Alaska

Alaska
My Log Cabin in Alaska

Thursday, August 15, 2013

And Still I Plow Forward

Summer time is busy time and that's just the way it is. I used to think I could do anything (and do it better than anyone else) I believed I was Wonder Woman (I think I lost my magic bracelets) And I knew I was Supergirl (my cape seems to be a bit ragged)

Still I plow forward.

This week I have built a workbench in the blearing heat of Texas, planted a tree, fought fire-ants to no avail, put up turkeys (yea, it's a farm we raise our own meat), took care of my still injured hubby, did a whole pile of writing and not sure any of it is readable, did a whole pile of editing and hope I didn't miss another 500 mistakes, kept up with the housework 'cause it's the best excuse for not going out in the heat, and designed my display table for my first big book event!

Oh, yea! I get to go showcase my little book with all the good writers of Texas at the Texas Word Wrangler festival in Giddings! And I don't have a clue what to expect. So I do my research, pray, and plow forward....we will see what happens next.

But, I don't remember taking any time for me, and as I sit here trying to make sense of my keyboard, I realize that I'm not listening to the advise of my friend Candilynn. Take time to clear out the gunk, let the brain cells rest a bit, meditate and refocus. Now, where's my schedule book, I gotta pencil that in somewhere!

Wow, even the computer is tired, it won't upload my picture of my new tree!

Eventually when you keep plowing forward, you will bend something that you didn't mean to bend.  I think I will get a pretty picture and just look at it for a while, nothing else, no plowing.

What do you do to unwind, unplug, and relax the brain muscle?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Review: Ascending Spiral by Bob Rich

Ascending Spiral: Humanity's Last ChanceAscending Spiral: Humanity's Last Chance by Bob Rich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a thought provoking story I have never read before. Do I believe in reincarnation? Hardly. As a Bible believing Christian I believe in one life, one death and the resurrection of the eternal soul…. And just what does that mean. As an open minded intellectual I humorously entertain thoughts of what or who I may have been, or might become in different lives because of something that has just happened to me.

And the Question still begs for an answer, “Why am I here?”

I chose this book partly from curiosity, partly from personal need, and partly from a drive I had no control over. As a person who focuses mainly on children’s books or much lighter and predictable Westerns, I first found this book to be hard to read. But it was harder to put down. And now that I’ve turned that last page, it will be impossible to forget.

I followed Pip through his life. I struggled through many of ‘his’ other lives, and when I gaze at the myriad of stars over the Texas plains at night I really do wonder how many others are looking down on me. “What is my purpose here?” I feel the struggle as life continues, and the surprise as I begin to realize that one soul has moved on to a new lesson. Then more surprise as I discover that the soul may be able to choose the lessons. “What could possibly be next?” I was driven almost to the point of stress as Pip’s life became complex and confusing, the story bouncing from one time frame to another and back again. But, Isn’t that how life goes as we mature, grow, and find success?

I love the ‘spiral’ motif. It is motion, it is economy of motion. It can lift but it can also drill, or be a feather drifting lazily to settle in the shade of a willow tree. Do we spiral toward a more complex lifestyle or to a simpler one? Like Pip, I have choices. How can I know that each choice I make will result in peace of heart and mind for me and my children? And what about the temptation to choose wealth or just a tiny dab of celebrity? I pray that my choices will result in my being able to ‘pass’ this lesson, but even more than that, that my choices will result in my children being able to also learn and pass their own lessons.

Thank you, Bob, for your writing. And by the way, I’ve been a conservationist, and mostly off the grid, for a large part of my life. I now live in a ‘tiny house’ and the solar panels are on the way. And, thankfully, just as with Pip, the ‘taker’ has become the ‘giver’, the ‘destroyer’ has become the ‘builder’, and I hope that the stubborn will soon learn enough to become the teacher.

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Review: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde


Published October 2nd 2012 by HMH Books for Young Readers
(first published November 4th 2010)
 
I chose this book and bought a copy because I won the second in the series in First Reads through Goodreads and I just had to read the first in the series! Although I do enjoy dragon stories, I may not have selected this book to read without some other motivation, personally I prefer Westerns or horse books, and I must say that without this author and these books my reading experience has been lacking.

I enjoyed the fresh and subtle plot and the twists along the way which kept me engaged. I love, love, love the detailed descriptions and the colorful language (which was used as a point to separate the classes and was distained to the point of humor). The characters and made up creatures were fun and believable in a fantasy sort of way and I felt a true connection to the heroine, Jennifer Strange. One of the best elements of this story in my humble opinion is the melding of old and new. Medieval dragons, trolls, [and what in the world is a Quarkbeast?] and magic all combined in a world of cars, telephones, and computer code is just cool. And I appreciated the very hidden messages of conservation, loyalty, and standing up for one's own beliefs.

I quickly got into the story as young Jennifer, an orphan, a foundling indentured into work as manager of magic in the aging hotel full of mostly retired sorcerers. She faces her challenges with wit and courage that belies her age. I laughed with her, I feared for her, and I grieved as she faced her greatest challenge.

I recommend this book to young people, it will expand your horizons, and to adults, it will renew your belief in goodness.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Reflections of the Fourth of July



 

I smell the tangy, mouthwatering smoke of a hundred charcoal grills cooking up delectable holiday meals. Later I smell the acrid scent of a thousand colorful bombs set in time to patriotic songs and messages.
I cannot fathom the grave responsibility of the safety and security of a nation as I sip a cold beverage and enjoy my barbequed chicken. I do not know the terror of tyranny and my only concept of oppression is a stack of dirty dishes awaiting my attention. But I am not soft and uncaring.
I cherish my freedom and with every exploding rainbow I am reminded of the cost.
I sit in the grass and I see the red explosion reflected in the eyes of a soldier who has seen this thing in a different light. The same eyes that have faced this fire for a hundred years and a thousand years, the same eyes that will continue to face this fire for a thousand years to come. Eyes that guard the beloved against harm.
To some this show is nothing more than a display of colorful lights and they hope that this show might be better than the last, but they are not sure they would actually pay to see it, and would someone pass the potato salad.
To me this show is an acknowledgement that men were willing-- not just once, not just long ago, but now--willing, ready, able to stop forward and defend me against harm.

I take that personally.

I thank you.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

How to write a book in 10 easy steps


I am such a terrible blogger. I have neglected the little garden for so long that the weeds have grown up and I can't even find my way around this place again. But on a happier note, I finished a book. Not just finished writing, but got the thing on the shelf!

Yep, I got it, but not alone. If it takes a village to raise a child it takes half the USA to raise a book. And I used a good portion of the country to get'er done. And I'm pretty jazzed about it, just in case you couldn't tell.

If you are curious, here is my process:

1. Read, read, read, read, get something relaxing to drink, then read a bit more.
2. Collaborate with like minded souls, I joined the Brazos Valley chapter of SCBWI.
3. Find a critique partner or two or three or more, I have done this online and the face to face.
4. Create................ yea, it takes that long.
5. Edit, rewrite, check with your critique group, edit, rewrite, repeat. And go to several workshops.
6. Hire a professional editor.
7. Cry, rewrite, check, rewrite again, and check on that relaxing drink.
8. Hire a professional proofreader.
9. Cry, rewrite, check, head back to the store for more relaxing beverage.
10. Sign up for an account with Create Space and click a couple of buttons.

My final copy in no way shape or form looks the same as it did when I emailed it to my first critique partner, but I sure am happy with it.

For more details on this absolutely wonderful children's horse story, please visit my gallery of books.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Budget


 
Is that a four letter word? A word that makes us cringe or feel overwhelming guilt? I usually face my monthly chore of working out my budget with the same gusto I have for going to the doctor for a colonoscopy! But the financial budget is just as important to the health of my pocketbook as that other thing is to my personal health, so I do it.


That is altogether the wrong attitude.

In the effort to improve my feelings toward the topic, I shall attempt to redefine it. A budget is a plan. But, I don’t like that word very much either. If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plan. How about a map? I love, love, love maps. I grew up traveling and I could read a map before I could read a book. You have a start point, and end point, and a series of necessary stops in the middle. Love it, on my way to a new attitude.

Ok, now to apply it.

How is my lovely map like my unlovely monthly budget? I have a start point, X dollars. I have my end point, nothing in the red. Oooooh better yet, let’s have something in the savings account. We have all the necessary stops, the bills, the groceries, the discretionary fund, and whatever else I forgot to list. Make it fit and even take a picture of it for posterity. (And I have discovered that it is easier to cut out the junk that isn’t healthy for me or my financial budget.) That feels better already.

Can I apply this concept to the rest of my life and most especially to my writing? If I am to make a business of writing with any hope what so ever of putting a dollar or two in the bank, then I had better figure out how to apply this budget concept to my ‘list of things I gotta do’. I have my allotted hours to spend, and I know where I want to be at the end of the day. I also know where I want to be in a year. Here’s how I prepare my ‘Time Budget’:

1.       Make a list and prioritize it, be honest and thorough.

2.       Allow enough time for each event on your list.

3.       If you have to, assign a day of the week, or a day of the month, to accomplish each event, especially if it is a reoccurring event like paying bills.

4.       Absolutely must earmark a proper amount of time every day for these personal items:

a.       Meditation or prayer

b.      Personal hygiene

c.       Your significant other

5.       Select some new technology to learn.

6.       Take time to smell the roses, take a break, go on a picnic – rain or shine.

Now, make sure that everything fits in your time budget. How much time did you allow for your writing? Remember what your college English teacher told you? Two hours of homework for every hour of class. Write it all on a big desk calendar and stick to it.

Does this sound like preparing a schedule for work? That is exactly what it is. If I wish to be successful in writing, I must budget my time and stick to it.

Can I get quality writing done in two hours a day? How about four hours every other day?

 

How do you manage your time budget? How much time do you allow for your writing? Feel free to tap that little button down there and leave me a comment.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Too Stubborn to Change Strategy?




I have been told, and it is true: A good story will stick to you. A great story will change your way of thinking about life. It will change you. This is my story of the day.

I am a Trekkie from way back. I don’t go to all the conferences, nor do I dress up in costume, although I have perfected the Spok salute and I believe in ‘Live long and prosper.’ And I have watched and re-watched and totally enjoyed every episode of all the seasons since its inception.

I once watched a Star Trek Next Generation episode which featured Data, the one and only android in the Galaxy, attempting to solve a problem in one of the narrow ducts in the Enterprise. Either a hostile alien was ensconced in the ductwork, or a toxic leak had occurred there, but something was wrong.

Data programmed a robotic probe to investigate. Now, like Data, the probe was a super computer. Unlike Data, the probe did not possess evolutionary problem solving skills. It could not learn and adapt to new situations. Data’s attempt to correct the malfunctioning duct on the Enterprise soon degraded into an investigation on just how many times he could send that probe into the dangerous situation with the exact same results. The last morsel of that scene that I remember had Data reporting that he had sent in that probe hundreds of times with no variation of the results. It was a baffling issue to the poor android.

That particular scene has stuck with me over the years (decades). Now, first off, don’t get all worried about me. I know this is just a story in a Sci-Fi series. I also know it is well crafted in every sense of the word. But my wonderment is this – How long does it take us, as thinking and problem solving human beings, to change our strategy when we do not reach our goals?

And how much like that probe of Data’s am I? I have been writing stories and submitting them to various publications since I was eleven years old. The reject letters flood past me in a torrent and I move not. I am never discouraged. I write and rewrite, submit, and toss the reject letters into my ever growing pile.

Does that make me strong, or just stubborn? Does that give me character, or simply show that I am not smart enough to adapt and achieve victory, the goal of becoming published?


The world is changing. I have whole heartedly resented the surge into the computer age and I worked for Radio Shack when they were the only ones producing home computers for the masses.I was right there at the birth of the cell phone phenomenon – taking notes. But I cling to my old fashioned ways like a boulder in a stream of raging waters while a flood of technology washes past me. And here I sit like a great block of granite while the strength of the world carves graffiti in my soul and lichens grown in my crevasses, eroding into sand.

I know I can weave a thought into a readable passage. My words have brought knowledge, tears, laughter, and sighs of delight to hundreds of faithful followers over the decades.

So WHY can’t I find a way around that one last hurdle and get a bound copy of my book on a shelf? It is time to change my strategy. But how to uproot that tree that’s standing by the water and will not be moved? How to roll that boulder from in front of my cold, silent life so I can grow in the sunshine of this new world?

Methinks it will take more than faith.

Any helpful suggestions or encouragements? Just click that little comment button down there and pour out your own words.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Slaying Dragons

There is a dragon that follows me, dogs my footsteps, haunts my dreams, threatens my very existence. It is not by any shred of imagination a pet dragon, though sometimes I am driven to taunt it. And I have shamefully been known to drag it out of its lair and stroke it almost tenderly. It is a sinister creature.

Most often this hideous entity lurks in the shadows of my life. It waits and it rumbles. It is not patient.

I hate this creature. I despise it with every fiber of my being and I vow to destroy it from my life, once and for all. It becomes smaller. It avoids my wrath. I am free.

But am I truly free? In fear I look into the shadows of my life. What is my life without this battle, this thing to fight me? With whom, or with what, shall I fight if not this hated thing? What is the direction of my life if I am not herded by its presence? But, still it hides, so I will wait for it, and I know that I am indeed, not free.

It slithers into the small places. Its cold, unmoving eyes have found me. Its tongue stings the perfume of my joy and my footstep falters. I can kick this thing from my feet and stomp it away. I can move away from it. I can run. Slowly it wraps its constricting body around my legs until I can barely move, but it cannot touch my heart, it cannot stop my song. I will live; I will shout the praises of the One Most High.

But the thing becomes heavy. Where is my strength, where is my weapon of choice. I will slay this hated beast. With my own brute strength I will master this thing while it is still small. I am proud. I am -- I am -- I am

I am alone.

The dragon leaps out, morphed from the slithering, suffocating python wrapped around my soul. I feel its hot, stinking breath on my face. The dragon entangles me tighter in its scaly grip and I can feel its claws rip the pleasure from my throat. Pain is the only way of life, pain is a comfort. I find a fetid sense of peace in the stench of its flames. I will sleep in its arms and I will never have to fight again. It is the way it must be. I look one last time into its dead eyes to find my reflection. I am part of it now.

Another reflection can be seen. I have a child. I have a mate. I have a friend.  I know my friend will grieve for me and I find no pleasure in that. I know my mate will learn to live without me, and that does not hurt me. I see the terror in the eyes of my child and I know that this thing cannot take me away. I must protect my child from anything that will cause harm or fear. I know that I can never hurt my child and I will not let this dragon take me.

I am not alone; I have a child who must see me strong.

I have no strength, I have no secret weapon. I slip from the deceitful trap of the dragon that I hate. I am tired, but I live. I will one day find a way to slay this dragon.