Tuesday, April 29, 2014

X and Y are for X-act-lY a review

     Today is the first day I've written since one week ago yesterday. After a surprise appendectomy late Good Friday, it seemed all was well. And I suppose it was, but Tuesday, a week ago today, things took a turn for the worse and I was back in the hospital with cholitis. Not a good choice. Not a choice at all, really.
     That Tuesday, Wednesday, and most of Thursday, I did nothing but sleep. Then Thursday I opened my reader to Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. I've never been a big fan of his writing style, however this autobiography of his time in Paris in the early 1920s is wonderful. There are still the passages of dialogue full of he-saids and she-saids, but this particular work is filled with the sights and sounds and lives of people in Paris during the post-WWI era.
 
 
Ernest Hemingway and his son Bumby
Paris 1924
 
    In this book I got to see Hemingway as a struggling writer with a young family. During this period he had given up journalism in favor of creative writing. He turned out short stories that were rejected for publication in the United States. In fact, German publications seemed to be his only markets.
     His approach to writing was as intense and focused as a runner training for a marathon. He talks about writing in cafes, describing them as a warm place to work for the cost of a drink. About interacting with the then and now famous literati of the time -- Gertrude Stein, Evan Shipman, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford, etc. About their petty jealousies and unfounded admirations. About their demands and generosities. About their advice, sometimes accepted. And about their writing, adding to my own list of intended reading.
     And, at the end of the day, he went home to his family.

   
Sylvia Beach in the doorway of her bookshop
Shakespeare and Company
 
     He also wrote of his discoveries, solutions to life problems, the greatest of which was poverty. His accidental discovery of the Shakespeare and Company bookshop made his life and work there possible. Sylvia Beach served as a lending library to those who could not afford to buy books. He paid his minimal membership fee right away but not before she sent him home with volume after volume to read. And he could take the books with him when he and his family traveled. He had to read.
      She also loaned him money when he needed it. Freely. And she reassured him during those times that, like all authors, like all people who set themselves lofty goals, he was good and the world would eventually appreciate his work. After all, didn't the Germans already?
     His descriptions of life in Paris at that time are physical. The light playing across damp faces of  buildings. The goatherd piping his arrival on their street. Milk was delivered on-the-hoof in that pre-refrigeration time. How to travel on foot from where you were to where you wanted to go without passing restaurants and bakeries emitting scents of things a hungry man could not afford to buy.
     And always his main interest was to perfect his writing.  Disdaining unnecessary adjectives and adverbs in favor of the mot juste -- "the one and only correct word to use." 
     To show his characters in their world X-act-lY.

    

Monday, April 21, 2014

Q is for Quarrel -- Flash Fiction

 
 
"Okay. What is it this time? What did I do?"
 
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing."
 
"Then why are you angry?"
 
"Who says I'm angry?"
 
"Is it because I didn't tell you I was going to the party?"
 
"What party? You went to a party? No, really I don't care about that."
 
"Then what? Because I borrowed your new shirt?"
 
"My new shirt? You borrowed my new shirt without asking? Where is it? Is it all right?"
 
"Yes. Yes, of course it's all right. If that's not it, why are you mad at me? Is it because I went with Gary?"
 
"Gary? You said you didn't like Gary. I thought Gary liked me."
 
"I don't know. Maybe he does. You weren't here when he called and we got to talking and . . . . If that's not it, what is it?"
 
"You ate the last piece of Mom's apple pie. I was saving it. You did all this and ate my piece of pie, too. You really are too horrible. I don't know why I have to have a sister anyway."
 


Sunday, April 20, 2014

P is for Pain or What I did over Easter Weekend

 
Good Friday:
A little before noon. Sick at my stomach.
At noon. Ate two eggs fried in a no stick skillet and two pieces of toast.
At 2:30 got call from my out-of-town husband. Told him I hadn't been feeling well, but felt a little better. He said he was driving to Crossett, Arkansas, and would spend the night with friends. Then go on to Monroe, Louisiana, to catch his flight home Saturday morning.
He had considered staying at his deer camp that night.
I got to feeling worse. Went to bed.
My daughter and her boyfriend came over to do some laundry.
By now I was feeling really uncomfortable. No sharp pains. Too much pressure in my abdomen. I thought I had food poison. And I considered going to the Emergency Room.
My 88-year-old father lives with my husband and me. We have a woman come in Monday through Friday from 8 to noon, but of course we had no plans for anyone to be with him Friday night or Saturday.
It occurred to me that people do die of food poisoning. E. choli, listeria, etc. And then who would take care of my father?
Made the decision to go to the ER. My daughter drove me and her boyfriend stayed with my dad.
I felt bad enough that I didn't take a shower, change out of my robe, or put on shoes instead of my ratty old pink house slippers. I did brush my teeth and my hair.
At the Emergency Room, they collected the normal vital signs, checked my photo i.d., photocopied my insurance card, collect a list of meds I take daily, and ask for my social security number. They ask when did I eat last. How many times have I vomited? Any diarrhea? What did I eat when? By this time I am really not feeling well. They move me into a room.
They hook me up to an IV, take my blood, and everyone who comes into the room wants a list of my daily meds. Somebody already has this information. Leave me alone.
The doctor is not satisfied that my symptoms are consistant with food poisoning, and at my age she is concerned about a heart attack, so she orders an EKG. The EKG shows nothing out of the ordinary.
She orders a CAT scan.
Another doctor comes in and introduces herself as part of my surgical team. Surgical Team? What are we talking about here? Oh, Dr. So-and-So didn't tell you. No. She hasn't been back in yet. Ah, here she is now. Your appendix doesn't look right, she says.
My daughter calls our Home Care Agency to make arrangements for someone to come in the next day for my dad. Saturday. Holiday weekend. But they come through with a man named Richard Something-Japanese. Hmm. Daddy served in the Pacific during WWII. How is this going to go down?
And right behind Dr. So-and-So is another member of my surgical team who pushes my bed and me up to surgery. Or maybe it was down to or over to. I have no idea because I closed my eyes. My daughter stays right with me.
Then a nurse anesthetist is explaining to me the possible negative side effects of general anesthesia. My daughter calls my husband and asks the nurse anesthetist to talk to him. He's a veterinarian. He understands these things. I am so glad he's not staying out at his deer camp. There is no cell reception out there. (What kind of out-back-of-beyond is that that there are no cell phone towers?!) 
Then the surgeon. Again my daughter gets my husband on the phone to talk to the surgeon.
My daughter called my son in Texas to let him know what was going on. She left messages on his voice mail and his wife's. They very wisely silence their phones at night.
Fifteen minutes and I'm in surgery. By now it's 10:30, 11:00 p.m. Surgery lasts about 45 minutes. 
My daughter calls her father and her brother to let them know I'd come through the surgery just fine.
In Recovery for two hours. Only patient in Recovery. Have very pleasant conversation with staff. We talk books, movies. Well, of course we do. The younger staff member didn't know who Lauren Bacall is. Or Humphrey Bogart. In this age of NetFlix and Amazon Prime, how is this possible? It's just as well music didn't come up.
By now I'm feeling MUCH better. And it's up to my room with me and my daughter goes to my house and we both get some sleep.
Saturday is a good day. My daughter brings me my E-reader and my book Murder on Ceres on which I had twenty-nine pages to re-write. I got some breakfast. She got some breakfast and laid down for a nap. My husband called to let me know he was in Monroe and his flight was listed as on-time. I edited the final pages of my book.
My husband calls to tell me he's in Houston in line to board his flight home.
My daughter and I had lunch. And I got home before my husband did. 
Easter morning. I feel great. A little tender, but great.
I put the changes on my book into my lap-top. Saved it to my external hard drive. And saved it to an SD card. Three hundred and fifty-eight pages, 91,668 words, three-years' work. I feel GREAT!
Happy Easter to all!
 
 
 


Thursday, April 17, 2014

N and O are for No.

Thumbnail
 
     No. is the abbreviation for number. Why it is, I do not know. That may be the very least important thing about numbers that I do not know. What I do know is that numbers are a human construct. A construct that comes with rules, dependable rules, logical rules. Even if it sounds illogical to me.
     I just watched a YouTube video http://bit.ly/1neoEKz from  http://www.numberphile.com/ It explains how adding whole numbers from 1 to infinity results in the sum -1/12. That answer sounds like "minus one-twelfth." The man in the video explaining how this can be so is Tony Padilla. (Dr. Padilla, to his students, I'm sure.) And by-the-bye, Dr. Padilla's specialty is physics.
     To add all those numbers and arrive at a minus fraction, he first establishes two other sums, then weaves a bit of arithmetic magic and in the end is the -1/12.
     I watched the demonstration three times before I actually heard him say "you're not measuring physical infinitives in nature." and I remembered that someone once explained to me that mathematics is a language. A language that can be used to describe all kinds of things -- physics, in my opinion being the most remarkable of those things. But since you can't actually add an infinite number of numbers, you must use these other equations to get the answer. Well, of course, you do.
     Which brings to mind the Abbott and Costello routine showing three different ways that
7 X 13 = 28. You can watch them explain on YouTube. http://bit.ly/1r3cXE3 . Their mathematics may be questionable, but it's funny.
 
       

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Moon -- Flash Fiction


gallery photo

“Always we remember your great grandfather. His name was Flying Coyote, and he was a very brave man and a fine leader. You are called Little Coyote because your father loved Flying Coyote and he loves you.”

The old woman stirred the fire and continued her story.

“When he was younger than you he fell from his father’s pony and hurt his leg very bad. It made him sick and the old ones feared to lose him.” She filled the horn spoon and blew softly across the liquid. “Bear With A Sore Tooth sang prayers for him and his old grandmother boiled willow bark and gave him the water to drink as I do you.”

 “It’s not so bad,” he said swallowing. He cuddled the small coyote cub he called Little Brother close to him under the robes.

“I have been told it was this time of year – the time of the Full Pink Moon. The little pink flowers bloomed in the grass and the snow and the sun argued over who would have the land. Some mornings The People would wake to a deep blanket of snow, but by afternoon the sun would have eaten it.”

“Like yesterday?” he asked.

“Yes.” She filled the spoon again. “Like yesterday.”

She and the boy were outside the lodge so the rest of the family could sleep. A full moon hung in the black sky, so bright that only a few stars shone near it. The air was cold and still and fresh, unlike the smoky interior of the tipi.

Little Brother squirmed out of the robes. Little Coyote grabbed the struggling whelp and held him tight by one hind foot.

“No. You must let him go.” The old woman gently opened the boy’s fist.

They watched the cub caper and scamper around them.

“He’ll get cold and come back,” she said. “You’ll see.”

A red shadow began its slow march across the moon, but the boy did not notice. He watched the coyote pup.

“Flying Coyote got weaker and weaker. He did not want to live.” She filled the spoon again and held it to the boy’s lips. “Does your foot still hurt?”

He stretched his leg, testing it. “Not so much.”

“Flying Coyote’s father went out onto the prairie to also pray. He played his prayers on his flute.”

An ember popped out of the fire and Little Brother stopped to sniff it.

“Will it burn him, Grandmother?”

She laughed. “No. His nose can feel the heat. He will be careful.”

She looked up at the moon, slowly being covered with red shadow. Little Coyote followed her gaze.

“What is happening?” he asked in alarm.

“I have seen it before,” she said. “Some stories say that a great mountain lion is eating it.” Seeing his concern, she hurried on. “But I do not think that is what is happening. I have seen this before. More than once.”

He could not take his eyes away from the changing moon.

“Soon the shadow will move on, and you will see your old friend the rabbit on the moon.” She helped Little Brother back under the robes.

Satisfied that his grandmother knew about things like mountain lions eating the moon he asked, “Did Flying Coyote get better?”

“Flying Coyote’s father was playing his flute under a moon just like this one. As the red shadow passed away, a bigger shadow flew across him. It was as big as he could reach with his outstretched arms.” She held out her own arms as far as she could. “And he was a big man.”

Little Coyote’s eyes grew to twice their normal size.

“Flying Coyote's father ducked so hard that the next thing he knew he was on his hands and knees. And something landed on the ground right in front of him. Something dropped from that shadow in the sky. A ball of fur.”

Swallowing hard, Little Coyote held the wiggly cub close under his chin.

“It was like Little Brother – a baby coyote. And its only wound was a broken leg.”

“What did he do with it?”

“The father took it home to his son and told him the Owl Spirit had sent it to him as a gift. And now he must care for the little flying coyote.”

“What happened?”

“Since you’re here, and your father, and your grandfather then of course he got well and that’s how he got his name.”
 

Monday, April 14, 2014

K is for Kindness and L is for Love




     When you've been with someone for a long time, you begin to appreciate Kindness and know Love.
     Passion and Desire no longer color and cover everything. You begin to realize that he's never going to eat spaghetti. And he begins to accept that you are going to be a little late. The truth is no matter what he says or how loud he says it, you're still going to vote for that idiot. And no matter how reasonable you are he's still going to vote for anybody else.
     Then you have a weekend like we just had.
     Tuesday is the deadline for filing income tax returns in the United States, which is where we live. So last Friday, I loaded the software for this year and started ours. He kissed me and left the room. He did not ask what we were having for lunch or when. I guess he fixed his own lunch and ate when he wanted to. He didn't ask about dinner either. In fact, he didn't bother me about anything until after he signed the State Income Tax forms.
     Sunday he discovered that his aquarium had sprung a leak. His big aquarium. The one with the special fish, the particular gravel, the just-so acidic water, special snail shells sans snails, and the little rocks hand-glued to a plastic grid for a background. That one.
     Now my man is a quiet man. Out in public. And most of the time in private. But when things go wrong at home, it's easy to remember that his favorite movie -- well other than The Blues Brothers which he insists is not a musical -- is Christmas Story. And not because he relates with Ralphie, but because he admires the way the father does battle with their furnace and the Bumpus hounds.
     So, understanding the gravity of the aquarium situation, I made a one-time offer of help. He replied, "No." And I left the room.
     I stayed away until he asked me to come see how his second largest aquarium looked with its new residents. And we agreed that it was lucky he hadn't repopulated it. (It's been sitting and bubbling, all the while bereft of fish, for several months now.)
     The moral of this story is that sometimes leaving someone alone is a great Kindness and knowing when to do that is Love.

       

Saturday, April 12, 2014

J is for Justice




J is for Justice

 Justice is one of those two needs that motivate our highest and our basest behaviors. The other is Safety. Neither is attainable. We can’t give nor get them. Scholars and philosophers have studied and discussed them. Governments and religions have been built around promises of providing them. Tiny humans take up the concepts as soon as they realize that they are separate from the world around them.

Perhaps because Justice and Safety are impossible to have in our everyday lives, we imagine them. We invent stories around them.

The bad guy is identified, stopped, and punished. Safety is restored and Justice is served. There is nothing so dissatisfying as a murder mystery that goes unsolved or a villain who goes unpunished.

It happens all the time in real life and we still stop what we’re doing to watch our daily dose of news about the O.J. Simpsons and the Oscar Pistoriuses of the world on trial. We weren’t there. We can’t know what really happened or who did what or why. We hear too many possibilities – the prosecution’s story, the defense’s story.

These events underscore the perception that Justice is not only blind, but she’s lame. She staggers and stumbles along like Shakespeare’s Richard III, Cheated of feature by dissembling nature, Deform’d, unfinish’d, scarce half made up. The difference in Justice in the real world and Justice in Shakespeare’s fictional world is that Shakespeare could establish without a reasonable doubt what the crime was, who the criminal was, exact the appropriate punishment, and reassure the realm of a time to come with smooth-fac’d peace, With smiling plenty, and fair prosperous days!

Since I have to live a real life, I am thankful for the fiction writers who give me moments and hours of respite in the imagined world of Justice and Safety.

 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for the Internet





     If you have time and even if you don't, the internet is out there to inspire, intrigue, and irritate you. I use it much the same way that I've used the dictionary all my life. I have a particular word to look up. I find it and along the way I find another that I must check out, which of course brings up something else. Before I know it, hours have fled, the laundry's not done, and the dogs want to be fed.

     Today, before I decided on my I-word, I was surfing http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/a-to-z-challenge-sign-uplist-2014.html. This is a list of bloggers participating in the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. I've been dipping into the blogs randomly, sometimes because I like its title, sometimes because it's next on the list, and sometimes I click on one by mistake.

     This morning I clicked on Amrita @ The Book Drifter (BO.) Who could resist The Book Drifter?

   I-A

     Oooooo. Shiny. Pretty colors. An ammonite! I am hooked. And a poem. Not just any poem, but a witty, word play, anagram. This was my inspiration for today.

     I've been enamoured of ammonites since my first divorce thirty-six years ago. Lake Texoma's bed is limestone. (If you research limestone . . . But that's another story. And so is Lake Texoma.) Suffice it to say that limestone is often rich in fossils. Ammonites are the most unusual (at least to me) and certainly the biggest fossils on the shores of Lake Texoma.

My small pieces of non-iridescent ammonites
 


     My as yet unpublished book Murder on Ceres would not be possible for me to write without the internet. NASA's website is invaluable.  http://www.nasa.gov/  They have amazing photos. If you've never surfed NASA, you're in for a treat.

     And Youtube's video of  Chris Hadfield's cover of David Bowies 'Space Oddity' while aboard the ISS makes me smile. Check it out  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaOC9danxNo

     The Internet!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Hemingway

 
I like this picture because he's smiling, a rather mischievous smile, at that

My cousin and I recently discussed Hemingway. There are few famous writers whom I appreciate less than him. Faulkner and James Joyce, being two. I must admit that I think the failing is mine in their cases. I simply can’t follow their stories. John le Carré fits in that group, now that I think about it.
          Ernest Hemingway and Henry James, however, I do not like because I do not like their writing styles. They both tell good stories, but it’s the way they tell them.
Henry James’ run-on sentences bring out the editor in me. I heard someone once describe him as “chewing more than he bit off.”
Hemingway, on the other hand, never met a complex sentence he liked. And very few compound ones. In The Old Man and the Sea he makes me crazy with his uninspired attributions: “and the old man said,” “and the boy said,” “and the old man said.” But it is a good story and it’s a skinny little book so I wasn’t frustrated with it as long as I was with James’ The Golden Bowl.
Generally speaking, I am not interested in authors’ biographies. If I like their work then I don’t want to know much about them, because I might not like them and that would color my enjoyment of their work. If I don’t like their work, then who cares about their lives?
 Call it inspiration or curiosity or maybe just a way to avoid working on my own book – I found myself reading Wikipedia’s entry on Hemingway. His story would make an epic novel, filled with sex, violence, exotic locations, famous people (some wealthy and powerful), and a tragic ending.
 After all this complaining, I can recommend For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms. Plus, I think his short fiction is excellent. Now I think I’ll read A Moveable Feast, his autobiography, and see what he thought of his life.
 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G for Goodall




                                                  How I Met Jane Goodall


           In 1974, I worked as a reporter for a small-town daily newspaper and the man I was married to, worked for the Lincoln Park Zoo in Oklahoma City. Zoo stories were easily available for my feature articles. Plus, let’s face it, photos of animals at the zoo need not meet professional standards to attract attention, and attention was my first priority as a reporter. Front page and all that.

          Dr. Roger Fouts was at the University of Oklahoma’s Institute of Primate Studies then. You may be familiar with his work with the chimpanzee Washoe who not only learned to communicate using American Sign Language for the Deaf, but taught a young chimpanzee to also use ASL.

Dr. Fouts arranged for Jane Goodall to speak on campus. It was not well-publicized. People at the zoo were told about it and that’s how I heard about it. Dr. Goodall was not that well-known here then.

I had read her book In the Shadow of Man. And I was very interested in hearing her speak. The book discussed her work with chimpanzees in Tanzania, including the first recorded observations of chimpanzees fashioning and using tools. Observations that led anthropologists to rethink the definition of ‘human.’

There were no more than 50 people there to hear her speak, so I did get to meet her and she signed my paper back copy of her book. She was very quiet to the point of shyness. She wore little make-up and had her hair pulled back in a ponytail. Not a typical celebrity, at all.

In 2007, she was back in Oklahoma as part of Oklahoma City University’s Distinguished Speakers Series. Maybe because of programs on public television or national geographic, whatever, now the woman was famous. I can’t tell you how many people were there, but the place was packed.

After her presentation, my daughter and I waited in a line snaking back and forth through the gym to get her signature and exchange a few words with her. Of course she didn’t remember me, but she did remember that time she spoke at OU. She thought those people then constituted a ‘crowd.’

She still was very quiet, though more calm than shy, I think. She still wore little make-up and her hair in a ponytail.
 
                                 

Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for First Word

F is for First Word
          “George, dear, do you know what time they’re coming?” She asked over the noise of the vacuum cleaner.
            Without lowering the paper he moved his pipe to the other side of his mouth and lifted his feet.
            She wound up the vacuum cleaner cord. “Would you just put this away for me?”
            He folded his paper and laid it on the end table.
            She straightened the magazines on the coffee table. “Don’t leave that there. Put it in the trash. There’ll be another in the morning.” She plumped the throw pillows. “George, what are you doing?”
            He nodded toward the vacuum cleaner and opened the coat closet.
“No, dear. It goes down the hall.”
A timer went off in the kitchen.
“Dear, would you open this window for me?” She called after him. “The whole house smells of that pipe.”
They passed in the hallway.
“Don’t wear your hat in the house, please.”
He put his hat in the coat closet and raised the window. The cobbler did smell good.
“I don’t know Madge’s new husband very well. Do you think he likes rhubarb and strawberry?” She handed him the waste basket to empty. “Oh, you don’t know, do you? You haven’t met the man yet.”
He took the basket and headed for the garage. He heard dishes clinking. She would be putting the coffee service on the sideboard.
“George,” she called. “When you get through with that, would you see that there’s plenty of room in the drive for them to park?”
He brought the waste basket back in.
“Thank you, dear,” she said, setting the cobbler out to cool. “They’ll be here soon. Don’t you think you should change that jacket? Your new gray cardigan would look nice.”
He examined the now empty bowl of his pipe, picked up his tobacco pouch and lighter, and put them all into the breast pocket of his khaki jacket.
“I think he likes football,” she said. “You might talk about that.”
He went to the coat closet and got his hat.
“George?”
He bent down and kissed the top of her head.
“George, where are you going?”
“Fishing,” he said.
 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

E is for Expository Writing


 
E is for Expository Writing

            At which I am very good. Expository is the adjectival form of the word exposition, which is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as a statement or rhetorical discourse intended to give information about or an explanation of  . . . . The very definition of the word can send you to the cereal box in search of something interesting to read.
As a fiction writer expository writing is the bane of my existence. Well, that and clichés. I am not alone in this. Robert Jordan, author of the fantasy series Wheel of Time, writes an exciting story filled with heroes and heroines who must battle against terrifying beasts and stupefyingly evil villains to save the world from the Dark Lord. So exciting that I stay up too late to see what happens next. And this is my second time through these fourteen books. So actually I know what happens next. And I love it.
BUT, it makes me crazy when he describes in detail the manner of dress peculiar to each country in the world every time one of those citizens appears in the story. Or describes in detail the varied forms trollocs come in, and that Ogeir have eyes “the size of tea cups.”
I understand the need to tell readers everything the author knows about his world or his characters or their back stories. But does the reader have the same need. Indeed, do they have the same interest and enthusiasm in all the things the author has researched, imagined, and invented? Even more importantly, is this information necessary for the reader to understand the story?
For example, my character must travel from Oklahoma City to Denver. Nothing in particular happens on the trip to affect the story. The only thing that is important is that three chapters into the story he be in Denver instead of Oklahoma City.
In my research I can discover that he could drive north on I-35 to Salina, Kansas, turn west onto I-70, pass through open prairie, pass by several wind farms, and see a herd of antelope. But I don’t have to share all that with my reader.
I can just say, Exhausted from his eleven hour drive from Oklahoma City, Brad fell asleep at the wheel and ran head-on into a semi.
Done and dusted.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

D is for Demons and Daffodils

 
 
                                                              Demons and Daffodils
             I did all the normal things. Grew up. Got married. Had three beautiful babies. Two of them are in the next room. I don’t know where Jeremy is.
            Poor Jeremy. Unlike my generally uneventful life, his life has been filled with drama. Most of it came out of his own head, like Athena. Full-blown but his were not beautiful. I miss him. The little boy he was. And even the young teen he became.
            My memories are clearer today than they have been in a while. Drugs do that to me. They mask most of the pain, but they also blur my mind. I think that must be what they do for him. Maybe he needs the loss of both – the pain and his mind.
            The last time I saw him, he tried to explain. He talked about demons roaring in his head, not like lions, but like monster trucks. I don’t know what that sounds like.
My sounds are little ones like insects, crickets. The doctors have a name for mine. Tinnitus. Most of the time, I can ignore it or cover it with the fan.
Jeremy talked about pain, too. Not physical pain like mine, but the pain in his chest when the demons squeeze his heart until he can’t stand it. And make it hard for him to breathe.
Shae, my daughter, my baby, tried to find him so he could be here. Everyone wanted him here, even my eldest. Teddy’s like his father, a big cheerful man. He takes adversity when it happens, moves through it as best he can, then finds something interesting to jump into next. A new job, a new marriage, sometimes something as simple as a new way to the store when the old road is blocked. In that way he’s more like me.
Ted and Shae are both fixers. If there’s a problem, they can’t rest until they find a solution. I think that’s why this whole experience has been so difficult for them. It’s taken them a long time to accept what’s happening to me. They use words like fight and overcome and survive. For a while it seemed like I spent too much time fighting them. Trying to get them to see that I just simply would not survive this.
I wanted to outlive Jeremy’s demons and wait until he could be here. 
I thought I would wait for the daffodils, but we’ve had a long winter and it snowed yesterday.
My kind husband brought me flowers today. And I’m glad I don’t have to wait anymore.
 

 


Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for Character Development

C is for Character Development
 
If you want to write and write well, no matter the genre, whether memoir, thriller, or a grant proposal, you need skills. I recommend working with a good writing teacher. You can check out my teacher at www.williambernhardt.com. Bill always says, "show don't tell."
 
The following exerpt is from my, as yet, unpublished murder mystery, Murder on Ceres. The story starts out on a colony in low orbit around Ceres, the largest body in the Main Asteroid Belt. The protagonist is a police detective named Rafe. This scene introduces his mother Rose. Lucy is a friend of his wife Terren. Terren is distraught over the death of a very close friend. Charles is Rafe's father.

Door chimes startled Lucy awake. She glanced at the screen and saw Terren’s mother-in-law in the pop-up. Rose Sirocco’s eyes gazed inquiringly up at the door cam. Green eyes like Rafe’s. Two of the few people she knew with green eyes. She liked having someone look up to her, or at least seem to look up to her. Even a much older person. To be fair, at 162 centimeters, they were exactly the same height. Short by Cererian standards.

Her reader slipped to the floor as she got up to answer the door.

“Mrs. Sirocco.”

“Hello, dear. Didn’t Rafe tell you I was coming to sit with Terren?” Rose Sirocco looked her up and down. Probably noting her rumpled appearance.

Lucy finger-combed her straight brown hair. “Yes, ma’am. He did. I must’ve dozed off.” She picked up the fallen reader. “Three chapters deep in the latest Turner thriller. Guess it’s not that thrilling.”

“Oh, keep at it, dear.” Rose set a bright pink bag emblazoned with a crisp letter “S” on the floor. “Though not quite as thrilling as his last book. Still, it’s worth reading.” She put her blue beret and handbag, each also marked with an “S” on the entry table next to Rafe’s chess board.

She centered the white queen on the correct square. “Charles is forever accepting things in lieu of money for his legal services. This was from that woman they thought embezzled from the hospital.” An antique from Earth, the chess set was probably very valuable. “I can’t remember for sure. Maybe it was from that man accused of killing his wife and her lover. A nice man, really. Ah well, it was a good gift for Rafe.”

She straightened the mirror over the table. “Don’t you think this looks so much better here than it did in that tiny little place they used to live in?” She plumped her iron gray curls into shape. The hat had not flattened her hair at all. Like her, those curls would not be restrained.

“Don’t you have reading glasses, dear?” Rose turned to the house controls near the door and brought the lights in the living room up to near full-sun, dialed the room temperature down, and switched off the lights in the garden.

 “I think they’re much easier on your eyes.” She pulled food containers out of the pink bag. “Charles thinks mine are too heavy. They make little dents on my nose, but I think the graphics are so much better than the new ones.”

Lucy didn’t offer her opinion. She didn’t find an opportunity to.





 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

B is for Blooms

                              
                        April 2, 2014     B  is for  Blooms
 
      We have two blooms today. Our hibiscus is sitting in the front doorway to catch what ever scrap of sunshine comes her way. Alas, no sunshine today.
       My mother didn't keep hibiscus in the house. In Oklahoma she had hardy hibiscus outside. She did have house plants that lived inside in the winter and outside in the summer.
      Momma was very like her plants. She thrived in the sunshine. Cloudy, winter days were not good for her. Daddy built her a dining area that had a wall of windows facing south. There was a big open yard between the house and the barn with woods all around. She had bird feeders and pans of water for the wild animals sharing her living space. They had chickens and rabbits and dairy goats. And sometimes a couple of pigs or steers. One to sell and one to put in the freezer. And Daddy always had a big vegetable garden.
      She would sit at her table smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, and watching her world. And she would think. She wasn't much to talk about what she was thinking, but she wrote. Letters, mostly. This was in the days before facebook and blogging.
       Her sister lived two and a half or three hours away, so they didn't often get to visit. Momma didn't like to talk on the phone but she and Aunt Dorothy visited regularly by mail. Long newsy letters about the animals around them, their children, the weather.
      Both were readers so they knew how to tell a story. They evoked the senses. The way the sunlight glinted off the brilliant yellow of the cottonwood tree in the fall when the world around them was going grey and brown.
      The scent of old fashioned roses, of honeysuckle, and lilies of the valley. The deafening clatter of hail on the metal roof. The taste of English peas right out of the pod while she stood in the garden.
      The shock of a bobcat snatching one of her chickens and leaping the fence with it before she could get to it.
      The humor of a squirrel dropping an ear of corn it had stolen out of the garden. The little thief dropped it on the patio and proceeded to quarrel at the humans because they were sitting on that patio and it was afraid to come down and retrieve the corn.
      I don't know what my mother thought about the questions our culture seems obsessed with -- politics or religion or celebrity foibles. If they interested her, I don't remember her ever saying. But I do remember experiencing the world around us through her, and I learned to pay attention to that world myself.