The Internet is Awesome?

145Have you ever checked your search history? Last Saturday night it occurred to me that I had really crammed a lot of information into my brain over the weekend, so I checked to see exactly what I’d researched.

Here was one weird afternoon and evening for me: I looked up the lyrics of several songs by Meatloaf. Not a singer I enjoy, but we have been invited to go to the concert coming up on April 1st, and I wanted to reacquaint myself with the songs. Check and see if maybe I could find a new appreciation for them. Nope. But, I’m still really looking forward to going. (I’ll take earplugs.)

Somehow that led me to a youtube video of Iggy Pop. He has a new song out called Gardenia. Watched that. Thought it stunk. I then searched what in the world he sang back in the day. Wild One, Passenger... songs I’m familiar with and don’t mind. But oh, the videos of him performing live. Yikes. Yikes and Ew. He really doesn’t like clothing.

Then I stumbled onto Jim Morrison. Must have been on Youtube. I enjoyed remembering how handsome he was and listening to Doors songs. I really like the Doors. Their music IS that era. But again, the videos—I didn’t love those. I watched him doing what he called Shaman dancing, and oddly enough, it was pretty darned reminiscent of what Iggy Pop did. Thought that was weird. I figure they maybe did some of the same kinds of drugs. I ended up watching a documentary about Morrison. He was a case of being a creative genius. He couldn’t get out of his own head. Drugs killed him, but I think the darkness in his mind led him to that end.

I searched the Zika virus and it has me troubled. Mosquitos, the filthy little blood suckers, are once again spreading disease. I looked at how to make a facebook page serve as a website. Felt fairly apathetic about what I found there. Researched the movie, The Revenant. The meaning of the word Revenant. The actual history of Hugh Glass, the man the movie is about. Tried to figure out how to create a Wikipedia page. Decided that was a project I’d have to save for when I had more time. Stumbled on an essay by an author I’ve heard of. Read it. It was nasty. Tried to wash it off my eyeballs, but it’s stuck in my brain. Very unfortunate. For Lord knows what reason, I looked up Dutch names and found some to be pretty likable. Might have to call one of my cats Coen or Hans. Read about the differences between Indo-European and Germanic languages. Tried once again to commit to memory all of the countries in Asia. Didn’t work…once again.

AND after I crammed all of that additional knowledge into my brain, I ended up liking stuff on Facebook, watching a few cat videos, and playing solitaire. All the wisdom of the world at my fingertips, and that’s what I do with my down time. And now I can’t figure out which of the opposite ends of the spectrum were actually a bigger waste of my time! Oh, and here is my very favorite cat video. Makes me laugh every time.

Resolution

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On New Years Eve, we were with a group of friends playing the game, Apples to Apples. The game involves cards with a word, and below the word, there are examples of the word’s meaning. This game made me think about how many nuances a word can have in its meaning.

For instance, the word Resolution, by one of its definitions, means to decide to do, or not do something. This is the kind of resolution many of us are making now that it’s the beginning of a new year.

Resolution can also mean, the action of solving a problem—similar to the first meaning, yet a little different.  In Physics, resolution can mean the conversion of something abstract into another form. Yet another definition for resolution is, the degree of detail visible in a photographic or television image.

That last definition is the one I think of, because as a kid when the TV screen went wonky, it was always me who sat in front of it, turning the different knobs for color, contrast, or tint. The various knobs controlled the ultimate resolution of the picture we saw. How clear or steady it was.

In the end, it’s how I adjust my picture that will truly improve the show that is my life. True, first I need to say, “Hey… I want a clearer picture!” But before I can resolve my static, I have to figure out what knobs to adjust. So it’s ineffective to just focus on the end result I want to achieve. I need to figure out how to come to the solution. I need to adjust my set.

I think I’m going to fuss with the knob to adjust for more time writing and less time talking about it. The one for more time cleaning and less time complaining about my house being dirty. And especially, I want to adjust the knob for more time thinking about others instead of myself. Yes. That’s the one I need to fiddle with the most.

There is an awful lot of static out there in the world right now. I can’t fix all of that… but I can certainly adjust my own set.

FROM OUR HOUSE TO YOURS

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Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week, I worked very hard to get everything done at work, home, and for the holiday. Food is prepared, two houses are ready, and even the animals seem to know it’s a special time.

Thanks to help from the hubs and Ibuprofen for my aching back, this morning I have had the luxury of sleeping in, then sitting quietly in my clean living room, cats on my lap, and dog under my chair, while I swoon over a cup of hot coffee with real cream — a Christmas treat. (1% can wait. This is the time for little indulgences!)

As I listen to the scrapes of the shovel clearing the patio and sidewalks – Thanks again to my glorious and manly husband – and gaze out the window at the frosted yard dotted with those little red sheds, I thank God for all of the blessings I have and which are coming.

My daughter is home from St. Louis and snoozing in her room. It warms my heart to know when she wakes up, I get to hug her and hear her sleepy voice. My son and his special girl will be here later today and then I’ll get to enjoy the sounds of people chattering and laughing. Church tonight, presents tomorrow, plenty of food and love.

I wish the same for all of you. Merry Christmas from our house to yours. Enjoy the blessings of the season. Give someone the gift of your smile and a kind word. It’s something everyone can give.

Reviews—The Good and Bad

When readers review my books on Amazon, I’m a happy author. Having numerous reviews allow me the ability to promote my book in certain places, such as BookBub. But what other leg-up do reviews give a book? Well, I’m on the fence about that.

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Honestly, when I buy a book, whether it be an ebook or print, it’s because the cover rocks, and the blurb is intriguing. Then I read the first page. Good writing is always evident within the first few paragraphs. I’m currently reading Alex Kava’s, Stranded. This is an excellent example of knocking you off your chair good stuff right from the get-go.

Regardless of my perch on the fence regarding benefits of review, I have a real love/hate relationship with looking at the reviews on my books. Particularly, Thorns of Rosewood, book 1 in the Rosewood Series. When I see I have a new review, I’m excited. Then my stomach knots up, because sometimes, reviews are a mirror reflecting the moles and messy hair of my book.

I ran a Bookbub ad a couple of months ago with nice results in sales, but even nicer results in reviews. I believe I started with around forty reviews on that book. I now have 247 reviews, 228 of which Amazon deems positive, and 168 of which are 5-Star. Hey. I like those numbers. And I comment on every single review. Most often I just say, “thanks for reading,” but I do feel if they took the time to review my book, I should take the time to acknowledge it.

What about bad reviews, you may wonder. Oh… I’ve got them. Six of them. Three two stars and three one stars, so far. My very favorite bad review is the one titled, “?” The review is, “I never ordered or received this book!” I read it now and then because it makes me chuckle.

So how do you pick a book? Do you review books? Do you like cookies? (just checking to see if you were paying attention with the cookie question.)

Have a good weekend.

Dogs are “HE” and Cats are “SHE.” Or, are they?

 

I’ve recently found myself in conversations with other writers about male vs. female wording in writing. We’ve discussed what dialogue or point of view narrative sounds male and what sounds female.

I have a female “voice,” and so my male characters suffer with gender identity. I’m working on it. I’m also a little fussed by it because part of me doesn’t want to profile males or females that way. I think women can think in clipped, unemotional, factual ways. I believe men can be emotional, feeling, and long winded. I could look up poems by Longfellow and Frost or Nebraska’s own Kooser, and it would point out nicely how emotional a fellow can be.

kooser11But I’d only prove myself wrong. Read Ted Kooser’s Tattoo. http://www.tedkooser.net/excerpts/tattoo.html See if this doesn’t make the point for men writing like men even when they write with feeling and emotion.

I got thinking this morning about cats and dogs. I do this every day because they surround me. I have many theories about how these two species and their personalities, quirks, and little lives can so often be compared to our own.

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I’m one of those people who have always identified cats as female and dogs as male. But, upon deeper thought this morning over my bowl of cereal, I decided for lo these many years, I’ve been wrong.

You see, I think most men seem to be born with some kind of inborn confidence and inner respect for themselves. They lean to the understanding they must be right. They believe they can solve the issue at hand (that they have the ability). Even when they end up being wrong, they don’t beat themselves up about it. They shrug it off. Say it probably wasn’t their fault. Fault doesn’t seem to be a part of their DNA.

I don’t think this is the case with most women. We doubt ourselves. Constantly. It’s as though we’re born apologizing. We assume we have a lot to learn, and we mix emotions in with every issue, complicating things. Fault is innate. Thanks a lot, Eve.

Of course, this is just my humble opinion and could be right or wrong and only applies to some and not all… (Not something a man would say, I suspect.) I’ll just go ahead and take this moment to apologize. (I’m guessing you expected me to say those things, but I could be wrong. Sorry again.)

This is my new take on the issue of cats and dogs and what gender pronouns I should be giving them.

Cats are actually far more like men than dogs. Cats don’t seem to have guilt or remorse. You can’t shame a cat. I can shake my finger and speak sternly to my cats when they knock over a glass of water or dump a potted plant on the floor or dismantle an entire Christmas tree. All they do as I scold them is lay on the floor with a smug expression as they twitch their tail. They then raise a leg and lick their private parts in comment… “Yeah, Lady. This is what I think about what you’re sayin’.”

If a dog made a mess, he’d (note the gender pronoun I chose there?) be hiding under the table with the most regretful expression. All you would have to say is, “Did you do this?” I know my dog would avert his eyes in humiliation. He’d probably hide under the bed all day just thinking about what he’d done.

So, from now on when choosing a pronoun to describe cats and dogs, cats will be “he” and dogs will be “she.” I will try to think more like a cat when I’m writing my male characters. Or I could just ask my husband, “What would you say in this situation?” That would work, too.

 

A Dream Too Special to Ignore

Last night I had a dream so real and comforting, I have no choice but to wonder if it wasn’t a sign or a truth of some kind. Something the universe wants me to pay attention to.

I’m not sure I did it justice, but the scene and feeling the dream left me with was so incredibly powerful, I jotted it out this morning. I want this image, this idea, saved forever.

Snow On The Leaves 11192010I wake in a pile of cold wet autumn leaves. As I look around, I have a sense of pain and isolation. Thrown here like trash, is what my heart remembers. Left like the core of an apple—the heart of me still strong, yet my flesh battered to exhaustion.

Plucking away the damp leaves pasted to my skin, I force myself to rise, weary, but sensing I must go. Something pushes me on.

Snow falls lightly from the gray sky, and winding around a distant corner in one direction, long and straight in the other, an open road is before me. Both choices are a mystery as to their destination.

Which way should I go?

I know choosing one path will take me forward and the other will take me back. Something in me tells me which way is which. I choose forward and go toward the curve—somewhere I’m sure I’ve never been.

Each step leaves a footprint, black in the dusting of newly fallen snow. When I check behind me, I see the trail of steps I’ve taken disappearing, covered by flakes now falling steadily. Life goes on as though my paces didn’t matter. It occurs to me that maybe the destination is what has always been most important. 

But, I am not cold to the bone. If anything, I become more renewed with each step. The moisture in the air refreshes me like a drink of cool water, and the sight of purest white on evergreen cleanses me—erases the memories of being discarded and alone.

The walk is long, but I finally approach the bend in the road. I’m about to see my destination. 

A sparkle of music touches my ears. A rhythmic beat. Soulful voices. Quiet, but growing as I go forward. Not just one voice, but three, do I distinguish. I recognize the sound of a guitar and piano. The strings and keys played by fingers that know the tune like an old friend.

The song grows strong and true in its honesty. It’s a genuine greeting, a welcome made for me. The music hugs me and holds me so tight and so lovingly, my heart swells and my throat tightens. This is a love so true and pure, so consuming and deep, it warms me more than any sunshine.

I stop and stand in the path, big round flakes falling around me, and I bask in complete acceptance.

It takes my breath away.

It becomes the breath I take.

It’s so much more than air.

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The snow creates a dense fog, but then the scene opens before me—pine trees heavy laden with wet pillows of snow on each bough. A small house sits in the clearing, abandoned and old, weathered, but still standing strong.

On the front porch, is a small band. An old man playing guitar, a girl in a woolen red coat, clapping her hands and singing with all her might, and a young man at an old upright piano, playing with big hands and long knowing fingers, his voice sure and loud. Conviction and truth belt out in his warm tenor and his bluesy melody grabs my mind and holds me in a trance as I gaze through the big wet flakes.

I don’t know what he’s singing, but I believe every word without a doubt. It’s Gospel. It’s the only tune, the only lyrics I’ll ever need again, and I know this is where I want to be—in this wood, at this place, on this road, where I can hear this powerful song of truth.

The young girl’s face shines, and the old man nods, wise and knowing. The younger man beams with joy as he sings the words the old man surely taught him. These three exist forever here, welcoming anyone who can feel the song deeply in their heart.

I am home.

 

 

 

 

FALL IS FOR WRITING

FallIt’s October 22nd and 60 degrees outside with a little wind. I normally run hot, but today I’ve got the shivers. Probably because the sky is gray, and it reminds me of days to come when hats and gloves and winter coats will become a necessity. It’s a soup day, to be sure. A day for my cat to cuddle on my lap and for me to keep a blanket nearby. Hard to believe, but last Saturday it was almost 100 degrees. That’s Nebraska for you.

But it’s still the Autumn season, even though it appears to be nearing its end. From my window, I can see a wall of golden cornstalks, shaking in the wind. Soon, the roar of a combine will cut the wall down and, once again, I’ll see across the field as it lays cold and barren. The little Ash tree just beside the patio has merely a handful of leaves clinging to the spindly branches. They’ll lose their fight and drop to the still-green grass, joining the hundreds of others already there.

The weather changes on a dime here in the Cornhusker state, so we could very well be bringing back out our shorts and tank tops yet again before real winter erases the fall. But this day is for purring cats, an extra cup of coffee, and writing.

For me, autumn and winter mean writing, and that puts a smile on my face. I give myself permission to cozy up with my laptop and tap out scenes and dialogue and fuss over sentence structure. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll squeak out some decent chapters to finally take to my writing groups. It’s been a while.

Even though the land is about to be gleaned of its harvest, the trees bare of their leaves, and the grass a dull shade of brown—in terms of writing, for me, it’s spring. Ideas are growing and the time is upon me to plant the stories I’ve been tinkering with in my mind. Wish me luck. It’s not easy typing with cats laying on my keyboard, but they sure do stare at the computer screen with great interest. I’ll take their loud purring as encouragement and type on.Photo on 10-22-15 at 2.41 PM #2

REAP THE BEAUTY

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Today I’m thankful for people who read. Thank God for each and every one of you. For a writer, the sun rises and sets on readers, but for the world, well… you’ve spent time with people who don’t have time to read. You know.

I guess reading verses watching tv or listening to radio is like the difference between fast food and a home-cooked meal, or between watching a video about a topic versus attending a class, buying tomatoes at the store or picking your own from the garden. Time and effort and a desire to make life happen, instead of letting life happen to you, makes the difference.

Is it obvious? Can you put them side by side and tell the difference like a taste test between Pepsi and Coke? I’m not sure. Well, wait… yes I am. The gardener has dirt beneath their nails and a smile of pride on their face. The cook beams when company tastes the food and rewards him or her with compliments. The person who attends the class doesn’t only come away with knowledge but an experience, friends, and memories. There is a discernible difference if you’re looking for it.

If you’re looking for it is the key. Do you see the pinks and golds in the sunset? Are you looking for the slow closing of a cat’s eyes when he relaxes and gives you his full trust? Do you glory in the beauty of dew on the grass, beading up and sparkling in the morning light? Is your heart warmed by the wrinkles around the eyes of a person who smiles at you?

Or do you just see the day end, the cat sleep, the wet grass, and the old woman in the grocery store giving you a false-toothed grin?

Choose how you see the world today. Look deeper. Plant your own garden of sights and sounds in your mind and reap the beauty it will grow.

 

Broad Smiles

Food is a common connection we all have. Different races, religions, ethnicities, ages, genders, eras, countries… across the board—everyone eats. Most of us remember some kind of food with fond memories.

If you begin a discussion about food, people will almost always weigh in with some comment or story. The story may be about something their mother made them eat, even though they hated it. I’ve heard stories about things people ate as children that made them sick. They’ll often say, “To this day, I can’t eat that!” (Mine is spice cake with cream cheese frosting.) More often, people have fond memories of food they ate as children. They may very well still consider it their special comfort food.

Last week I visited with an older woman from my church. We were talking about pie—a food topic that often makes people’s eyes glaze over Pre-cookedMulberryPie 250x205because, seriously—who doesn’t like pie. Mulberry pie came up and it led us both back down our individual memory lanes.

Her memory was about climbing up a fruit tree and eating right from the branches. She talked about her daughter riding her horse under a mulberry tree, then sitting there eating the berries. My memory was of lying on top the roof of our chicken house, a large mulberry tree’s boughs hanging low. I’d pluck the fruit, eating until I had my fill and my fingers were purple. We both had such broad smiles. Smiles I’ve seen on many faces when food memories become the topic of discussion.

So, I thought I’d share some of my food memories. Little things I find myself thinking about and smiling. I’m sure it will trigger food memories of your own. We all have them, because no matter how different we are, we all have to eat.

  • My mother made me many different things because she knew I loved them. I love them to this day. Boston Crème Pie. Cream Puffs filled with fluffy whipped cream. Fresh strawberries with real thick cream Mom bought from a woman who milked cows. Mulberry pie (we’d lay a sheet under a mulberry tree and shake the branches). Pea pods boiled in butter, then I’d pull the peas out between my teeth. Sandwiches for school lunch—she would use a cookie cutter to cut out the center because I didn’t like the crust—the lion shape was my favorite. And the most fun memory is of her pouring a little rubbing alcohol in a spoon rest, lighting it, then roasting a marshmallow over the flame. It tasted wonderful in the middle of winter.
  • Beyond those fun memories, I remember weird food, like those after-school hunger pangs, when I  put two slices of cheese in a bowl and microwaved it until it melted, then spooning it up while I watched TV and enjoyed being home for the day.
  • Fried chicken on Sunday when the whole family came home.
  • Calico beans and homemade rolls—Mom’s standard church potluck dish.
  • Kolaches fresh from the oven on Saturday morning.
  • Poppy seed cake at Czech funeral dinners.

Now. What are your memories? Maybe there was a place your family went to eat on a special night, or something a relative made that you looked forward to. I’d love to know what your food memories are. They always make great topics for conversation.

 

Cheap Date

Cheap-Date-logocolor1I like to tell my husband I’m a cheap date. He might disagree, but more often than not, I’m happy with take-out pizza and Netflix than an expensive dinner and a show, (provided I can, on occasion, have a nice dinner out and go to a show.)

In the spirit of being a self-proclaimed cheap date, I’m going to prove it. Tomorrow I’m reducing the price of my book, Flames of Rosewood, on Amazon, from $1.99, to .99 cents. I’m running an ad on EReader News Today and hoping I see some increased sales and readers for the second book in the Rosewood Series. Come on. Give it a try. Take me out. .99 cents. Seriously. You can’t lose.

So, if you just picked up Thorns of Rosewood last week during the free days and want to read what happens next, pick up Flames of Rosewood tomorrow for a most excellent price. You too can be a cheap date, stay home, eat a frozen pizza and read my book. If you’re a really cheap date, you can let your significant other have your pizza crust and let them look over your shoulder while you read my book on your Kindle. 😉