been to plunk butt down in my chair and finish the first draft of my seventh novel. Now, I’m re-reading the story and putting the first pass of editing on it before I send it off to my editor.

Yesterday when I talked to a friend who has moved to Florida (who was sitting on her porch slipping lemonade), she was flabbergasted I would reread and edit my work a couple of times before any other eyes saw the text. I see this element as part of the process. I was surprised at her reaction because she likes to think of herself as a writer, too.

Do any of you come from the school of writing that I do? Do you rewrite your prose a couple of times before sending it out? Do you pass it in front of a person you trust before thinking it’s “done?” I can remember doing such a thing since I was in high school. To me this part of writing is normal.

What do you do when you complete a “first draft” of one of your pieces?

The Best of Christmas Everyday

Christmas Party 007With Christmas just around the corner, I’m happy to share what a great life our time here can be. Even with all the hardships of Ken’s M. S., we still find joy in each other as we spend each day doing ordinary things. We are truly blessed with a wonderful family and a stable of faithful friends. Sometimes I wonder how we got so lucky.

Usually people count their blessings on Thanksgiving, but I do everyday. Ken’s wonderful family has sustained us through times when our car was repossessed, there were few groceries in our cupboard, and a pile of bills we didn’t know how we would ever pay. Ken’s Aunt Lil rallied the family together to pay for a beautiful wheelchair ramp our friend Scott Martyn built. Now we can get Ken’s power wheelchair out of the house and into the van that also miraculously came along this year.

Aunts Sharon, Lil, and Rita have sent us checks when we really needed the money. Our friends gathered together to clean our kitchen, which had gotten to the really yucky phase because my arthritis in my hip and knee doesn’t allow me to wash floors and walls any longer.  Then there’s Ken’s brother Steve who has treated us to many a meal out. And who can ever forget our Secret Santa who has sent us extravagant gift cards every year for the past four years.

Through the intervention of angels, we were put in touch with the ARDC which helped us learn about agencies that aid people like us who have fallen into a financial pit because of devastating illness and unemployment. Then there’s the people at Societies Assets who agreed we needed to move our laundry facilities upstairs. Again, Scott and his crew stepped in and built us a beautiful laundry room that will save so many agonizing steps. There’s also the support of the IRIS people who have provided us with Kaitlin who guides us through the government bureaucracy.

This year has been one of learning how to accept help. For a couple of baby boomers, this is a hard lesson because for so many years we’ve stood on our own two feet, not needing such help. For some, accepting help is a lesson in humility. For me, it has been a blessing. I’ve learned to how to say thank you in so many ways.

Even though these trials have come along, so has the opportunity to focus my energy into producing stories and novels. Needless to say, these years of hardship have also been wonderful for my writing career. Teaching basic grammar has strengthened my writing and also given me satisfaction of reaching one or two students. This blog is my 368th post, and slowly, I’ve been able to spread my words and phrases across the world. It is my hope that I give hope and inspiration to other writers, along with a few laughs and joys to others who just enjoy reading what I have to say.

My wish is that everyone reading this post will find happiness inside. Then share that happiness with a friend, a family member, or even a complete stranger because it’s through everyone of us God works his miracles. And believe me, they do exist.

Curiosity Results in Life-Long Learning

curiosityPeter Mallet’s blog is one of my favorite blogs. He’s dedicated his blog to giving other writers very good advice. He also offers a variety of links to other helps a writer can use. While I was reading his post this morning, I came across these words:

“The best writers are curious. I think the addition to that rule should be, “Always strive to know more than you do at any given moment.” Never stop learning.”

In those two sentences, Peter summed me up. I think this is why I chose to write historical fiction. First, I was curious about the time period of my parents, and second, I constantly love to learn things I didn’t know.

Right now, I’m researching women  pilots of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Most people have heard about Amelia Earhart, but have you heard about Jackie Cochran? Did you know that British women and American women pilots provided a valuable service of ferrying planes from the factories to the airfields, so men could devote their time to combat flying? Did you know there were women who actually flew in combat? I didn’t either until I started researching.

I believe my natural curiosity drove my mother nuts because she felt, as my parent, she needed to know everything instead of saying, “I don’t know, let’s go find out together,” she made something up. That technique worked until I got old enough to prove her wrong. From then on, I never asked her questions any more. Instead, I headed for my neighbor’s encyclopedias.

When my children came along, I thought the best thing I could do for them was cultivate their curiosity. As we drove along in the car, I’d say something like, “I wonder why that tree grew so crooked.”  As we walked through a park, I’d ask, “I wonder what kind of flower that is.” Then we would go home and look up the answer. I wanted my girls to be aware of the world around them, and I wanted them to grow up asking their own questions.

One of the things which concerns me is the lack of curiosity I’ve seen in today’s young people. I would be happy if they had questions and satisfied them quickly by searching the Internet. They have this powerful tool as close as their “smart” phones, but they are more apt to text their friends and wonder, “Whatssup?”

We live in a world where if you stop learning and asking “Why?”, you may as well lay down and die. When I see this kind of attitude in my students, I worry about their futures as well as that of our country. Curiosity is cultivated by parents and teachers. We need to ask our children, “What do you think?” Light their fire. Make them think. Get them excited about the world around them.

An Impending Interview

interview_in_progressI had a big surprise this morning. Greg Berg from the local public radio station called and requested an interview to talk about my novels! I’m always excited to talk about my writing, but to have a public forum like this is very special. Right now I’m basking in the afterglow and saying my thanks to the writing gods.

We’ll record the interview over the phone next Monday morning. The radio program is on the air early in the morning–I think he said his show is aired from eight to nine o’clock in the morning. He asked me whether I had anything going at that time, and I replied, “Other than sleeping, not a thing.” That got a laugh. Little did he know I was telling the truth. This retirement gig has its perks.

So, next Monday I will be talking about all my “girls” and their men who go through World War II like no other generation. As I continue to research and write about this time period, I am always awed by the way a divided America came together overnight after the Japanese attack. People assumed roles they never would have in any other circumstances as they all faced an uncertain future.

We also talked about the fact I teach at the college where the program is broadcast. I made the comment teaching basic writing and grammar has made me a better writer because I’m conscious of the building blocks of our language.

Perhaps this interview will also spur me on to get back to writing my latest project about. Lately I’ve lost my drive to write everyday and crank out at least a chapter a day. The carpal tunnel really derailed my efforts, but then the malady became an excuse. And the excuse became a bad habit.

After the Thanksgiving festivities, and as I stay out of the craziness on Black Friday, I will once again get back to work. Now that my intention is in writing, I WILL get back on the writing track. Carpal tunnel be damned!

Leaving Yourself on The Page

This morning as I read through the blogs I follow with regularity, I came across this in Candycoatedreality:  Every time I write, I leave pieces of me on the page.

These few words resonated with me because as bloggers we do so in a very big world. We  unknowingly unveil our very souls to people who follow us.

As we all know, there can be no false masks in good writing. We can all use our imaginations to bring forth fantasy and other fictional tales, but deep down, the writer’s own personality is the bedrock of the writing.

I kind of like that idea. Maybe it’s because I’m old enough to finally accept myself as I am. I’ve tried to fit into boxes other people have designed for me, and dah — that didn’t work at all for me. The images of what other people wanted for me didn’t suit me, and I was the unhappy one. The good thing about going through such experiences is I found out what I didn’t want in my life. It wasn’t until I had the courage to cut MY path by using MY machete to get through the brush did I find the peaceful meadow.

Climbing out of boxes other people build for you is a brave feat. For me, it meant divorce and estrangement from my teenage children. It meant living on my own for the first time in my life. It meant not having the money I was accustomed to having. But the result was so worth the effort. For the first time in my life, I had the freedom to explore me, throwing out the parts I didn’t like and nurturing the parts that I did like.

Liberation does come with a price, though. Some people I used to call “friend” had to fall by the wayside because of the changes that were taking place in me.  I slowly emerged as a new person I liked better than the old one. I wasn’t afraid any more. I stood up for myself and took calculated risks that paid off. After all the exploration and work was done, I met a wonderful man who wanted me for me. He had no desire to make me over in his own image and restrict me to a box.

Ken and I have had almost twenty years together. We’ve weathered the storms of life that caused us to strap ourselves to the mast of our ship. We’ve felt the sting of the churning waters of sickness and unemployment. Weathering such storms together showed us we can face anything.

If you find yourself in a place where you don’t fit, don’t waste time to change your situation. It might be scary or hard or both, but in the long run the sacrifices you make will be so worth it.

Finally, know the only person you can change is yourself.

What’s This? Working on a Sunday?

workI usually don’t blog on Sunday morning because I think I need the day off. That’s rather curious because other than a part-time teaching gig and being a caretaker for my husband, I don’t work.

WORK — It’s a crazy word. What does it really mean?

In our society, most people think REAL WORKING involves leaving home, driving several miles to another place, spending at least eight hours there, while most of the time we’re wishing we were somewhere else. We complain about how stupid bosses are and that we don’t make enough money for the effort we exert. Worse yet, if we don’t involve ourselves in this kind of activity, society pretty much sees us as retired or slackers.

Debating with myself over this issue I turned to the dictionary to describe to me what work really is. Here’s what the old Oxford Dictionary had to say:

WorkNoun 1. activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result; 2. mental or physical activity as a means of earning income; employment; 3. a task or tasks to be undertaken; something a person or thing has to do.

Of course, this is just a snippet of the full definition. Most writers I know don’t go anywhere to participate in their profession. Lucky writers may have a studio in their homes or they may take themselves out the local coffee shop for inspiration.  Personally, I sit in an over-sized chair in my living room with my dog sleeping and snoring beside me as I pound out pages of prose.

My blue-collar family still makes me feel like I’m not working, and the dictionary definition confirms they are right. Definition number one comes close to what I do, but when I write, I don’t always have a purpose. Number two is certainly not my experience. I’ve written seven novels and haven’t earned a penny even though they all have been published by a “traditional” publisher. And, finally, number three isn’t accurate because I chose to write; no one is putting a gun to my head, (although sometimes when I’m blocked, that terror might help.)

So, I guess it’s true. I’m not working. I’m creating. I’m having fun thinking. I’m spinning stories many people have told me they have truly enjoyed. What is it that some anonymous soothsayer said:  Find something you love and you’ll  never work again. Yeah. That’s the path I’ve chosen. Royalties or no royalties.

The Wonderful World of Blogging and Its Surprises

Here we going a blogging among the world of words!

Here we going a blogging among the world of words!

For the past couple of weeks, I haven’t blogged everyday as I intended when I entered this new world over a year ago because Ken and I have been out enjoying the gorgeous Fall weather with our friends and family. It’s nice to have the freedom to come and go as we please with the aid of our new/old van with the wheelchair lift. Having that little bit more freedom has made me a happy camper.

Originally I started this blog to give people a taste of my writing prowess. Selfishly, I hoped some of my visitors would rush right out to Amazon or Barnes and Noble to buy my books. However, like most experiences, this blogging thing hasn’t turned out the way I intended. In fact, I dislike blogs which only exist to sell something.

Instead, this platform has offered me so much more. I’ve found a world of like thinkers, writers, and artists who offer me as much as I can offer them. I have a place to think through my everyday challenges by sharing them with all of you. I vent when I’m frustrated and cheer when something wonderful crosses my path, and being able to share that with an audience, makes the bad stuff not so bad and the good stuff so much better,

The saddest part of blogging is when a person who was with me for over a year stops coming to my blogging doorstep. I never thought that such an acquaintance would ever be a such a terrible loss, but it is. I miss her. She used to make comments on most of my posts, and we found that even though we were a world apart, we were a lot alike. I NEVER expected to feel a loss for a person I never met.

The other surprise I’ve found with blogging is I enjoy reading about people’s experiences much more than I enjoy reading self-help type columns. Don’t get me wrong, the bloggers who offer insights on writing and other topics do us all a service, and I do enjoy their work; however, I am a frequent visitor to blogs where I can “get to know” the writer, their challenges, and their successes. I enjoy pieces about everyday life. It’s fun to read about a stay-at-home mom’s challenges with her little ones, or a student struggling with the life on campus, or other Baby Boomers who deal with the disappointments and fun of growing older. With these blogs coming from different parts of the States or around the world, I can expand my worldview from my own living  room. How great is that?

For those of you who come and read my blog, I want to thank you for taking an interest in what I have to say. If you’re like me and enjoy reading about the simple frustrations or accomplishments we all experience in our normal lives, I appreciate you stopping by to learn what’s going on in the McCloskey household and for taking your valuable time to care and make a comment. For those of us who are caretaking for someone else, writing, teaching, and once and a while getting up on a soapbox about some injustice, it’s nice to have a venue to talk about such things.  Don’t you think?

 

 

Stephania Hits the Presses

Stephania Comes to America0001Yesterday I signed off on the final manuscript of  my most recent novel — “Stephania Comes to America.” When I do my final review, I pray I’ve caught all of the typos and missing words that my brain didn’t catch the first time around. Much to my chagrin, after the book is finally in my hands, I haven’t caught all of the mistakes. It’s my most frustrating part of my writing.

It turns out I’m fighting my common brain. Yeah. That’s right. My brain fills in the missing words, and it doesn’t allow my eyeballs to see all the typos. I understand this because of a  program on the Science Channel called, “My Bleeped Up Brain,” This program demonstrated why this happens. It seems our brains can’t process EVERYTHING it takes in, it edits for us. In the case of editing, our brains automatically fills in words where they haven’t been written. How do we fight that?

I thought the answer was to have my eagle-eye buddy Linda proofread the manuscript after my editor had passed her critical eye over the book. I’ve had many people tell me that they have enjoyed my stories, but the missed typos have driven them nuts. I assure you, my friends, this frustrates me as much as it does others.  When I see mistakes in a piece of writing, I also think the author must either be careless or hurried. Now I understand it’s neither. It’s humanity frailty.

So from on, I am more tolerant of other’s typos (and my own, too). Perhaps someday, I’ll have an omniscient editor who has better eye balls than I do.

Real History Told

historyI love history. I love learning how people lived during different time periods. I want to know how they viewed the world and what they did because of their beliefs. I also enjoy hearing how written history — what we all learned in school — is just one person’s take on what really happened. Not surprisingly, the tales we learned are just that — tales.

Last night, I enjoyed a History Channel program called Fact or Fiction. The program covered the Mayflower coming to America, the Pilgrim’s first year of life here, and first Thanksgiving. The show compared the “facts” most of us believe with what actually happened in 1620.

Did you know the Mayflower was one of two ships that set sail for the new land? Yup. The other ship had to turn around twice before it ever left England because it leaked. Because the ship couldn’t be made sea worthy, the Mayflower took on more passengers than it should have had. mayflower

As far as landing on Plymouth Rock, well nobody knows for sure. In the historical log, there is no mention of the big rock. Actually, the Pilgrims were sailing for the port that was at the Hudson River (NYC), but strong winds blew them north, thus they landed in what now is Massachusetts. More likely Plymouth Rock was a landmark and for sure the Pilgrims didn’t step on it. 

The first year of life was tough on the novice settlers. Only half of the Pilgrims lived, and the survivors wouldn’t have lived if it hadn’t been for Squanto, an Indian who had earlier been captured by the English and thrown into slavery. While he was in England, he learned the language. At some point he escaped and sailed back to his home only to find that most of his tribe had been wiped out by smallpox.squanto

But this man, put aside any anger he might have had for the white man and taught the new settlers how to plant corn, hunt, and fish. Squanto was also instrumental in arranging a treaty with the Wampanoag Indians. In 1621, Massasoit, the chief of the tribe signed a “treaty of friendship” giving the English permission to occupy 12,000 acres of land. 

Now let’s talk about Thanksgiving. First of all, the Pilgrims only invited Chief Massasoit to dinner to commemorate the treaty. He in turn, invited 90 other Indians who first went out hunting and provided the meat for the meal. And no, it wasn’t turkey. It was venison.pilgrims

The thanksgivings after the first one were very dark–not at all the “Home Sweet Home” version we like to conjure up. If you’re interested in reading how the white man murdered over 700 Pequot Indians, here’s the link.  http://rense.com/general45/thanks.htm It’s much too gory for me to repeat.

My point to this discussion is that we all remember history to suit our needs. The truth about what really happened is in the hands of  people who wrote it down, and when stories are retold, the bad things seem to get lost. Worse yet, even some of the good things get lost. How many of you ever heard of Squanto?

I rest my case.