Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thoughtful Thursday

It seems like such a simple word . . . but the meaning, the emotion, the grief behind the word can be heart-breaking, devastating, and life-altering.

This has been a difficult week: the tragedy in Manchester, UK has gripped headlines and the collective heart of the world.
A few hours ago, I learned that a young man who I have known for close to ten years was killed in an auto accident. Notice that I didn't say senseless; accidents are inherently senseless. But, alas, the loss is always profound.

So much death, some at a distance, some close and personal. So much life yet to live and explore for all these people.

But wasted? I think not.

Our lives change between one breath and the next.
One moment the world is balanced and 'normal'.
The next, nothing seems to fit together. As though the puzzle has been dropped to the floor and all the pieces broken and scattered.

When tragedy strikes, it's difficult to watch the normal around us. To hear laughter. To see smiles. To witness families with their scuffs of sibling interaction to the soothing touch of a mother or father. The grief comes in waves all but washing away the sand, leaving the spouse, child, brother, sister, friend wobbly and unsteady on their feet.

There is no quick fix to grief. No immediate remedy to the desolation of a loved one's sudden death.

But there can be moderation for the loss.

Have you ever watched a child play at Hopscotch? One square at a time. Dropping the rock, then hopping and moving to the next square, then the next, but always moving forward. Until they reach the end, accomplish the goal and come back to home -- exactly the same way: one square at a time.

Loss should be treated the same – one square at a time.

Every life lived is a joy. A celebration.

For those who have left this world, gone ahead, entered a better place, stood at the Gates of Heaven . . . they have left behind so much: smiles and tears, accomplishments and do-overs, serious moments and outrageous adventures, tenderness and temper.

Time is fleeting,

The blink of an eye.

The moment between breaths.

The giggle of a child, the whisper of a loved one, the caress of a lover, the smile of a stranger.

Fleeting . . . but oh-so precious.

Every life is a gift. Every life lived is worthy.

Perhaps best said in the poem The Dash.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Fun Friday - Dressed to the Nines

Phraseology in our language seems for the most part to be passed down generation to generation.

Whether writing historical, present day, or futuristic getting the language 'writer-right' is crucial.

Make sure to explore the etymology of words and language before inserting into your written works, or twisting for a new/futuristic meaning.

‘Dressed to the Nines’ is an expression designed to speak to clothing expression, certainly, but more to clothing perfection. I love the 60s movies when the culture dictated gloves, hats, pressed pants, silk stockings.

From How To Marry A Millionaire.


Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's
But whatever these pictures represent to me, is that the original meaning of ‘Dressed to the Nines’?

According to: The Phrase Finder the terminology 'dressed to the nines' (loosely translated to mean dressed to perfection) more than likely originated from 'to the nines', which was a term for perfection - plain and simple. As in the Nine Muses, the Nine Worthies, or perhaps:
That was in use in the 18th century, well before 'dressed to the nines' was first used, as in this example from William Hamilton's Epistle to Ramsay, 1719:

The bonny Lines therein thou sent me,
How to the nines they did content me.

In your writing, if you wish to express the perfection of clothing, personality, structure, consider 'to the nines'.

Perchance, it's a reference to the time and effort the Ton exercised regarding their appearance before even the most casual of outings through Hyde Park{historical};

Perhaps something more modern as in a New Year's Eve celebration -

Or of a child's full dress regalia for a Christening
(complete with bonnet and gloves) {current};

Conceivably, the beauty observed inside recreated religious centers/churches where ecclesiastical splendor could be brilliantly on display (futuristic);

Finally, the phrase could be the antithesis as in 'Walmart shoppers would never be accused of dressing to the nines'.

I had to be quite selective for this last picture. Dressed to the Nines is clearly not a phrase often bandied about in Walmart.

A simple phrase, once the etymology is clear, the date origin is confirmed, and the purpose in your writing established can turn an otherwise obscure sentence or paragraph into a clear picture for your reader. See above for that confirmation.

Words paint pictures, images, emotions, dreams.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Technical Tuesday - a tasty tidbit thanks to the Iron Chef Gauntlet

The Iron Chef Gauntlet is currently running on Food Network. If in your part of the world the season finale has already aired, do NOT reveal the ending. No spoilers in the comment section, please. The series started with seven experienced, and extremely hopeful, chefs who set their sights on eliminating their fellow kitchen connoisseurs in order to face the toughest competition of all: three reigning Iron Chefs.
For most that would be enough to curdle blood, weaken knees, and reduce steel spines to a puddle of ooze. But each of the seven signed on for the heat in the kitchen and wielded their knives with enthusiasm.

This week’s episode featured a Chairman’s Challenge between three final fierce competitors. Their task: to build the perfect simple dish, with the entire pantry at their disposal, using . . . wait for it . . . only five (5) ingredients. (They were granted the concession of salt/pepper/olive oil, but those were the only staples provided.) Two of The Iron Chef contenders chose to build one simple, but complex item, while the third went a bit different route to put an entrée on the plate. In this case, SIMPLE and COMPLEX won. The full entrée with protein and sides could not contend against the perfect single dish. Simple and complex is anything but . . . well, simple.

As writers, one of our most difficult journeys is to KISS, an old sales acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid. And for the purpose of this conversation, it’s about the goal of the writing. Ultimately, what do you, as the writer, expect to accomplish when you type THE END or the last period?

Short or long in length, know what the reader is to gain at the end of the experience. Then boil it down the basics and ask:
 Is the writing: Fiction or Non-fiction?
 Is the writing: Interrogative and possibly interactive?; Is the writing: Persuasive?; Is the writing Informative, possibly a teaching vessel?
 Is the reader: age group or education level relevant. If so, what?
 Is the reader: gender or nationality (as specific to the target audience)?
 Is the reader: coming to this literary work with certain expectations?

In keeping with the spirit of (5) ingredients, the answers to these five (5) questions can significantly narrow the writing field and hone the goal, allowing the writer to KISS.

As I write Romantic Suspense, based in U.S. cities, my finished products will be:
1) Fiction
2) Persuasive (I do believe in selling the concept of love), and Informative (each of my fiction endeavors teaches or explores a concept, whether hobby, career, or location).
3) Readers will be between 18 and still breathing, hopefully with breathy pants if the sexual tension is done well. Education level – because my writing is to entertain, I carefully tread the language level, but strive for the highest level of grammatical correctness.
4) Readers are generally female, with some cross culture nationality.
5) Readers expect a HEA – or Happily Ever After.

Simple, straight-forward answers that give me a definite goal to accomplish with my writing. Complex comes with all the other steps, and will be explored in future articles. Yet, even the layers of complexity must be kept simple enough to entertain, enthrall, and enrapture the reader with my characters and my writing.

Simple and Complex – the perfect recipe for delicious writing.

Drop by the porch again.

Monday, May 15, 2017

West Texas travels

My husband and I traveled into the west Texas area -- not far, by Texas standards, but a lovely distance from the commuters jamming every major thoroughfare in the Metroplex. Did you know cows are darn choosy about who stops at their fence? They don't come when called? And they're fairly skittish creatures. Meaning they don't like the sound of auto-wind on a camera. Who knew? Well, I guess the cows did. Travel out towards Weatherford -- stop at this great cafe, if you have a chance.

Oxymoron 2.1 version

Oxymoron 2.1 version

In updating my blog labels, I ran across this old blog.

Folks - it's worth revisiting.

Truisms never go out of style. So, relive the truth from 2009.

"We are a people who spend money we don't have on things we don't want to impress people we don't like."

Okay, that is a seriously great line . . . especially with the ring of truism in it.

I'd like to take credit, goodness knows, I like good writing. I'd even like to give credit where it's due; however, this piece of wisdom belongs to the man who wrote, Why is God laughing?. Sorry, I didn't catch the gentleman's name during his Good Morning, America interview. The gentleman who did remind me quite a bit of Mahatma Gandhi, sans the big nose, spoke eloquently about the oxymora (or our common plural version - oxymorons) in our lives.

For those who need the dictionary lesson: Oxymoron
a figure of speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect, as in “cruel kindness” or “to make haste slowly."

Sometimes, an oxymoron is more than a figure of speech. Sometimes, it's life in action.

Case in point . . .

My husband, smart guy that he is, related another just a few days after I'd been turned on to this thought. While walking our dog -- sometimes it's more the dog walks us than we walk the dog -- but dog and hubby were getting along down the bike trail when my hubby dearest noted a guy out tilling his garden for spring planting. The oxymoron was the hacking and coughing up one lung this old boy was doing while puffing away on a ciggy for the other lung. Even more of an oxymoron is that this guy will be planting a garden, fruits and veggies one must assume -- as in the healthy stuff -- yet he's polluting his lungs at a rate far faster than the fruits and veggies can save. Yep, Gardener Man was definitely a life in action oxymoron.

Okay, don't get on the collective soap boxes and lecture me about smoking and the rights of smokers everywhere. I'm a reformed smoker so I get to point and laugh. However, the point is the oxymoron.

But there's more . . .

What about the folks who crave children, and then leave them to be raised by daycare and nannies? Okay, I understand that sometimes both parents have to work to make all the ends meet and right now the ends might not be meeting at all. But if honesty won out, many folks could live in a smaller house, drive less expensive cars, take less grand vacations and make the budget balance on one salary.

Watch that soap box . . . I'm simply pointing out the oxymoron. If raising kids was the the most important thing, why would it be left to strangers?

That same tangent could be eloquently stated for our current educational system. How can we, collectively, claim that education is the most important thing when we, collectively, don't lobby -- forget lobbying, how about storming the capitol -- and demand that teachers' salaries match the job we lay on them? Our oxymoron, collectively, is that we'll pay exorbitant prices to go watch athletes run around a field, high-powered cars drive in circles, etc. Point should be made, collectively speaking.

So perhaps Oxymora are a way of life.

For a 2017 update: Is your life filled with an oxymoron or two? A negative that needs to be turned into a positive? Chaos that reigns over focus of life? Are you spending money/time/energy on minutiae that you can ill afford/don't need/won't use to impress people who in the long run should never have the opportunity to 'run' your life? That's a weighty thought for Motivational Monday. Give it the serious attention that it deserves.

Do drop by the porch again.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Lure The Muse

Creativity is simultaneously a writer's best friend and most dreaded enemy. But why? Are we, as writers, challenged of casual creativity? Are we blind to the bare bones of original brilliance? Do we glue our eyes closed to simple genius?

Finding a writer's muse can often involve gritting teeth, severing of limbs (metaphorically, folks) or jumping off the proverbial cliff and hoping for wings of inspiration. But why must it be so difficult when often hidden wells of creativity lurk inside each of us?

What is the secret?

Lure the muse.


I have discovered that most writers have a number of passions. Seldom does our creativity sequester itself in a solitary cell. Instead, creativity bubbles in many areas of our lives.

Do you garden? Maybe your home is surrounded by flowering perfection, filled with the whispering wings of butterflies or the gentle rush of hummingbirds. Is your garden pots of brightly colored vegetables and lush succulent herbs.

Do you paint? Not necessarily easel canvases. Perhaps, the color on your brush covers bare, boring, beige walls. Perhaps, the tint of walnut, or cherry, or maple fills your brush, sponge or cloth as you breathe new life into old furniture.

Do you cook? Not Iron Chef level, but do you tease your family and friends' taste-buds? Is your house the one with simmering spaghetti sauce that the neighbors always manage to visit?

Are you more than a shower Sinatra? A musical diva - maybe not The Voice quality - but no basement Betty either. Is there music in your soul that finds expression in the piano, the flute, the tuba? Drums with a real beat?

A car/antique/art aficionado? Devotion to beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Others may not pant over a '66 Fastback Corvette, or understand the glories of abstract art . . . but that doesn't make it less a form of creativity that begs for expression.

The final solution?

Free your muse. No reigning in budding brilliance. Use those areas of creativity as the bridge to your writing muse.

Never fear folding in aspects of your creative passions into your characters. Protagonist or secondary - all can benefit from the snippets of those passionate endeavors that fill your home and your hobby time.

Want to follow a new creative dream? Let your character take the ride with you.

From photograph to pottery
From aerial skydiving to aqua-farming
From calligraphy to cave-diving
From Frisbee-golf to foreign languages

Your life is the richer for every extension of your energy and talent.

So, too, will your character benefit from the magical journey.

Free your muse and the writing will follow.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Be brave, be bold, be yourself!

An important phone conversation today led me down a particular path of thought.

Someone near and dear to me is changing jobs - not careers - but jobs. However, this individual's professional world is highly stressful, intensely competitive, and filled with too many work hours for any given day. Bottom line: the right job selection is pretty darn important.

At times when choices seem so critical, it's easy to become handicapped, stifled, and fearful. Standing in place seems better than moving any direction. At least, feet are grounded and solid beneath, if you stand still, right?

The problem: it's impossible to get anywhere standing still.

So, I sympathized, empathized, and was the total strong shoulder for this individual with the momentous decision. Then I said, -- come on, you knew I'd say something -- "Be brave, be bold, and be yourself. Go for it all. Interview as exactly who you are. No gimmicks. No facades. No holding back. If the interviewer, the new boss, the HR specialist can handle you full steam, then it's more likely to be the right fit in the long haul. And what's the worst that can happen? They won't hire you; it's not the right placement; they'll envy your great looking power shoes after you leave their office. But, you, my interviewing friend, will walk out with a sense of accomplishment, of knowing that you didn't leave anything on the table. No regrets."

Regrets have always seemed like wasted effort, clutter that takes up emotional space. Regrets can't change or alter a dismissal past. Regrets can't and won't erase harsh words already spilled. Regrets won't eradicate that last awful job. Or terrible boss. Or sorry ex.

Don't misunderstand. Learning from life's teachable moments should be at the top of the priority list. Anyone can learn from the detours with enough effort to recognize and contemplate. But life is and always should be about the journey. Who we are today is a direct result of all of our yesterdays. Bad stuff serves a purpose, too. Even if it's to toddler-teach us to NOT put our finger in the fire again.

Our writing needs to come with the mantra: Be brave, be bold and be true to the writing.

Don't regret a badly penned paragraph. That's one sentence at a time of your story.
Don't regret a character that refuses to stay nicely in their story role. That's a dynamic secondary character that's on their way to becoming a sequel.
Don't regret plot holes. Fill them -- one story stone at a time until a solid plot wall exist.
Don't regret a story line that turns and bends. Think about driving down a monotonous road. Boring, and desperately hard to stay awake. No, the interesting road is the one with twist and dips, even a bump or two.

No standing still. Put pen to pad, stylus to tablet, fingers to keyboard, butt to chair. Be bold, be brave, be true to the writing . . . and that will take you and your writing forward.

Texas sayings

~Watch your step! Cacti, tumbleweeds, and an occasional armadillo might be ahead.

~Welcome to the land of tar-bubbling summers, gas-guzzling pickup trucks, standard Stetson headgear, and mile-high hair.

~Welcome to the Lone Star State, and Romance With A Texas Twist!

Quote of the Day