Wednesday, October 22

My Favorite Books

I saw this quote by Judy Blume recently and it struck me...that one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me was a love of books.

Growing up I classified myself a middle class, but looking back we were probably more like lower-middle class. Not that that matters, really. We had plenty of food to eat, clothes to wear and a home to live in. My siblings and I argued, our parents argued. It was a normal upbringing. I have favorite memories with each of my siblings, but my most vibrant memories are of sitting in our parlor (we lived in an old Victorian house in the country) in an over-stuffed chair with a velveteen finish. Legs slung over one arm, back resting against the other and a book in my hand.

The books changed over the years. One of the first books I remember reading alone is In a People House. I graduated from single-sentence books fairly quickly and moved on to chapter books like Ramona Quimby, Age 8 or Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. I loved those books. I liked the adventures that kids were having and I couldn't help wondering if I would have more adventures if we lived in a huge city like New York or Chicago instead of our small town in Missouri.

Because my brother was reading it, I decided to try out The Chronicles of Narnia when I was about 9. I hated it. I didn't understand a lot of what the books were about (I got the adventure, but the sub-text was lost on me), but I diligently sat in my reading chair and struggled through books 1-3 before giving up. I would take aim at them later on and love them. Still do.

And then, around age 10, I discovered Dear Mr. Henshaw. Oh, how I loved that book. I think I checked it out of the school library about six times when I was in 4th grade. It was (also) a little above my reading level, but I didn't care. I liked how this boy would write to his favorite author and his favorite author would (sometimes) write back.

I wondered if I should write to my favorite author, which brought on about a week of debating the merits of Beverly Cleary vs. Judy Blume. In the end I decided I couldn't choose and I wrote two incredibly over the top letters to both of the authors about how they'd changed my life. At the age of 9. I'm positive they were impressed with my devotion to them and my wielding of the literary pen.

I've tried out every genre since those childhood days in my favorite chair and I can say that I love them all. But romance is the genre of my choice, both as a reader and as a writer and I think those early reading days are part of the reason. Because whether I was reading about a kid who hated his younger brother or living through the trials of school bullying, I was also finding a happy ending. Not always the love-kisses-sex happy endings of romance novels, but a sense of completion and acceptance that I equate with happiness.

And I'm also grateful to my parents who put limits on how much television we watched (of course, we found ways around their rules) and encouraged us to adventure through books...

Did you have a favorite author/book as a child? 

Tuesday, October 21

The Fellowship of Other Writers

Writing is a very solitary business. Well, that is, if you’re doing it right. The stories come from inside your head, the characters from your imagination, and the words from your heart, so it is, by its very nature, a job you do alone. I know all about working alone because my day job is being a freelance copyeditor—another very solitary career. I’ve always been a writer, ever since I could hold a pencil and spell, but when I began writing with purpose again several years ago, I believed my years as a freelancer meant I didn’t have to learn how to work by myself.

I confess, I take undue pride in my discipline as a freelance editor. When people have ask, “How do you ever get anything done working at home?” I simply smile serenely and reply, “You just do it. You have to because they’re paying you.” I am a very disciplined editor—okay, I’ll admit there are days when the laundry or the weeding or the ironing seem much more fascinating, but mostly, I sit down at my computer in the morning and work until noon. After a lunch break, I go back to work until supper and sometimes, if deadlines are tight, I go back to work until bedtime. It’s okay. It’s been my life for over 25 years.

But you know what? Writing is different. You do invent the stories by yourself, but you need to go to a well of creativity every so often to fill your cup. That well for me is the fellowship of my local Romance Writers of America chapter. The writers there range from multipublished authors to beginning writers, but unfailingly, their enthusiasm is contagious. The meetings are topical, and the members are interesting, supportive, and friendly. I may go into the meeting weighed down by a story that just won’t come together, but when I leave, I’m filled with a renewed sense of purpose, a new drive. Even better, close friends have come from being a part of a writers group. I can’t imagine my writing life without the good friends I’ve made there, and I know that I can call on them any time for advice, support, or even commiseration if that’s what needed.

Our chapter has a writers retreat every fall. To be honest, I avoided that weekend the first couple of years I was a member because I was too intimidated by the success of the authors in the group. But two years ago, I sucked it up and signed up for the event. What a wonderful, welcoming experience! The atmosphere is relaxed and casual. We all bring along our works-in-progress, as well as whatever authorial issues are bogging us down at that point in time. The fellowship is amazing as we all talk writing and editing and creativity. We write, we talk, we nap, we hike, we write, we eat (oh, dear lord, how we eat!), and then we talk some more. Evenings around the big stone fireplace become a time for catharsis and confession because we’re all secure in the knowledge that what happens at Retreat and what’s said at Retreat stays at Retreat. It is a glorious weekend!

Writers need the fellowship of other writers—it’s as necessary as dictionaries, research, and our thesauruses (thesaurusi?). The camaraderie is unlike any other friendship because we share that longing to be storytellers, that need to be storytellers. That’s one reason I’m so pleased to be part of Word Wranglers. I know I shall find new and special writer friends here as I settle into being a part of this world. I can’t imagine my life without my writerly pals, can you?

Monday, October 20

Having a little whine with my Christmas.

          I will apologize beforehand for what I think I’m about to write, but I’m looking for some answers and think you’ll have them for me.
          To start off with, I’m an old-fashioned-Christmas fanatic. (It’s always about me. Have you noticed? Okay, I apologize for that, too.) I start listening to Christmas music in October. I watch all the old Christmas movies, Hallmark Christmas movies, and TV Christmas episodes. I’m pretty sure I  could recite the Andy Griffith Show one if I had to. I go back and read Christmas anthologies and Christmas romances I’ve collected for years. Mary Balogh is a favorite―I think I could recite the A Christmas Promise, too. Well, not really, but I’ve read it a ton, and recently bought it for my Kindle because the covers are wearing off my print copy.
          I should add that one reason I love old-fashioned-Christmas everything is that I’m a Christian. The original “reason for the season” is still
the best one for me, and I read some inspirational Christmas romances, too. I enjoy them, but they are not what I’m looking for or talking about right now. What I'm talking about in this post is traditional stories that are not about the protagonists' spiritual path.
          Here’s where it gets sticky.
          I recently bought a box set of “sweet Christmas Romances.” There are a bunch of stories included in it, and I admit I’ve only read about half of them so far. They’re well-written, mostly well-edited, and cheerful reading. They all take place at Christmastime. I have no quarrel with the stories or the people who wrote them! I am a true fan of some of the writers.
          But so far—and let me repeat, I’ve only read half of them, but the blog was due this morning—most of them aren’t really about Christmas or its feelings and traditions. The only real reason they’re Christmas stories is that they take place in December.
          Remember I said I was looking for some answers? I’m hoping you’ll give them to me, both as writers and as readers.

  • Has traditional Christmas lost its spot in romantic fiction?
  • Am I being unreasonable to expect “sweet” and “traditional” to be synonymous in this instance?
  • Can you lead me to some new Christmas stories that are traditional?
  • Am I just starting too early? Are the snow, trees, Santa, children, carols stories still on their way?
  • Is there really a Santa Claus? And, yes, I’m being facetious with that question. I know there is.

Friday, October 17

Question Friday - How Do You?

Here we are again - it's Friday and that means it's time for our new meme here at WordWranglers. It's Question Friday! I took the question this because ... well, it happened to me. So, without further ado, our question:

You get a brilliant idea - plot bunny, piece of dialogue, insight into your character, whatever - at a totally inappropriate time - while driving, in the shower, in the dentist's chair, whatever - what do you do?

Liz said, "If I can, I put a note on my phone or write myself one on paper--remember that? All too often I simply lose it.  If I'm very lucky or if it's a really strong bunny, it will come back to me. If it's a piece of dialogue, I say it out loud more than once, regardless of strange looks I might get. I love Nan's singing idea, but I think I'd scare myself!"

Nan said, "If it’s possible to get to my phone, I either type it into the memo application or call my home phone and leave myself a message. If I can’t get to the phone (shower, driving, etc.), I sing it. That sounds so stupid, but if I put a tune to the concept and sing it several times, it’ll stick in my head until I can get to a paper and pencil or a computer or my phone. My husband knows what I’m doing now, but when I first started this several years, he thought I was a little nutso. Once a couple of years ago, when my Grandboy was just a baby, I got an idea for a scene while I was rocking him to sleep. I just changed the words to the lullaby I was already singing. He never knew the difference and I managed to hang onto it until I get him to bed and could find a piece of paper."

Margie said, "Great question and this happened to me yesterday at work. I was putting out a Christmas plaque and the saying on it gave me an idea for a Christmas romance. So, I just kept saying the phrase over and over until I was able to get to pen and paper on my break. I plan to buy the plaque once the store opens.

I use the repetition technique if I'm in the shower or the dentist chair as well. Oh heck--who am I kidding? If  I'm in the dentist chair I'm usually screaming on the inside. No ideas are being spawned unless it's a horror.

But for the car I have these mini sticky white boards attached to my steering wheel. They were designed for lockers and I bought them post back-to-school clearance. So, if I get an idea I can usually jot a note or two on the steering wheel--even while driving. Just don't tell my insurance agent :)"

And now it's my turn! I asked the question because I was at the Y teaching my water class when the answer to a plot point popped into my brain. No paper, no iPhone, and I was in the middle of class so I couldn't just stop the class to run upstairs to my locker to grab my phone and make a note. Luckily, I remembered and once I got upstairs I grabbed my phone to make a note. But I was petrified during the whole class I'd lose the idea. I think I'll use Margie (and Nan's) repetition techniques in the future!

Okay, readers, it's your turn. How do you cope with this situation? 

Don't forget if you have a question, let us know! You can leave your question in the comments or visit our Facebook page and ask over there...we'll add the questions to our list to be answered.

Thursday, October 16

What I'm Watching This Fall

 Next to Christmas, the second week of September used to be my favorite season--the new t.v. season. Yes, my television addiction began early.

Do you remember what it used to be like before the internet?

I started stalking the mailbox in the beginning of August waiting for the triple -thick TV Guide would arrive with the new series announcements and synopses.  I'd highlight the shows I wanted to watch, squeal when my faves got their own show--Joanie Loves Chachi, and just generally be in expectatious glory.

Things have changed a little since then. The TV Guide is a lot slimmer. I know in advance--from social media and various outlets--what's  coming. Although I do get all fan-girly. The only reason I tried out The Flash is because Tom Cavanaugh is in it. And my, that man has aged well. 

So, I'm going to tell you my faves so far this summer.

1. Scorpion. This is like a Michael Crichton novel come to life each week. These sci-tech genius/outcasts are fun and heartwarming. The cast is virtually unknown except for Catherine McPhee--what a sweetheart and Robert Patrick playing a good guy?

 2. Stalker. I have to admit crushing on Dylan McDermott. But that being said, I never got into Hostage last year. And I didn't plan on watching Stalker until Mike coerced me. And boy, am I glad he did. I mistakenly thought the show was about one stalking case. Nope, it's about a police unit specializing in stalking cases. Interesting stuff. And scary! The opening of the second show gave me chills and a minor heart-attack.

3. Forever. Love the concept of a guy who die and solves crimes while acting as a medical examiner.

Plus--Iaon Gruffudd. And welcome back, Judd Hirsch--You are a delight.

 4. Madame Secretary. Look two words in this title, in case you were wondering if I only liked one word shows. 

I love the supportive marriage represented by Madame Secretary Tea Leoni and her professor husband, Tim Daly. (Hello, Tim. Another well-aged specimen.) 

As long as they remain loving, respectful partners I'm in for the duration.

I am most disappointed by How To Get Away With Murder. And it has nothing to do with the long, long name. Seriously, I am a huge fan of Shonda Rhimes. I love Gray's Anatomy and Scandal. And I was looking forward to her newest offspring. That was--until I watched it. While Madame Secretary has a healthy marriage--one we should all strive for--represented, Murder's is plain toxic--capital T. And that toxicity bleeds into almost every other element of the show. And I don't find Viola Davis' character root-worthy in the least. 
In six days, my favorite show from last year-The 100--returns for their sophomore season and I can't wait. What the heck is going on at Mt. Weather? Are Finn and Bellamy alive?? I've waited all summer for these answers. And you can bet, those fan-girly screams you hear Wednesday night will be from me.

So, now it's your turn. What are your new or returning favorites. Or even your own disappointments. It's TV and I'm listening.