What Goes Around

Photo: signalstoattend.wordpress.com

Photo: signalstoattend.wordpress.com

What Goes Around

The rising sun signaled the opening of a new day. Lily stretched, trying to clear her head of the jumbled remnants of last night’s sad dream that merged with blurred memories of the previous evening.

She reached over to Ned but touched only the wrinkles of the space that should have held his lanky frame. That’s when she recalled her irritation at his disclosure of his plans for the morning, blurted out when she was trying to fall asleep.

At what point had it all gone south? When had he replaced their flamboyant,, early morning love-making with frequent rounds of golf. And when had the sound of ennui taken the place of the bliss with which he used to speak her name?

Had it been like that for Nora, his first wife, the one he’d left to be with her each Thursday, before the world was awake?

She’d warned him, Nora had, of Ned’s voracious appetite for “golf.”

 

I’m submitting this in response to Brenda’s Wordle response on The Sunday Whirl and also for this week’s Monday Meanderings. If you haven’t visited The Sunday Whirl, give it a whirl! I haven’t been there for a while but it’s a chance to challenge yourself writing either poetry or short fiction.

There were the words: last, signal, disclose, point, irritation, jumbled, sound, appetite, sun, time, bliss, flamboyant.

Have a happy week!

Of Hand-Holding and Hugs–Monday Meanderings

 

Photo: love.catchsmile.com

Photo: love.catchsmile.com

Today, David and I had a couple of errands to run—one of which took us to Target to get some dog-care items that we can only find there. As we exited the store, David took my hand. I don’t think I would have noticed because it’s just what we do but then I spotted a middle-aged couple ahead of us, hand-in-hand. And headed in our direction, a young couple, his arm around her. I couldn’t but smile and feel grateful. Here we were: young, 40’ish and older (that’s us), still reaching for one another, still loving and caring for each other.

This brought to mind that today would have been my parents whose 62nd Wedding Anniversary. Both of them had lost their first spouse at an early age and remarried in their 30’s. Right up into their 80’s people would stop them to comment on their obvious affection for each other. And that affection extended beyond us, their family, to many, many fellow travelers on the road of life. One time when I was visiting them, years ago, noted author and lecturer Leo Buscalia made his way through several tables at a Denny’s restaurant in Pasadena to comment on the obvious joy they still found in one another. He said something to the effect that—this is just what I’m trying to communicate in my books.

Mom is still alive at 93, living with a slowly progressive dementia. I called her today but decided not to bring up the date—she remembers my Dad every day and misses him so much. I was afraid I would trigger a bout of unnecessary grief.

Each day I learn more about the fact that, if a marriage or committed relationship is to be for the long haul, both partners have to be willing to put in a lot of work. I learned that first hand growing up, watching my parents deal with the huge challenges of a blended family from very different backgrounds—one that included two daughters the exact same age. (I won’t go into detail about that!)

bestinshowdailySo this week—for those of us who are blessed to still have our partners, let’s focus on being present, expressing love and acceptance, going out of our way for the other. For those of you who have lost a loved one, nurture a loving memory with gratitude—even if that relationship did not have a happily ever after ending. It’s possible to learn something from everyone who is or has been a part of our lives, isn’t it? And for those who are still waiting—may you be open to both the wonders and the work aspect of a relationship.

Sorry that this sounds a bit preachy but when someone has lived a long while, has failed, gotten up and kept on going, when someone keeps trying to love and accept—maybe you will forgive them for thinking they have something to share. God knows, our poor world needs a bit more hand-holding and a lot more hugging.

Have a love-filled week.

 

Find Leo Buscalia’s books at Amazon.com 

Titles include:

Love: What Life is All About;

Living, Loving and Learning;

Loving Each Other and more.

The link will take you there.

Ready, Set—Let’s Party! Monday Meanderings

This week, the poets who frequent dVerse Poetry Pub are gearing up to celebrate an Anniversary–3 years! Brian and Claudia have lined up all kinds of fun and inspirational virtual events. I won’t give anything away but instead invite/beg you to head on over and see what they’ve cooked up for us. The Invites will be posted today at 12 Noon, EDT, HERE.

Photo: Allison Jardine for dVerse Poets Pub

Photo: Allison Jardine for dVerse Poets Pub

Being part of the team since the beginning has been a huge privilege for me. It’s true–at times it’s demanding (LOTS of preparation and commenting). I even submitted my resignation once and immediately regretted it but Brian and Claudia gave me the option of taking a LOA for a couple of months to ready my next novel for publishing. (If you want to know more about the novel, The Sin of His Father,  check out my Website.)

The community of poets who frequent “The Pub” are from many countries, diverse backgrounds and belief systems, as well as varying levels of poetic experience and skill. Accepting the various challenges offered by the team, we write in many forms from the most structured to unique free forms. It’s fun to see how a poet’s work develops, how we grow as poets and persons. Being a part of the pub offers a glimpse of new ways of looking at things and acceptance of one another in spite of our differences.

I better clam up now, since I will be posting Saturday’s Anniversary wrap-up and don’t want to use up all my insights here. But if you do stop by for that, you will, no doubt, experience some deja-vu all over again, to quote the inimitable Yogi Berra.

As you may have guessed, the purpose of this post is to invite you to join us. For the poets among you, I hope you will contribute at least one (or more) of your own poems. And, everyone else–read one or many. Who knows? You may catch the poetry bug and give it a try yourself. Perfection not required. It’s a process.

Have a wonderful week, and Happy Anniversary, dVerse!

oneinhundred

 

 

 

 

 

Edit. Edit Again. And Again!–Monday Meanderings

It seemed to take “forever” but, finally, the proof of  The Sin of His Father arrived. As I plunge into yet another edit, I’d like to share a few suggestions to help in the editing process.

Though these apply, for the most part, to prose fiction, I hope there may be some suggestions for those of you writing in other genres.

Set your manuscript aside for a while (weeks or months) before revision. The distance will give you better perspective when you return to what you have written.

Look for echos–that is to say unintentional repetition of words or phrases. Sadness hung in the air like dense fog. I could see that she was sad, is an example of an echo.

Read your writing aloud to yourself and/or another. This process promotes the discovery of grammatical, syntactical and spelling errors.

If you choose to change point of view within the text, make sure that you have provided the reader with a clear distinction between characters. Use spaces or chapter changes to shift point of view. Or use an omniciscent narrator.

Lose adjectives or adverbs whenever an active verb or noun achieves your goal. Consider the following two sentences that deliver the same message:

She felt very afraid.

Fear crept in and overwhelmed her–her breathing quickened.

Which do you think better engages the reader’s emotions?

This next  suggestion may surprise you: reread your manuscript in its entirety (chapter-by-chapter or scene by scene for short fiction) but start at the END. This technique enables you to identify unresolved story lines, chronology issues and other inconsistencies. When I applied backwards review to Winter is Past I found that I had changed the name of a secondary character somewhere along the line–the kind of thing that happens when you’ve worked on your novel over a longer period of time.

While doing your backward review, double-check to make sure that every scene has a goal and propels the plot forward.

These are but a few of the things I look for. I hope these are helpful to those of you who face the daunting task of making it better. 

Image: Jackson Paul Baer

Image: Jackson Paul Baer

Have a good week–whichever stage of the writing process you’re working!

Location, Location, Location–Monday Meanderings

Today I’m sharing a short story I wrote in 2007, about 3 years into my first novel. Like all new creative writers, I’d read a plethora of books on the writing process, attended writing conferences and tried my best to provide myself with the closest thing to a MFA that I could expect at 50-something.

Taking to heart all the advice offered by the “experts”, I tried to do it perfectly. Little-by-little the reality dawned on me that every writer has the freedom and the need to discover what works best for them. The theme of this story is part of my experience; the details are pure fiction.

Photo: distraction99.com

Photo: distraction99.com

Location, Location, Location
A Short, Short Story

Becca grasped the aquamarine notebook in her trembling hands, reached for pen with its padded surface and took in a deep breath. “I’m ready,” she announced to Nimble, her rough-coated Jack Russell Terrier. “Where’re we going?”

She’d prepared for this moment for days—no, years. The time had come to embark on her life’s quest. After all, she was about to turn fifty.

Longhand would flow through her fingertips, unfolding onto the paper. True, there’d be the drudgery of transcription, but writing is an art form and like the sculptor with clay, she longed to touch the medium of her creation.

After she hooked Nimble to his leash, Becca hopped in her Neon and headed off into her future. “You’re my lucky totem, boy, my muse.” The dog cocked his head, nipping at her words.

When she arrived at Rancho San Rafael, Becca spotted a picnic bench beneath the boughs of a spreading Oak. She stopped, unloaded and retrieved the virgin journal from her backpack and opened it.

Closing her eyes, Becca strained to conjure up the brilliant storyline that had visited her at two in the morning. Before she’d put her pen to paper, a pigeon in the tree above her delivered an enormous pea green dropping that splattered on the pristine page. Becca yelped and tore the first few sheets from her tablet, crumpled them and slam-dunked the wad into the waste receptacle nearby. She stomped back to her car, Nimble in tow, and didn’t write that day.

Nimble nudged Becca before seven the following morning. She awakened slowly. The story-line had reappeared and hovered just below the surface of her consciousness. She grabbed her pen and diary in a desperate move to recover her thoughts, but the canine whined to go outside and pee. Becca hauled herself from bed and opened the door for her dog. The tale scampered out with Nimble. She returned to bed and ensconced herself beneath the downy comforter. If I don’t stir too much, maybe it’ll come back. But nothing happened.

She grabbed her pen and paper, propped she up in bed and began to write, just for the sake of writing but Nimble’s whining pierced her concentration. Becca set aside her work and peeled back the covers to let the dog back in the house. A relentless cramping gripped her trapezius and she had to admit that writing in bed didn’t work either. Another day passed without a written word.

The following morning the phone jolted her from sleep. Becca croaked a drowsy Hello.

“It’s eight thirty, her mother’s voice informed her. “Tell me I didn’t wake you up–aren’t you writing? I’m not subsidizing extra sleep!”

Becca hesitated. “I’ve got a problem. I don’t know where to write. Monday, I tried the park and yesterday, in bed. I can’t find the right location and I refuse to be stuck in an office. Any ideas?”

“I’m paying bills for three months so you can jump-start your book, not a minute more. I expect results.”

“That’s only thing I want, Mom. Honest.”

“Then check out that little coffee shop down the street from you—the one with the easy chairs. Maybe that will inspire you—it’s a very artsy location.”

“I’ll go there today, great suggestion!”

Becca arrived at ten o’clock. The smell of coffee assaulted her. The crowd was sparse. She paid for her latte, sprinkled a dash of cinnamon on the froth and made her way to her nest in an overstuffed chair by the unlit hearth. She scrounged for her supplies, opened the notebook and poised to scrawl. The plot remained vague so she titled her work THE NOVEL, printing the letters in upper case.

The opening line’s got to grab their attention, she reminded herself. She wrote in cursive script that would’ve done the nuns proud: The morning started out calmly enough. Angela could not fathom the unfortunate turn of events that awaited her on that July afternoon.

A young couple meandered over and sunk into the love-seat opposite Becca. She watched as they ogled one another, oblivious of their surroundings. Sexual tension shimmered and invaded Becca’s space, dissipating her focus. Gathering her belongings, she relocated to a table toward the front where the sun’s glare bounced off the front window, causing her to fumble in her purse for sunglasses. Becca penned a second sentence.

Two women entered the café, choosing seats nearby.

“I don’t know how much longer I can stand William,” the younger one stated. “He doesn’t pull his load and nothing I do is good enough for him.” And on she rambled.

Becca attempted to ignore the tirade but couldn’t. She downed the tepid coffee, seized her gear and went home. That day she cleaned out the garage.

In the days that followed Becca continued her hunt. She drove to the library, but couldn’t settle in the lumpy chair. The daily story telling for children, now out of school, distracted her. The reader’s singsong voice and conspicuous pauses grated on her nerves.

Returning home, she arranged a low plastic mesh chair in a corner of her yard. Nimble tormented her with his ball and pull toy. Bees swarmed and mosquitoes buzzed. She spent most of the time swatting.

Then Becca rearranged a corner of her office and dragged an abandoned rocking chair from storage. She fetched a pail of soapy water and spent the afternoon scrubbing off the cobwebs. She caressed the ancient pinewood with lemon-scented polish. The cushions were beyond redemption so she shopped the next day to replace them. That night she added two paragraphs of description, but the plot remained fuzzy and she didn’t know where to go next.

“I’ll read a how-to book on novels,” she told her dog. “That ought to get me going.”

Five weeks passed. Baca’s Mom invited her for a stay. “Maybe you can work on the beach—it’s peaceful there.”

Becca booked her flight, packed her duffel bag and left Nimble at the canine hotel. On the plane she studied character development and point-of-view. “Angela’s a Pisces,” she said aloud, startling the overweight man in the middle seat. Point of view continued to confuse her.

Every morning Becca packed a PBJ and hauled her macramé bag to the shore. Ideas flowed like molasses. Her skin crisped and wind fought battle with the pages. Guilt forced her to observe this ritual with compulsion. At the end of a two-week labor she’d delivered three chapters and returned to Reno. The coast had left her dry.

Nimble greeted his mistress with frenzy. Separation guilt had dampened Becca’s creative energy and she succumbed to his need for walking and swimming in the river. Three weeks evaporated.

“How far have you gotten?” her Mother asked at the end of two months.”

“Six chapters.”

Silence answered Becca, reinforcing her escalating panic.

I’ve got to do something. Becca tossed the wretched notebook on her desk, booted up the computer and began to copy the manuscript. As she transferred the written word onto the keyboard a miracle occurred. She typed the six chapters, accomplishing a first rewrite in the process, but couldn’t stop. Her fingers dashed across the letters of the alphabet, directed by a higher power. The next day she returned and the days after that. Nimble remained psychologically tethered to her side. Each afternoon, at precisely two o’clock, she’d take a break and reward him with a walk along the Truckee, then hurry back to her computer.

Becca shed her concern with location. She dragged her journal to a jazz concert and added pounding music to a passionate love scene. She drove to Tahoe and in her car transported serenity to a moment of intense communication. On a bus she described the blur of buildings as a backdrop to a clandestine encounter then tuned out conversation in a restaurant or Baskin Robbins. Or tuned it in and added it to her story.

“The place for writing is right inside me,” she announced to her Mother, towards the end of her sabbatical. “The first draft is finished. I’m letting it sit for a few weeks, and then I’ll do my rewrite. In the meantime I’m working on a short story that I started at a basketball game.”

My wish would be that this may help at least one reader setting out on the daunting task of writing creatively.

I’m spending my time grappling with the technological aspects of self-publishing my second novel. Sorry I haven’t been around to read much, but I still try to visit those who comment and to read some of the wonderful work you post.  Have a good writing week. Live it to the fullest.

Things–Monday Meanderings

This past week to ten days have been consumed with clearing out the kitchen in the desert in preparation for some renovation, packing up for our return to Reno (yesterday) and, today, unpacking and doing loads and loads of laundry. I can’t help but reflect upon the enormous amount of energy spent on “things”—too many things.

The place in the desert belonged to my parents. My mother, as a child of the Great Depression, was loath to unload. I tend toward minimalism, I suppose, except for clothes( as I’ve learned over the past few days.)

Photo: kidspot.com

Photo: kidspot.com

This experience can’t but cause me to reflect on a few things:

• What are my responsibilities toward those who don’t have even enough?
• Do I remember to express gratitude for what I do have?
• How can I share with others? (I have been able to off-load a lot to a local charity, but what can I do beyond that?)
• Do I prioritize what is most important to me in life—freedom, the love of family?
faith?
• And, considering those things I value, how do I spend my time?

I’ve returned home now. The two-day drive up the Eastern Sierra never fails to inspire poetry. I’m looking forward to resuming writing and to participating in the blogs that mean so much to me.

Our time in the desert was way too busy. I didn’t move forward but an inch on my writing and publishing goals. Such is the myth of retirement. Don’t count on having a lot of time—and I hope when it’s your turn to retire, you don’t. I wish for you a life that’s full and active and rich with love and fun!

We left summer for winter. Reno has been in a drought so, of course, we return to a scattering of snow and hail…go figure! The weeds in the garden are up to my hips (not an exaggeration); I can’t wait to tackle them, though.

Have a wonderful week, doing what makes you and those you love happy. For my part, I don’t expect to be bored.

Playing with Poetic Form–Monday Meanderings

Today I’m sharing a post from Heidi who blogs at http://biggerthanalasagna.blogspot.com/ A few weeks ago, Gay Reiser Cannon, hosting dVerse Meeting the Bar, gave us the challenge to create our own form. Here, Heidi sends a Thank You to Gay, along with a brief explanation of her response. It’s so much fun, I thought I’d share it. Thank you, Heidi and Gay.

An Open Thank You to Gay Reiser Cannon

Dear Gay,

For the April 10, 2014 dVerse Meeting the Bar post, you challenged us to create our own form.

I created the Geburstag, which uses the writer’s birthday to determine lines and either word or syllable count. In my comments, you wrote that it would also be a good ways to write poems for other people using their birthday. Your challenge and comment opened a whole new way of celebrating my friends for me. I have been using it for birthdays and to commemorate any other special day. (I don’t know if my friends like it as much…) But it has been such a fun way for me to remember and appreciate people who are important to me. I just wanted to thank you for the cool inspiration!

With Gratitude,

heidi

If you’d like to read Heidi’s original post with a sample of her poem, find it here.

I hope you’ll give it a try. Maybe you’ll share it in comments or by adding a link in comments. In the future, perhaps we can deal deal with some more ideas that this prompt generated.

And here’s mine.

Photo: David Slotto

Photo: David Slotto

 

12-29-1943

smooth jazz on a warm night in the california desert

 

yesterday

i heard

smooth jazz

played under stars, palms and a silver slivered moon.

today

i dream of desert skies dancing to saxophone riffs,

drums, a bass guitar,

tasting your kisses.

Gay Cannon Gay Cannon is a Published poet, (she majored in English Lit.) author of children’s stories, musician and lover of music, artist and lover of art, figure skating judge,- covetous of dancers, founder of Stars FSC in Dallas (she minored in Political Science) supporter of the arts, an aesthete but not an atheist She’s a loyal friend, mother of three, grandmother of eleven. She loves to travel, meet people, go to museums; She loves good food and good conversations. She tries to find the music in people’s voices and the poetry in their souls.

Photo: Gay Cannon, Published Poet Photo taken from dVerse Poets

Photo: Gay Cannon, Published Poet
Photo taken from dVerse Poets

Kavannah–Intention: Monday Meanderings

Image: Jason Newcomb

Image: Jason Newcomb

Although I am not Jewish, I have found much nourishment in studying spiritual aspects of Judaism, in particular the Hebrew Alphabet (Aleph Beit). Jewish mystics and scholars believe that God used the letters of the Aleph Beit to bring about creation. Consider the power of the Word. This morning I spent time with the letter Kaph. It means “palm” as in the palm of the hand. There is power in the hand–we raise a hand in blessing, we use our hands in the act of creating, through the hand healers channel their healing energy–think of Jesus, or Reiki Masters. It is intention, kavannah, that enables this power. Kaph is the first letter of kavannah and, as such, invites us to bring intentionality to our daily actions. A few hours ago I spent some time doing the domestic thing: folding laundry, doing the dishes, a quick “pick up/put away storm” around the house. The idea of kavannah came to mind and, as I was making the bed, I realized that I can do it grudgingly or with grace. Bringing the intention of love to simple chores transforms them–making our home a blessing. It’s true that this is something I learned at an early age, but it’s something I have to continue to strive to remember. It’s so easy to slip into unconsciousness and go through the actions of every day without awareness. So, we write. How can kavannah/intention affect this part of our life? What happens when, before we put our palms on the keyboard, we remember that we are instruments of God’s creative Spirit?

A Season of Newness

Photo: D. Slotto

Photo: D. Slotto

For today’s reflection I would like to share an excerpt of the homily delivered by Pope Francis I at the Easter Vigil Service.

“In the Gospel of this radiant night of the Easter Vigil, we first meet the women who go the tomb of Jesus with spices to anoint his body (cf. Lk 24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, a traditional act of affection and love for a dear departed person, just as we would. They had followed Jesus, they had listened to his words, they had felt understood by him in their dignity and they had accompanied him to the very end, to Calvary and to the moment when he was taken down from the cross.

We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb

But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body.

It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf. Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do

Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises; we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us!

Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives!

Photo: Jimmy Akin Francis washing the feet of several young people, including women.

Photo: Jimmy Akin
Francis washing the feet of several young people, including women.

 

Monday Meanderings–Holy Week and Passover

Image: Milton Knox

Image: Milton Knox

In the Christian tradition, yesterday was Palm Sunday, the beginning of a week in which the passion and death of Jesus is observed, culminating in Easter Sunday. Likewise, in Judaism, Monday opens the celebration of Passover.

Image: 123greetings.com

Image: 123greetings.com

In both traditions, the underlying theme is freedom…freedom from bondage, either that of our own personal inadequacy or that imposed by an outside force—in the case of Christianity, redemption from sin and in Judaism, deliverance from captivity in Egypt.

Whether taken as sacred truth or metaphor, the reality for all—believers and non-believers alike—is that few are totally free of enslavement of one sort or another. Just reflect upon the wide variety of addictions that plague society, poverty, government control, unhealthy relationships, physical limitations—the list is boundless.

This may be a good week, whether we ascribe to a religious worldview or not, to evaluate what is holding us back from becoming whole, fulfilled human beings. Is there one step within our power, one step each of us can take to become free in body, mind, spirit or emotion?