A Memorial Day Reflection

A day of remembrance

My husband’s uncle died in World War II. My uncle served, but returned. My hus­band, broth­er, broth­er-in-law, and so many oth­ers we knew served in Korea, some my hus­band knew nev­er returned. And there have been oth­er bat­tles since then. Now, with­out the draft, it seems the same small per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans vol­un­teer to take on our bat­tles over and over, with each per­son return­ing to the front (wher­ev­er it is) repeat­ed­ly. No more is it the two or four year block of life removed from the draftee or vol­un­teer as in Korea. Or “the dura­tion” as in WW II. Now it seems a life-style of the select few. Which leaves a large por­tion of our cit­i­zens uncon­cerned about those fight­ing for free­dom around the world. Indeed, many of the young gen­er­a­tion seem unaware of the exis­tence of the rest of the world, except as a pos­si­ble place to vaca­tion.

I planned to see beau­ty in this day, but some­how, I’ve missed the con­nec­tion. Oh, there is beau­ty. Our tulip poplar tree in bloom. Pic­tures of our great-grand-chil­dren on Face­book. The orange I had for lunch. (Love­ly taste, too.) Most com­ments about this day might dis­play a flag or a mil­i­tary salute to vet­er­ans. I could do that as well, and it would be mean­ing­ful to me. But I’ll break with tra­di­tion and post the tree blos­som. Just for a moment, I’ll think beau­ty. But in the back of my thoughts will be that flag, those vet­er­ans, and why can’t it be dif­fer­ent?

Tomor­row, per­haps the sun will come out, and life will go on as before, as it did yes­ter­day.

Is spring finally here?

Blossoms and Blue Skies

Fri­day the 13th of April is not an unlucky day this year. It’s the day when spring has final­ly arrived. Blue skies, coat-free weath­er, and the bloom­ing mag­no­lia near our front door. So I’m not look­ing for an ill wind, def­i­nite­ly!

I use that mag­no­lia tree rather like a cal­en­dar. What date did the first buds pop? When did they drop? (Noto­ri­ous­ly, they don’t last long.) Even, in the win­ter, when did snow fall and set­tle in clumps on the branch­es? In fact, before I knew it was a mag­no­lia (umm, I’m not even sure of that), one win­ter I began call­ing it our Pop­corn Tree after those clumps formed. My imag­i­na­tion turned them into pop­corn balls dec­o­rat­ing a Christ­mas tree. This year my pop­corn tree cal­en­dar tells me we have a very late spring. One year, at this time, not only had the buds dropped and scat­tered, but full-sized leaves cov­ered the tree.

To put a bit of writer/reader con­tent in this blog, let me point out that I’ve filled two para­graphs with spring blath­er. And, this morn­ing I filled even more para­graphs with the next scene of my some­time-in-the-future mys­tery, plus delet­ed two para­graphs I wrote yes­ter­day. So, that’s progress. Right?

Now for a ques­tion I real­ly want an answer or twelve to—are there any mys­ter­ies that have spring, or a change of sea­sons as a vital clue? Or even a pass­ing ref­er­ence? I scanned titles, but didn’t find a one. Do you have an answer?

Some recipes fail

Cheeseburger Muffins — NOT

Not a recipe day. Not a “save time, serve a deli­cious meal” day. No, not at all. How about a “For­get it. Let’s go to Burg­er King,” day? 

I had a half pound of ham­burg­er and high hopes. The recipe sound­ed inter­est­ing. The “come on” sound­ed even bet­ter. Oh, yes! Words like, “when we’re dying for a yum­my cheese­burg­er,” and “fam­i­ly favorite!”

I’d start­ed with a pound of ham­burg­er, plan­ning a meat­loaf, our per­son­al fam­i­ly favorite. Yum­my meal and sev­er­al cold sand­wich­es in the future. But I suc­cumbed to anoth­er idea. Must admit that was a stretch. Filled pep­per. But that’s anoth­er sto­ry about some­thing we did eat, but don’t plan to try again. Back to today’s dis­as­ter. First thing, it took an hour of my time. Sec­ond thing, it took a lot of oth­er gro­ceries that could have been bet­ter spent. Two eggs, a quar­ter of a pound of but­ter, two, count them, two cups of shred­ded cheese, ketchup, mus­tard, milk, flour, sug­ar. Sug­ar?

The recipe made way more than two of us could eat. (Espe­cial­ly since hub­by ate only one.) I sol­diered on, not sure why, and ate three. Or was it four? Nope, I’m sure I filled up with three. How­ev­er, a few of those good words were, “freezes well.” So now I have at least a dozen of those lit­tle nuggets of delight in the freez­er. Per­haps I’ll serve them to grand­chil­dren, nat­u­ral­ly using words like, “a go-to snack when you’re dying for a yum­my cheese­burg­er!” I won’t show them the pic­ture from the recipe book that shows them plump and rosy with­out those singed edges that result­ed from the min­i­mal cook time.

It’s Bazaar Time

11-19 christmas-bazaarI’m gear­ing up to sell my books at a local Christ­mas bazaar. Books will be in the minor­i­ty of prod­ucts. There will be sewn lovelies, cut felt hang­ings, hand-made jew­el­ry, paint­ings, and a vari­ety of dec­o­rat­ed items want­i­ng to be under someone’s Christ­mas tree. There will be com­mer­cial booths with can­dy and good­ies galore that may not last until Christ­mas. (I know, any I buy will suf­fer that fate.)

Ah, but books? One can par­take of their delights and still gift them to oth­ers. (That’s what often hap­pen to my hol­i­day pur­chas­es. How­ev­er, one must hold the book only par­tial­ly open so as not to crack the spine, def­i­nite­ly not dog-ear any pages, and nev­er read while eat­ing any­thing sticky.)

And after the bazaar? Will I count my mon­ey, always assum­ing I actu­al­ly sell a few books instead of buy­ing oth­ers’ good­ies. Well, hope­ful­ly. But I’ll go back to pro­mot­ing my book that is cur­rent­ly avail­able for nom­i­na­tion at Kin­dle Scout. (You knew I wouldn’t miss that oppor­tu­ni­ty right now.)

That tak­en care of, I won­der how many of you par­tic­i­pate in Hol­i­day Bazaars. Or, do you suf­fer (like me), with ambiva­lent thoughts of—what? It isn’t even Thanks­giv­ing yet.

Do You NaNoWriMo?

nano_logo

I should, I real­ly should. NaNoW­riMo, I mean. I’m between books, I have a pret­ty good sized ker­nel of an idea, and…it is the sea­son. But, I prob­a­bly won’t.

Make that, I should, I real­ly should. I can do it, I real­ly can. Fifty thou­sand words toward a new man­u­script. How appeal­ing is that? A big boost on cre­ativ­i­ty. And…it is the sea­son.

But, I’m in the midst of work­ing toward get­ting the com­plet­ed one pub­lished. I’ve just com­mit­ted to a reju­ve­nat­ing cri­tique group. I’m final­iz­ing a cou­ple of short sto­ries. Thanks­giv­ing is com­ing. Novem­ber is a short month as it is (by one day, but who’s count­ing).

Maybe I can get all that done next week and start NaNo late. (You know, do the Scar­let option and think about it tomor­row.)

The first time I NaNoed I piled up just over the fifty thou­sand words.

Yeah, but the sec­ond time I real­ly tanked.

But, but, that idea didn’t real­ly pan out. And I suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed a mini-NaNo last July. Doesn’t that count?

At this stage, I must admit, I start all over at the top with the same argu­ments.

I think I’ll stay in Scar­let-land for a while. After all, it is a whole two more days until Novem­ber.

How about you? Will you NaNoW­riMo this year?

Lazy Autumn Day

autumn leavesWe’ve had a cold snap. The tree leaves are turn­ing almost a bright red. (Some years they are more yel­low, oth­ers a dingy brown.) It’s warmer than it has been for days. Who wants to sit inside to write?

Any­body? Hands raised? Ummm. Okay, let’s stroll out­side in the autumn sun­shine. It will be win­ter soon.

Letters to the Editor

Years ago a local woman reg­u­lar­ly con­tributed to our newspaper’s11-15 writing let­ters page. Her pieces were well writ­ten and thought out. She wasn’t polit­i­cal or addict­ed to any orga­ni­za­tion or move­ment. She looked around, lis­tened, made deci­sions and shared her view­point. If she missed a week, oth­er writ­ers won­dered what hap­pened to her. Def­i­nite­ly an insti­tu­tion, and the read­er­ship mourned her death. Some­times a new scribe turned up, but it isn’t the same. For one, now the paper won’t pub­lish any one per­son more than once a month. There must be oth­er rea­sons. Per­haps they have oth­er avenues of expres­sion. Per­haps some are now blog­gers with fol­low­ers.

Some­times I write to my news­pa­per. Once it was about a way out-dat­ed front-page piece on med­ical pro­ce­dures. (Some­thing about it made me look up the orig­i­nal report cit­ed. I learned it was com­piled sev­en years before from queries com­piled in the pre­vi­ous ten years and includ­ed the com­ment that it was deemed unre­li­able.) Some years ago it was more apt to involve absent cov­er­age of our local school dis­trict activ­i­ties (where my chil­dren were involved, nat­u­ral­ly).

Not often, but occa­sion­al­ly, I’ll com­ment on some­thing polit­i­cal. If I do, I’ll sign my name dif­fer­ent­ly than I sign any­thing to do with my writ­ing. That’s because, with the inter­net pick­ing up every­thing, I once dis­cov­ered my com­ment over a local issue right there, with my name, for every­one with a com­put­er to see.

Okay, that’s good, right? Get your name out, can’t be bad. Except, the way I see it, our coun­try is almost even­ly divid­ed, and very par­ti­san. In fact, I see the same divi­sion with­in my friends and fam­i­ly. We all know which is which. We might even dis­cuss our dif­fer­ences ami­ca­bly. But that nev­er hap­pens in print. Don’t know why. Maybe it’s the news­pa­per with their unfun­ny car­toons lam­poon­ing both sides. It dri­ves a wedge through a coun­try that calls itself Unit­ed. And, view­ing all that angst, peo­ple take sides. They could eas­i­ly say, “If she thinks that, I’m cer­tain­ly not going to buy her books.” And who wants to alien­ate half of their pos­si­ble read­er­ship?

So, do you write let­ters to the edi­tor? Actu­al­ly, I still do. Not often, I have oth­er writ­ing that calls me.

A Good Writing Day

Break­through! This morning’s writ­ing gave me the end­ing for my short sto­ry. Needs fine-tun­ing, of course. It is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent than I usu­al­ly write—historic, long short, if that makes sense. You see, For­got­ten Body, the sequel to Yesterday’s Body, takes place at a reen­act­ment of the War of 1812 on Chesa­peake Bay. The ama­teur sleuth in the sto­ry, Jo, won­ders what her life would have been like in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. She’s in her late fifties, an unmar­ried sur­vivor of two bad mar­riages. Would wife and moth­er have been her only options? Of course not, but what else would she do?

Orig­i­nal­ly, I start­ed putting lit­tle snip­pets of an his­toric sto­ry in the larg­er mys­tery. But, they real­ly didn’t fit. So, you might say, what I was work­ing on today is an out-take of the book, rather like the out-takes they often show from movies or TV shows. And, for a while there, the sto­ry didn’t seem to have a future. Today was the break­through that I need­ed. I now have an his­toric romance (not mys­tery) of around 20 pages. A bit long for the usu­al short sto­ry, but I have plans for this one and anoth­er long-short I’ve completed—a pre­quel to Yesterday’s Body that is a mys­tery.

So, short sto­ry-long, it’s a good day in my world.

Testing The New Software

I got a new com­put­er more than a year ago. I’d added soft­ware to the old com­put­er to down­load pic­tures from my cam­era. No prob­lem, I’d just shove that disc in the new omput­er to trans­fer the soft­ware. Except—it didn’t work with Win­dows 7. Who knew that would have been a prob­lem? But, some day, I’d fig­ure it out. Sure I would.

But I didn’t.

I resist­ed tak­ing pic­tures. Hey, I could down­load any that friends or fam­i­ly e-mailed me. The big snow we had last win­ter? Well, I did take some pic­ture of that, but they sat on my cam­era.

Final­ly, I bought a new pro­gram, high­ly rat­ed, in fact, num­ber one for 2015. Geez, why did I do that? I have no idea how to use it. That takes study, time spent away from writ­ing. But…

Hey, I’ll try down­load­ing my cam­era. Shoot a few more images. I walked out my back door (since our house is on a hill, the porch is more of a bal­cony) and stand with my head prac­ti­cal­ly in the trees. It’s one of my favorite places, with one of my favorite views. (I won­der, was I a bird in some past life?)

2014-1 021Now, to prove I’ve mas­tered the first basic les­son of my new soft­ware, I’ll dis­play one of the pic­tures right here.

And now, to illus­trate how long those 2014-1 010pic­tures have been in the cam­era, I’ll show an ear­li­er pho­to tak­en from near­ly the same spot. See those bare branch­es on the right? That’s the same tulip poplar tree shown above.

So that’s my lat­est new soft­ware. I’m hop­ing to do won­der­ful things, even­tu­al­ly, with my pic­tures. I’m a cam­era buff from way back. Just don’t ask me any­thing about cell phones that only inci­den­tal­ly make tele­phone calls.

Art In The Attic

A son visits his father.

A son vis­its his father.

The draw­ings on the wall of a third floor stor­age room have been there for over one hun­dred years. As the house passed through dif­fer­ent own­ers, one promise was made—leave the pic­tures alone. They are pen­cil draw­ings, made by two boys who lived with their moth­er in the rent­ed house. Some of them depict their old­er broth­er, Leo Hauck, who was a cham­pi­on box­er.

How did this all get on the front page of my local news­pa­per? The cur­rent home­own­er was curi­ous. She asked ques­tions and dis­cov­ered a few amaz­ing con­nec­tions. Three of Leo’s chil­dren sur­vive and live local­ly. Peg­gy, age 100, and Eddie, age 94, didn’t walk up the stairs to see their father as a young box­er. Joe, age 80, lives less than a mile away. He and his daugh­ter vis­it­ed the third-floor draw­ings and were amazed.

As a writer, I always think, what if? What if any one of the own­ers of the house had paint­ed over those pic­tures? What if, the house was remod­eled and win­dows replaced a wall? What if the area had been zoned for renew­al and the place torn down and became a park­ing lot? What if none of those hap­pened, but the con­nec­tion was nev­er made?

Joe Hauck was thir­teen when his father died. He knew he’d been a fight­er. He’d known those uncles who drew the pic­tures as chil­dren. He knew his father start­ed box­ing as a fly­weight at age four­teen. He knew he was known as the “Lan­cast­er Thun­der­bolt,” and often as Leo Houck due to a mis­spelled pro­mo­tion­al piece. Joe’s father, who suc­cess­ful­ly boxed in every weight up to heavy­weight (as he grew) is named in the Inter­na­tion­al Box­ing Hall of Fame. Now Joe knows a bit more.

To see more pic­tures and the com­plete arti­cle, check out this link in LNP News­pa­pers.