Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reconnecting With The World

When Sister Jo  and I began our sojourn, we wanted to see as much of the U.S. as possible. Horrendous weather kept us from stopping for any real exploratory time between Montana and Arizona.

Once into Arizona, the difficulty became finding a campground that was for tents as well as RVs. We were disturbed to learn that, at least in that state, many such campgrounds that accepted and catered to tenting had been closed down due to financial reasons. The few that still accepted tents, had facilities that reptiles would find unacceptable--and charged exorbitant fees for the privilege of a stay.

Finally, we found a small state park on the Arizona-New Mexico border which did have acceptable facilities where we could tent in safety and have regular showers, with water available directly across from the tent site. We at least had electricity available at the showers so that we could, if necessary, plug in the laptop and find the online world.

I know that some of you will ask, "Didn't you know that there was a problem with finding tent sites before you left?"

Well, to be honest, no, we didn't. Those closings had occurred during November, after we'd finished our research and had mapped out a feasible route along the southern tier states. Fee schedules had also risen exponentially in those campgrounds left open. Both occurrences led to tightened budget belts.

Contingency plan B went into effect.

Never travel without at least two contingency plans. They're vital to success. We've been blessed during this trip. We have so many friends and family cheering us on, giving us their support and love. That's a big factor in success of any kind.

We chose to hold up with a cousin for several days to get some writing done without worrying about having to break camp every couple of days to find electricity and wi-fi. Although, I have to say that Texas is one of the most wonderful computer-friendly places we've ever seen. Every campground here and state highway rest area is equipped with free wi-fi for the traveler's use.

How marvelous is that?

I also needed adequate time to write articles and get them submitted, and Jo needed time to work on her photos for said articles. That's why we're hold up now. It's time to put words to more than blogs and website. It's time to write for money. Travel's nice and we enjoy it for itself, but this trip must help pay for itself, too.

That's how we stand right now. Visiting, writing, submitting, querying, etc. A writer must sell material in order to feel vindicated. I'm feeling the need for some validation.

For now, I'll sign off and get back to writinig for submission.

Take care, all, and God bless.

Until later,

Claudsy and BJ (Sister Jo)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Needs For The Road and Other Considerations

It's so nice to come home for a few minutes to check in and say hello. It's been a while and we've traveled approx. 2500 miles so far.

We're taking this morning to update everything we can. We haven't had a great long opportunity to post.

We're currently sitting in Big Spring, TX. at a TA truck stop, coffee at hand, great waitress bustling around and decent music overhead--ever the Christmas reminder.

Some who've seen our car during this trip have turned away stunned by its contents. In an attempt to give everyone the proper perspective concerning our rolling household, I thought I'd give you an overview of what travels with us.

Our small HHR has an effective "cargo" space of approximately 54 cubic ft. That's 4' x' 4' x' 3'. In that space we haven crammed:

1- 2rm, 8 person, tent in its case                1- 12' x 16' ground sheet
2 - 3" roasting forks for hot dogs, etc.        1 twin mattress, inflatable w/pump
1- 5 gal. water jerry                                   1- XL, xlng canvass cot in bag
2- sleeping bags                                         1- tool kit
1- med kit                                                  3- extra blankets
2- large pillows                                           2- LED lanterns 1lg, 1sm
1- computer office for Jo                            1- writer's office for Claudsy
1- lg. suitcase for each of usCamera equipment for the photographer        
1- smaller bag w/toiletries, etc.
1- personal bag w/vitamins, meds, etc for each of us
2- lg. coffee mugs                                        Cell phones, sunglasses and necessary front seat items
1 18" x 30" x 18" kitchen box, holding 2 sauce pans, 2 skillets, 1 griddle, 1 coffee pot, 1 soup pot w/lid, place settings for 4 w/lg. salad bowl, 9 Sm. soup bowls, 2 glasses, varying spices, dry goods, and sundry other necessities for the kitchen chores.

The above inventory isn't in minute detail, you'll notice. It does give the overview of what we felt we'd need to stay on the road for approximately one year.

The hard reality is that fewer tenting camp areas exist. They're being shut down for "financial" reasons.We're having to go farther between destination points to find affordable camp facilities. Somehow, $35-$45 per night doesnt' represent "reasonable" tenting fees to us.

For any who contemplate taking the family on a summer camping excursion (with far less personal gear), please check ahead fifteen ways to Sunday to guarantee fee schedules in the areas you're visiting.

We did extensive research on destinations all over the country a couple of months before we left and ave been more than disappointed a few times. Many campgrounds have closed, many have raised fees, and others simply allow RVs only now.

Sudden changes like those above wreak havoc with travel budgets. Here in Texas, because of the extensive drought, there is a fire fan on. That means no camp fires and a camp stove is iffy.

Oh, one other thing. For any driving the highways along the southern corridor, be aware of the border patrol check points. They just had a border officer killed in AZ a few days ago and they're a bit nervous right now.

And in case anyone's curious, those stations can be as far north of the border as 40 miles or so.

Well, gang, that's all you get here today. The website and other blogs will carry other aspects of our trip so far. Check them out to see how things move.

Take care and God bless. Thanks for stopping by to check on us. Hopefully, I'll be able to write sooner next time.

Until then,


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hanging Out in Southern California

That's right! We're hanging out in southern California with a writer friend and her hubby. Mikki has welcomed us into her home and we've had a blast since being here. It was well worth all the bad weather to get here.

We've known blizzards, rain, fog, and everything in-between. We've been at the beach to watch the tide come in and hear the breakers that told us of the rip-tides. We've been to Morro Rock to see the rookeries, after which we had a great lunch at The Great American Fish Company. Jo says it's clam chowder is to die for.

We've been up the Eagle's Nest, a winery outside Paso Robles. The Nest is built as a castle, complete with water-filled moat and hundreds of acres of vineyards. This area as become the lower Napa Valley. It's wonderful here. We've got sunshine right now; such a rare treat over the last week.

Tomorrow we'll be heading down to the LA area to see more friends and to catch the I-5 again. From there we'll go down to San Diego and turn east.

Our adventure is beginning with good karma for the future. Our goal is San Antonio by Christmas.

Until my next update in, hopefully, less than a week, take care and God bless. Have a wonderful week of your own. See you soon.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Now You See Me...

This will be my last transmission for a few days. The desktop and its accoutrements will be going to be turned off tonight and go into storage tomorrow morning.

Saturday we’ll be heading out for the West Coast and destination South from there.

Yep, one more day before we move out. We’re so excited! Last minute items to take care of tomorrow will take little time.

From now on, I’m going to shoot for at least a weekly update; more often if I can manage it. The updates will consist of all sorts of things; weather along with traffic reports, sights taken in during the drive, speculations about traveling now versus during the warmer months of the year, and sundry other items.

I wanted to say a temporary farewell until my first update. Hopefully, that will be within a few days as we move down toward LA.

Terrie managed to snag me during trip preparations and talked me into doing the interview. It was fun and I enjoyed her questions. I hope you read it and enjoy.

Take care during these next few days, and I’ll drop in with an update before another week is out.

Until then,


For those who haven’t read my interview with ICL’s own Terrie Hope, hop on over to:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Taming The South, Literally

Not long ago a young writer friend of mine asked a wonderful question. She had an idea for a short story or novel (I can’t remember which now) and she wanted it set in the South. She asked, in essence, how would she go about making it a real southern story for the reader. How could she make it sound like the South.

Several of us gave her one or another explanation. I’m going to give another one here for those who’ve asked themselves something similar. I’m going to talk only about the South, though, but the application works for any region of the world if you work at it.

When you grow up in or around the South like I did, you learn that the region isn’t just accent, dialect and humidity. All of those are part of it but only a part.

The South is a feeling, an attitude. It announces itself with the gentle morning mist rising from the bluegrass in early morning just as dawn is breaking in the summer. The moist softness of that warm air that passes across the skin like silk sheets on a muggy night sighs a greeting, teasing the face with caresses.

The South is the laughter erupting from the kitchen as women cook the meal that will burden the long wooden table with the weight of its caring bounty. It lulls the mind into daydreams on the sound of murmurs as the men folk reminisce on the porch after the evening meal. Those same cooks have their clatch of recipes, children’s tales, and worries long with the community news around that now unburdened kitchen fixture of a table.

All of these things combine to produce the atmosphere of that region of this country. Some find the speech, the people, the lifestyle too slow and lazy-seeming. Reasons abound for this misconception. The summer heat and humidity forces a body to slow down. Rushing around like most northerners would bring about heat-exhaustion and distress in the deep South.

Many in the north dismiss the genteel hospitality expressed by households down South. Nevertheless, hospitality still reigns supreme in small towns throughout those green and fertile hills. Whatever a family has is shared with those in greater need of it. A person will never go without food when in the presence of a Southerner. The attitude is modeled from birth to death. It is as natural as breathing and sometimes has a far greater lasting effect.

History has molded and shaped the people of the South differently than it has others. When many of the South knew that the Civil War was lost to the North, they packed up their families and as many good as they could manage and sailed away, never to return. They sailed ever southward. In the end they came to rest along side a great river in a land far more vast than any they’d ever known or seen.

Today the Confederate flag still flies over their city. The founding families still speak with the soft southern drawl and the ladies are still genteel. Their city is now one of the most unique in Brazil, South America. They called it Americana.

The language may be Portuguese now, but the attitude and customs are Old South. Corn bread and southern fried chicken remains a staple. It’s difficult to claim that the South died, when so many emigrated with their culture intact.

These examples are some of the things that make the South what it is and how it feels. Any book that portends to be of the South must contain it all and more to be successful. I learned it early, which was fortunate. I always recognize someone from the region, though not always the correct state.

For the writer to produce something believable about any region, great attention must be paid to the tiniest details of the atmosphere, gestures, personal by-play between people, and all the rest. All of it together produces the right feel, the right atmosphere.

That’s my take on things today. I hope I have given someone, anyone a better look at one aspect of creating reality on paper.

Take care all. Talk to y’all later.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Limiting Oneself

When do we know when we have enough? “Enough what?” you ask. “Enough of anything,” I reply.

How much is enough when you sit down to eat? How do you know when you have enough clothing, shoes, office supplies, words?
Enough everything?

How does a person limit herself to having just enough of something before possessions flow over into the way-too-much category?

We’re sliding through the final days of the annual Thanksgiving experience. We should be able to answer this simple question before moving on toward Christmas.

If you move around as much as Sister and I, you would totally understand why this subject is critical to us now. We have both been sentimental collectors of things since forever--each for similar, and yet, different reasons.

We’ve both lived with abundance. We’ve both known times when enough was only what we could carry in our arms. For the last nearly fifteen years, we’ve also known what it’s like to have an annual purge of possessions because we’d collected too much of nearly everything.

Until we began planning this trip around the country, however, we had never learned the lesson of enough more completely. If someone loses their home to disaster--of whatever variety--the reality of what is necessary vs. what is luxury seldom weighs in. That we are creating--in a very limited sense--our own loss of home makes for interesting revelations.

We’ve come to truly appreciate the meaning of limitations regarding necessary possessions for living. Any good Hindi would laugh at us for this tardy understanding. That philosophy teaches to only concern oneself with meeting personal daily physical needs. For the average American, that’s a philosophical challenge of enormous proportions, sometimes on more than one front. For sentimental collectors like us, it goes beyond that.

How many clothes does one take on the road for year or more? How does one limit kitchen supplies when a love of cooking is rooted in your soul? Do campers really need at least one dress outfit on the road? Remember, there won’t be irons handy.

Necessities must come first. The rest is luxury. Our necessities: shelter, food, clothing, transportation, photography equipment, computer with extra drives, minimum writing materials, and an adventurous spirit.

We have all that. Everything else stays behind.

That’s where limitations come in. The purge has begun of possessions we’ve not used since we’ve been in Montana. Some things have been with us for many years and survived many moves across the country. No longer.

This whittling process for the trip and its look into needs vs. wants has shown us where our lives need to focus. And that focus isn’t on possessions any longer.

Our pot-latch will be the talk of the apartment complex. We have furniture, kitchen ware, assorted decorating goodies, you name it--even small appliances. Our storage garage awaits its own purge to allow an accommodation of its new contents.

Our Thanksgiving is winding down with a true appreciation for all things achieved this year. We’ve finally learned the limitations we must live by for the next year and are grateful for them. We’ve also learned, in a personal sense, how perception shifts with understanding and why limitation can be a person’s best friend.

So, I ask you again. What limitations have you put on yourself and are they friend or foe? If they don’t allow for understanding, purpose, and expression, they have joined the enemy. (As Bill Cosby would say, “Sort of like tonsils when they go bad.”)

If those limitations keep you growing, learning, striving, they could be your best friends. It’s up to you to decide.

Do you have enough?

Until later,


Monday, November 22, 2010

Today's Endeavors

Our current conditions--Cold with a smattering of snow.


I walked with my muse today.
We talked along the way to a large open space--
Nothing particular to say between us.
We sat, silent, staring at the emptiness ahead
Until I chose words to add panache to the scene.
Muse waved a negligent hand to paint the sky with sunset,
While I worked with soils and waters before me.
A few breaths later the picture cleared and I could see
What Muse and I had painted so effortlessly.

Between bouts of computer work, packing continues to consume time. Between bouts of packing, planning begs for continuation. Better to do planning, then packing, then working. Yet all must get done soon.

Enjoy your week, peeps.


**NOTE: Photo used with permission of  BJ Jones Photography, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Storing Life To Travel

The Universe is an astonishing place. Have you ever really noticed how it takes care of things?

It’s as if the Universe waits for a person to find the right keyhole, place exact key inside, and turn it so that the correct thread of existence and potential can be woven into the proper tapestry. Many times when life become tougher, all it takes is one decision, one action, and life’s ride smoothes out.

Since I’ve announced new plans to vacate the north on Dec. 14, so many things have fallen into place. It’s astounding how making the right decision allows influencing factors to come into their own.
If I wrote this scenario in a novel, no one would believe it. After all, life just doesn’t happen that way. Yet, I wonder how often it really does happen that way and we just don’t notice because our attention is focused elsewhere.

Yes, we’re beginning our trip around the country almost five months early. For months now we’ve waited patiently for certain issues to be resolved so that we could commence with this trip. The sense of urgency, however, didn’t let up. Finally we couldn’t stand that constant push from the hindbrain any longer.

Sister Jo and I sat together and talked. The upshot was that we chose to do the trip as soon as we possibly could. We chose to disregard the need for security, a permanent home, lots of belongings, and hit the road running. We can now see the country and learn about it and ourselves without encumbrances. As soon as we were willing to let go of everything, and make plans to leave immediately, our thread of existence was placed on the loom of the proper tapestry.

Everything will go into storage except what we can carry with us in the car. And we will tent our way across the country, write articles with photos along the way, put together a book about our adventure, and then decide “what next”?

Some call us insane since it’s winter. I agree. It is insane to leave comfortable warmth and safety to travel the deep south, visiting friends and family and seeing what we can find along the way. We wonder, though, why youngsters should have all the adventures? Can’t us older women do the same thing?
That’s why we’re setting out to answer that question.

Some call us brave to even attempt this trip, regardless of season. After all, who wants to live in a tent for over a year, especially someone over fifty or sixty years old? For me this trip isn’t brave, really. I’ve done many other things that required much more courage than this.

Now we work; work to get all our belongings sorted, packed, and placed into long-term storage. We check off each detail accomplished each day. Those check lists are our lifeline in this endeavor. We can’t do this without them.

By the beginning of next week I must have a new website created for this trip of ours in order for everyone to follow our exploits. That’s part of why we’re going. Not everyone can make such a journey. We might as well share as much of it as possible, both with words and photos.

And there you have it. Our next few weeks will be ones of details, decisions, hard work, and planning. In the end we’ll have an entirely new future in the offing.

I hope all of you will come along for the ride. I hope everyone can experience some of our feelings as we move around the world learning about it.

One of those things that will help us along the way is also the thing we plan to help keep us awake on the road. Jo is going to relearn her Spanish and I’m going to learn it for the first time. Yep! We’ve got the CD’s for the car, the books, and the desire. It will help the miles pass quickly during those long days of driving. We will have something to show for our hours of auto travel, and it’ll come in handy in many places along the way.

So, drop by in the coming weeks for updates about our progress. Enjoy yourself, I hope, during each visit.

Until later,


Monday, November 8, 2010

Now Is Not The Time To Panic

Have you ever noticed that many times in our lives we don’t bother to do some things until the doing is forced upon us.

I’m talking in our daily lives here. Example: You know that the house needs a thorough cleaning, right down to major vacuuming with wand on the drapes and everything. You know that the bathroom is probably growing science projects, and you don’t even want to think about the refrigerator.

When do you really get these things done the way they need to be done? Answer: When you find out that company is coming on short notice and guilt washes over your mind like a London fog, enveloping every other sensation of which you might be capable. Your response to this stressor is to tackle that cleaning like a crazed Merry Maid looking for a hundred dollar tip.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

How about when you put off getting the oil changed in your car? After all, you only drive it around town. You haven’t put on 3000 miles since the last trip onto the rack. Driving around town for six months couldn’t possibly have done anything bad to the car, now could it? Did the dealer tell you about the 3000 mile or three month rule. Yup! Better take ‘er in for that oil chance, tune up, etc.

What about your knowing that you’re going to have to get presents figured out for the family for Christmas, and you’ve decided to make all of them this year. I heard that! I’ve done the hand-made gifts on many occasions. They take lots of time and thought. It’s now November. Why did you wait so long to think about the situation? I can ask that question with a straight face because I’ve decided to make hand-made chapbooks for loved ones this year. I do understand that they will probably get them a wee bit late, but it’s a price I’ll have to pay for craftsmanship.

See what I mean? We know things need done, and we just look at the calendar and tell ourselves that there’s plenty of usable time. Now’s not the time to panic.

Question: When is the time to panic?

All of this brings me to NaNoWriMo. It’s now day 8 of that prestigious month. Words are flying onto hard drives, paper, and websites everywhere. Have you done your NaNo today?

I’ve worked on just about everything but NaNo today. I organized informational brochures for research later on a much different project. Done my duty by the PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge. I’m covered on the PiBoIdMo Challenge for the month, and then there’s my three NaNo WIPs.

The first is 3/5 finished. I have two more sestinas to write to complete it. I’m not scheduled to begin the second WIP until sometime on the tenth. And I’ll worry about the children’s story book around the twentieth. Sounds so organized when I say that, doesn’t it?

It’s an illusion. I have to do heavy research for those two sestina’s. (Maybe I can get to that after Castle tonight.)

I’ve only thought about the 50-75 poems for the second WIP. It’s not like that should be too hard, do you think? I mean, really, after all, I only need to do a minimum of 5 poems a day for ten days under the theme of “The Forest Primeval.” I have all the photos for inspiration. Oh, yeah, I have to go through those and pull all of the ones I’m going to use for that inspiration. Still, how hard could that be?

As for the storybook; well, I have the photos for that one, too. It should fairly leap onto the page once I have the first word of that adventure down in black and white. I can always count on something coming to me. I’m lucky enough to be one of those people who never gets writer’s block.

Yeah, I’m in good shape for the rest of this month. I have a plan and I’m not afraid to use it. We’re going out for Thanksgiving dinner this year, so I won’t even have that distraction to clutter that third week of the month. How good is that?

So, don’t panic anyone. There’s plenty of time to get everything finished. It’s only November 8. You have 22 more days to get everything done before the official beginning of the Christmas season comes tinkling its merry way into your hearts and shopping mania.

For those Jewish friends of mine, your season starts a bit earlier. Perhaps you should begin your panic a bit earlier as well. For the rest whose holiday season flows slightly differently from Christmas, please adjust your panic accordingly.

Until later at the need for another boost of confidence, sign me out as


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Working Through NaNoWriMo

Most of the writers I know are hip-deep in NaNoWriMo this month. The question arises with each writer, “How can I complete NaNo and do everything else in my normal schedule?”
Whether you’re single or married with a family, as a writer trying to find time to write can be a bummer. For all that, we still manage. I’m luckier than many because I’ve retired from the active work force and can commit whatever time I choose to NaNo’s pursuit.
Take today, for instance. It’s now a quarter past 2pm. Have I started on NaNo yet today? Why yes, I did. I spent a most productive hour on that little beastie before noon. Also before noon I slept until 9:30 (not recommended) because I didn’t get to bed until after 2am. Bathroom duties followed by large coffee, and I was ready to tackle the work.
I checked e-mail—both accounts. Dealt with all that. Checked my favorite forum. We have our own monthly writing challenge over there, so checking on that is habit as much as anything else. Then I did monthly bills. That took time away from writing, but without that time spent, I wouldn’t have a place to write, so it balances out.
Maintenance man came to fix my closet door and replace one of the light fixtures in the kitchen. By the time he left, it was time to decide on a PB idea for PiBoIdMo. I’ve got some doozies going right now. Somewhere in there, I managed to make myself something to eat. I was getting a bit light-headed.
Next, I wrote the Claudsy’s blog post and got it up and running. Now, I’m on this one. When I finish this and get it up, then I can go on to my daily work on the PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge. It’s only for one poem in rough draft, so that won’t take too long. Then, I’ve got to go to the bank.
From that point on, I can go back to writing on my NaNo poetry book, “Moon Sees All” and hopefully get at least the next sestina finished for that. By that time, it dinner will have found its way to a taco bowl near me. Yes, that’s right. Taco salad all around for this household tonight. Drool, people, drool.
Gotta run so that I can finish and have something of an evening for some studying on another writing program I’m doing. I’m ready for chapter eight out of 24. A writer’s life is always in flux. That’s what I’ve been taught, and I feel it’s the only accurate description of my life.

And to answer the question about completing NaNo and living a normal life, I ask another question. Whoever said a writer had a normal life in the first place? We think differently than "normal" people. Our minds are constantly cluttered with a variety of characters, facts, figures, plans, schedules, etc. that would drive the average person to drink or go mad. We can't look at anything or anyone without trying to place him/her or it into a current WIP or future project.

What about that is normal? Completing NaNo is a goal. Living has nothing to do with that goal, really. Either you find a path using determination and ingenuity or you don't. The ultimate prize from NaNo, however, is the knowledge of what you can do in a time crunch and how much you learn about yourself and your abilities because of your work there.
Take care, all, and be sure to stop long enough to drop me a comment on your writing experience with NaNo, or barring that, your writing experience in general.
Until then,

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Let The Insanity Begin

That's right, folks. NaNoWriMo is here, rip-rearing to go. Yours truly will be on the frontlines again this year. Perhaps with hard work, determination, and loads of luck, I'll be able to finish this time around. Family crises have keep me from that goal two years running, so this year I've loaded my weapon of choice and readied to punch out a couple of marketable books of poetry out of this.

I do know that this is for a novel. I haven't had any luck trying to do novels during this monthly endeavor, so I thought I'd switch tacks and try something new. I know it doesn't fit the criteria, but people, criteria is for the writer doing the work. Right. A badge of completion is a wonderful thing. But for me, it's the dedication of the month to doing only writing on one selected project to get it to a point where finishing it is doable in a short amount of time and getting it out to publishers.

I have these two books of poetry I need to get written for me. Not for anyone else. Personally, I do have three such books to do, but I thought that might stretch things a bit. To that end, I picked up a children's illustrated story book instead.

Thank you. Thank you very much. I do know I'm slipped a few gears. But it was so kind of you to point that out so that it's been verified.

Now that you know how I'll be spending most of my time for the next month, what do you intend to do to keep yourself occupied?

I've been submitting articles, stories, and poems like mad for the past few weeks, so that I could clear the way for this wonderful challenge.

Have a great week, my friends. If you're doing NaNo along with me and the rest of my friends, good luck, and have lots of fun along the way. I'll drop in here every few days to report on my progress. I'll consider that my coffee break around the water cooler.

Until then,


Thursday, October 28, 2010

News, Words, and All Things Inspirational

I’m doing something different today. I’m going to walk a different trail and show you the kinds of things I look for when anticipating a new story or article. I know. Fascinating, right? I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for the eclectic mindset.

In one of the critique groups I work with, I act as moderator. This year when we reconvened at the end of summer, I proposed a new way of working, at least for the school year. I proposed that each writing cycle a prompt composed of actual news articles with submission guidelines would act as inspiration for the work being done. A cycle is comprised of one submission for critique from each member.

This group works in children’s writing. Each cycle’s guidelines state target age, word count maximums, fiction/non-fiction, and marketing list. The members liked the idea and it was accepted. We’ve come close to the end of the second cycle just ahead of NaNoWriMo. Believe it or not, we’re working through NaNo as well.

Now I want to show others the ways and means of our exercises in inspiration. Perhaps others can play the same game to come up with stories and articles for submission.

My first job is to find two articles for prompts each cycle. They are used to inspire a Work In Progress. They don’t need to act as the core of the WIP.

Here are some examples by link I might use later.

  1. Teen texting habits  
 2. Shutter speed attention spans and TV viewers   3. Discrimination By Family Income in Schools     4. Vacuum Made of Beach Trash Each of these articles came out within the last few days. All are interesting, and all have many angles for the writer to use. For example:

Ever wondered why in the normal commercial time during your favorite TV show seems to go on forever now. You begin counting commercials and are frantic by the number 15. Part of that is due to advertisers recognizing that viewer attention span has shortened in the last several years. TV programming regulations, as I understand it, allow a determined amount of time for commercials at a regulated number of breaks during a program’s air time.

In order to keep viewers from switching channels during those breaks, commercials have become flashier and edgier over the last few years. They’ve also become shorter. Ten + second commercials are rapidly becoming the norm rather than the minute-long ads of yesteryear. Because a designated timeframe is allowed for commercials, the shortened commercial allows more repetitions per break or more diverse advertisers per break.

And now you have the kernel of the situation. Lifestyle has changed. Attention span has shortened.

Advertisers notice and compensate. Viewers scream at seeing what appears to be less program and more advertising. A match made to try the patience of anyone. However, for the writer, fiction or non-fiction, this is a recipe for wonder.

Consider the angles: Mainstream, Academic, Popular YA: Fiction/NF, Middle Grade: F/NF, Younger Readers: F/NF, Poetry, Literary Essay: YA/Adult, Parenting the Attentive Child

1. Has technology led to this seeming inability to focus for lengthy amounts of time by the general populace?

2. Does the problem remain constant across the demographics of the population?

3. Can American teens concentrate well enough to compete with those in other countries?

4. Puberty’s raging hormones and short attention spans. Is there a link?

5. Can little Johnny focus long enough to complete an assigned task without constant supervision?

6. A lyrical adventure to find a fleeing attention span to bridge a mental gap.

7. A look at the possible future of education, socialization, communication, and task completion.

8. Five practices that a parent can foster to ensure an attentive child.

The above are each linked with a corresponding market and target age. It’s the guidelines that narrow the field. These are the ones I’d use for my group.

Submission Guidelines: Target age: MG (middle grade), List 3 target markets for your piece, Non-fiction only for this prompt. Must list minimum 3 verifiable sources.

Short, sweet, and ready to rumble.

Almost anything can be a prompt. I find it stimulating to take one article and come up with at least 10 prospective uses for the information.

There is one problem with this method of work and it's one the writer must keep in mind at all times. If someone truly enjoys this type of work, it’s easy to get carried away and never move away from a prompt until it’s been exhausted to the point of emaciation. When you begin, set a limit for yourself. Decide before you begin how many slants, angles, whatnot you will use with a prompt. Then, stick to your number and don’t allow that little voice in the back of your mind to talk you into just one more before you go.

I admit to having to guard against that little voice on a frequent basis. Some of the writers I know complain occasionally about not having anything to write about. It’s a complaint I will never share. I simply cannot understand how someone can’t find something interesting to write about.

I sometimes think it comes down to being a forest-rather-than-a-tree sort of person. I always see the forest. Some can only see the individual tree. It’s a matter of how the mind works for the person involved.

Here’s hoping everyone gets to see the forest of possibilities that awaits the writer willing to take a walk.

Until later,


Monday, October 25, 2010

Controlling The Dream

I woke this morning from an awful dream. In it I was watching a passenger plane coming in for a crash landing. I yelled at my best buddy, who happened to be driving, that we needed to speed over there.

 He asked me, “What for?”

That stunned me. This gentle, caring man had effectively told me that a plane crash didn’t matter.

I told him, “ To help with assistance. There’s going to be dozens of injured and probably fire and who knows what else.”

“Clauds,” he said, “you’d just be a hindrance and most likely become a casualty, too. Your eyesight won’t allow you to do that kind of stuff, and you know it.”

I awoke from that nightmare feeling totally helpless and adrift. And angry. How dare he tell me something like that!

That’s when my more logical and less visceral self took over. My self-defeating self had just tried to high-jack my future plans in order to nullify my desires and intentions. I thought about how worried it must be about losing control of my life if it was willing to make such a grand and blatant play to stop me from going forward.

I must really be threatening it, don’t you think? Me, too.

That made me feel very good. The fact that the mind used one of those early supporters of my dream to be a writer to derail me was a big mistake. He has always called me his inspiration. If such an event ever happened, he would be right there with me fighting flame and fumes to get at those who needed help.

The hindbrain miscalculated big-time on that one. It also tipped its hand too plainly, especially by flaunting my tenuous vision in the dream. I have never allowed that to make much difference in my life.

All of this brings me to the issue of Who’s In Control.

I did several things yesterday to further my writing. I managed to get out a crit for one of my group members on an article for children that she’d submitted. I sent a short story I’d written a couple of months ago to a lit mag that likes the quirky and unusual pieces that touches on human interaction and response. I submitted a writer’s article to a writer’s mag. I did market research for other pieces that I have on hand waiting for a home.

Perhaps I’d threatened my fear with that blast of purposeful energy and intent. Just maybe I was in danger of actually dropping off that tentative writer’s fence onto the side of I AM A WRITER. I mean, it’s all well and good to say it, but to mean it a person must walk the walk. Yesterday I walked in those shoes. They fit well, too.

Julie Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” has taught me to recognize when fear wants to drive my life again. Once a person’s aware of the subtle devices used to affect a change of driver, the outcome doesn’t fall automatically on the side of FEAR.

Don’t get me wrong. I probably have as much fear as the next person, and I can be as overcautious an any hen with an egg. Nevertheless, my life was tempered in the fires of an autocratic family structure which brought out the obstinate in me. That’s my secret weapon now.

All I have to do is envision FEAR as a person and remember defiance. That’s my ticket to self-direction. I hate having people tell me what I can and cannot do. That’s all FEAR is doing. Really. As soon as I give it a human form it loses all its power.

I get to drive my own life where I will and for how long.

So, let me ask you, dear reader, who’s in control for your dream? And why? Feel free to share the answers, or not, as is your pleasure. The questions are there, though, and you’ll think about them whether you want to or not. That’s the lovely reality about that bit of punctuation. It’s a hook that always catches something/someone.

Until later,


Friday, October 22, 2010

Time Out

Yesterday turned into one of our traveling days. I’d suggested it the night before because I felt restless. Neither Sister nor I could think of anything that absolutely had to be done at home that day. So...
We started out just after 8:00 am with one ultimate goal in mind -- a small close-by State Park named Lake Mary Ronan. We had the whole day, though, so we decided to drive down the scenic east shore of Flathead Lake and “make the loop.” Since this was a photo-op day, Sister was particularly interested in all things photogenic and had both cameras at the ready, just in case.

We’d sailed through our lunch-time refueling stop in Polson due to the still-early hour. Nothing struck us as photo memorable throughout the loop until we got to that small lake on the western edge of Flathead Indian Reservation. We wanted pics that we could use later.

Besides, Sister Jo loves water -- not uncommon given her Zodiac chart.

We pulled into the park, stopped with the car facing the sun-splashed lake and breathed deep. It smelled  clean and piney. People in the parking lot, if they talked, did so quietly. The beauty of the day lent itself well to that deep blue water with its reed-strewn shoreline.

A floating dock with fishing deck at the end waited for trollers. A few rigs towing small boats dotted the parking lot. Lingering fall colors reflected from the surrounding hillsides. All was well with the world in that moment.

Sister grabbed camera and off she went. This was a new destination. WITH WATER! So many possibilities, so little time to use the best light. She snapped pics contentedly, zooming in and out as needed. And when she noted an older man sauntering toward the fishing deck, rod in hand, she couldn’t resist the challenge. Action pics had arrived with the possibility for information.

I had my own contentment, listening in on conversations around me from the newly arrived, who were intent on launching their boats. I couldn’t listen in on Sister’s conversation with the fisherman. They stood too distant.

I did learn all about the relationships between those new arrivals, though. The two groups had known one another for ages, often did things together, appreciated one another’s talents, knowledge and resolve to enjoy life. The conversations were enlightening, to say the least. They would make for great story fodder.

Before long boats moved on their trailers toward the ramp. As they did so, Sister took the opportunity to finish her own conversation and moved back toward the car. She took more photos from that vantage point before we left.

Once we were back on the road, she told me of her conversation with the fisherman. She said that freshwater salmon were spawning below the fishing deck and at the end of the boat ramp. Once the boat trailers started into the water there, spawning efforts at that location halted. All fertilized eggs there would be disrupted at best, destroyed at worst. We agreed to its being an example of “progress” in action.

During the last step of our drive back home, we also agreed to take lunch and then wind our way back up to Glacier Park. That is, after all, one of our favorite haunts. Having a permanent park pass is such a blessing.

The big park was almost deserted, though several enterprising people had taken a Friday off and gone exploring in the lower realms of the park. Some college-aged visitors walked the trails between highway and hidden lakes. Middle-aged sight-seers and retirees moved along many of those same trails, testing new camera equipment, oo-ing and ah-ing about the differences between seasons at Avalanche Falls and among all the vegetation.

This was our last good camera day for a while and we knew it. A big storm front was moving in that would keep us stranded in our apartment for more than a week.

Hence, Sister managed to get almost 400 shots yesterday. Some would be eliminated due to poor quality/lighting. Some would go to her photo stock sites, and many would come to me for either one book of poetry or one children’s book. We do try to share with each other along the way, you know.

We arrived home nearly twelve hours after beginning, tired and sated from our day in the fresh air and sunshine. We’d each learned something along the way.

She’d learned a new setting on her camera and what it did for her photos. It was something she could pass on that same afternoon to a novice who’d just bought the same camera. That moment made the whole day worthwhile for her.

Me? I learned something that I’d never come across, which would give me a good beginning for a children’s informational article for boys. That’s always a good market. I could use much the same info for an article for adults, as well. I already had publications in mind. Not bad for time spent listening.

Getting good photos for upcoming projects filled out the day right for both of us. I hope everyone experienced as profitable a week.

Have a great weekend and remember to enjoy life. It may not seem rare, but then none of us have seen the other side of the Universe yet. Think about it.

Until later,


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Finding the Writer in Everyone

This morning I helped submit a contest entry written by my sister to the lit agency running the contest. She’d written it on a lark because when I read the prompt to her, she felt it was too good to pass up.

Now Sis is a good writer on her own. She just doesn’t do it very often, which is more the pity. She has a strong voice on the page and a terribly creative mind to back up her words. But I digress.

I had agreed to edit the submission for her so that it would meet guidelines. The contest prompt was like none other that I’ve seen in any contest, and Sis was right. The thing was a hoot. It’s entire concept was made for the quirky minded and those who could take any five words handed them and make a story from them. Poets use this kind of prompt all the time for building poems. It’s a heck of a lot of fun.

Sis is very good at that, too. Just remember that. I’ll come back to it later.

Editing her work wasn’t difficult. I do it on a regular basis for several of writers. Most of us do. It keeps us on our toes and it keeps us honest, too. What we find in other’s writing that needs changing is always a lesson for our own work. None of us is perfect, by any stretch of a rope.

I tend to see certain problems a writer might have because I have difficulty with that same issues… parentheses and punctuation, for instance. Does the question mark go inside of the end paren even at the end of a sentence? That’s always a killer for me, and I can’t seem to ever retain the answer.

If you’re a writer, you know what I mean about learning from the mistakes you see in other’s work. Me? I’m one of those readers who gets stopped dead in the written road when my eyes come across a typo on the printed page. Until I correct it in my head, I can’t continue reading.

And don’t shake you head. You know others like me, too.

Regardless, writing and editing well requires two people. One to write, one to edit, and then the first gets to rewrite and so on until the work gets as close to perfection as they can make it. I learn far more from the editing process than I ever did from the writing lessons. The lessons stick far better, too.

In some ways, I’m an advocate of the “throw the aspiring writer into the deep end of the publishing pool with a good and patient editor” school of thought. Unfortunately, there simply aren’t adequate numbers of free editors hanging around the untaught, willing to take on that challenge. At least, that’s how it seems sometimes.

Now, let me return to that line from above about how my sister is a good writer. I gave her five words just a few minutes ago to use for the basis of a story with a word limit of 100 words.

The words I gave her were: monkeys, hammer, night, howling, and gratitude. I accept the caveat of using derivatives for this purpose (i.e. plural, singular, different verb tense.)

Here is what she wrote as she sat down with her e-mail.

Monkey’s Birdhouse

      The young boy carefully gathered his materials. He and his father were building a birdhouse together. His Dad had nicknamed him Monkey, because he loved to climb trees. He picked up his tools and began to assemble the birdhouse. He used his hammer, some glue and a saw. As he tapped in the last nail, he hit his thumb! He howled like a wolf in the night. It throbbed and was sore but not badly injured. He could now put up the birdhouse in the tree and listen to the sweet song of a bird's gratitude. (98 words)

Five minutes and a few words. Storyline -- Check, Main Character -- Check, Plot -- Check (Simple & straightforward,) Problem solved -- Check.

Does it still need work? Sure, doesn’t every rough draft? But is it a viable story? I think so. Yes, I would rearrange a couple of things, but that’s a matter of presentation and flow. The elements are there, the direction is obvious, most kids could relate to it in one way or another. It has achieved its goal of being a story under 100 words, using the target words given as its major points.

These words could have produced a multitude of stories and never repeated. And they wouldn’t have all been for children, either.

So, dear writer friends of mine. I issue the same challenge to you. Can you build a complete story in 100 words or less from the target words and make it work? Any genre or target age. And do it in less than ten minutes?

Feel free to post your resulting stories here for review by the small mass of writers who wander through. Think of this as part of the deep end of the pool and enjoy the swim. I dare ya!

Take care all. Watch your words. They have powers hitherto unknown to man. Hope to see you back here soon with great little rough drafts for all to read.

Until then,


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rain, Tents, and Adventure

I just returned from a short hop over to central Washington. That’s a new area for me to explore. As a result, we spent a few days doing just that.

Sister needed to spend a couple of days with her eldest, which left me with plenty of time to peruse the local color. I have to admit, there was little color to investigate in the traditional sense of the word.

Our 1960’s hold-over motel left little to the imagination and had only its nightly prices to recommend it. Still, people standing out in pouring down rain have small chance of being picky. I figure dry accommodations have their own rewards. Microwave and fridge did a bit to reconcile impressions. Cable TV helped, too, and a new air conditioner didn’t hurt.

We won’t go into the bathing facilities, however. Least said, best mended.

Local friendliness put us at ease. The only decent restaurant in this little town sat beside the best motel, which we hadn’t discovered earlier in the afternoon. I happen to like family restaurants that serve hearty, tasty meals without fanfare and attitude. Unless, of course, the patron wants to pay for attitude. We don’t.

Rain continued throughout our stay. Tent. Oh, yeah, we had intended to use the tent. Between saturated ground that wouldn’t hold a tent peg to unrelenting rain, hopes of going to a campground without an RV attached to us was a dismal proposition.

So cheap motel became our home away from home for our stay. After all, we had planned on camping.

Once we decided to call it quits and head for home, the skies cleared and sunshine prevailed. I know. That’s our luck, right?

Still we had plenty of time to get back home. We really wanted to camp on our way back. We took a most direct, though far more scenic highway on the return trip.

One piece of advice. If you ever decide to stop in Walla Walla for a meal, beware who you ask for directions to a restaurant. We were starved since we hadn’t had breakfast. We never did find a restaurant serving that meal, even with directions. Pretty town, though. I recommend the old historic district for its attractiveness.

Back on Highway 12 we made our way east looking for something to eat. We passed thousands of acres of grain fields being harvested and shipped to the local granaries in tiny towns dotting the edges of the highway’s asphalt. It’s amazing what you can see when you take some of these smaller roads. We had a blast discovering all the architecture types, veggie stands, etc.

Sometime around noon, we had to stop wherever we could find a place. We came into Orofino, Idaho. One the north side of the river we found the Ponderosa, which was an historic restaurant with great food in ample portions and friendly people. Seems all the locals go there after church for lunch.

We left those wonderful people and moved back onto the highway and our return journey. We’d entered the mountainous portion of the drive. With the river flowing nicely on one side of the road or the other and opposing mountainsides, the road wound its way through a hundred miles of the Rockies.

*NOTE: Please remember to fuel up at Orofino before heading toward the Montana line.

In many ways we were pushing the clock heading east. The forecast was for heavy rain and snow in the passes. Lolo pass is one of the worst around in the snow. By the time we hit the summit, the rain had begun and we had 36 more miles to go before hitting the small town of Lolo, MT on the down slope and a fuel stop.

We managed to get down from the summit without hitting anything other than rain which was a blessing. Once we got to Missoula we headed for Outback Steakhouse for a well-deserved dinner and rest from the road.

Getting home before midnight became out goal. We made it with a bit to spare, though rain followed us the entire way.

HOME! We could sleep in our own dry beds and be out of the cold. We’d had nice warm weather right up to the point of arriving in Montana. That’s when the thermometer showed numbers we hadn’t seen in a long while.

But now we’re back and clearing all the work that piled up during our absence. Our friends missed us. So many little things to clear up. It’s good to be back, but being on the road is a simple life.
I think we might just have to make a long trip next spring.

Until later,


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hitting The Road

A writer gets to think much of the time. It doesn’t seem to matter what’s thought about, so long as the process is beneficial and resolves something. It could be about a story being revised, a new idea for a book that takes place in the future, or about an article for which research is still pending. Like I said… anything.

For the past several weeks I’ve been thinking about a good many things. Most of them have to do with writing in one form or another. Most of it has to do with the future (not unlike the average writer.) And I honestly have been thinking about the research that I still have to do for a large number of articles that I have planned for the next few months.

Nevertheless, within all of that mental activity, a small portion of gray matter has been exclusively thinking about finances and what a person really needs to live in the world and, especially, in this country.

And before you ask, no, I’m not thinking of leaving the country to live elsewhere. What I was thinking about is the status people place on where one lives, how one lives, and how much one spends in order to live.

Right now, like a huge portion of the populace, I live on a fixed income. I haven’t sold a book lately for a huge advance and haven’t received a huge royalty check, either.

Sister and I are readying for a camping trip. We had all sorts of camping gear before we moved and got more afterwards. We went to the garage to pull out some of that gear this afternoon, only to discover that it wasn’t there. It obviously never was there. Oh, we found the hatchets and folding saw, and a few other items, but our camping cookware (used once and returned to its box) was missing.

We had to groan. Another item that disappeared during the move. (I won’t go into that here.) So there we were, no cookware and we weren’t about to take the good stainless from the apartment.

There weren’t any plans for going shopping today, but now we had little choice. Four stores later we settled for two cheap sauce pans that we could cook and boil water in. With our griddle we could at least feed ourselves during this camping experience. We found the cookware we wanted, but we refused to spend from $25-35 a piece for it. We aren't even discussing the price of hot-dog forks.

Is it just me or did the price of camping just sky-rocket lately? When Jo was doing research on the cost of a camp site at a state park (out of state) the other day, fees ran up to $42 per night, plus tax, for out-of-staters. I can remember not that long ago when an average site fee ran $10 and that included water at the site and a BBQ pit with grill. Not anymore.

Camping used to be the least expensive way for a family to have a vacation and see part of the country that they didn’t live close to. Again, not anymore. Between site fees in parks and campgrounds, cost of food and gasoline, even a stay at an in-state park (not a national one) can set a family back several hundred dollars for a week, especially if they have to use more than one tent.

As a result of this research, we’ve taken to many planning sessions to consider our future plans. But we don’t have time to concern ourselves with that right now. We’ll get this one under our belts first and consider longer plans later.

This is a working trip as much as anything. At least we’ll be able to write off a good portion of it. That’s the good thing about being a writer and a photographer. Play becomes work, work become a tax write-off. Go figger.

So, there you have it. Writers and thinking. Thinking and planning. Planning and considering. That (some call it vicious) circle just keeps on rolling through a person’s life.

Experts say that the circle is the most perfect form in the Universe. I can’t dispute that and don’t intend to try. I just find it ironic that it shows up in such abundance within a person’s life.

We’re off tomorrow for a week or so of camping, researching, clicking camera shots, and calculating number of articles available from material gathered. Wish us luck. Hopefully, the site fees won’t raise while we’re on the road and water will still be free.

I’ll be glad to give a report about our doin’s when I return. Until then, think about how long it’s been since you’ve camped at a state park. Are you up for it? Have you grown too sedate in the past few years? That’s what we thought, too. We decided we were wrong.

Hope to see you around a campfire in the next few days. Until then, adios amigos and amigas.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Deed Done

I wrote a poem for a challenge several weeks ago. I've since done a small edit and choose to share it here. Until one of those critiquing the challenge pieces mentioned it, I didn't realize that I'd created an "epic" poem. Color me shocked when I heard that.

I merely wanted to share a summary of my favorite high fantasy book, The Deed of Pansennarion by Elizabeth Moon. Now I bring it here. I hope everyone can enjoy it and try their hand at writing such a summary of their own favorite books.

by Claudette J. Young

A long golden braid coiled around her head,
Kept in place by a warrior’s helmet.
Born of Finthan sheepfarmers, she grew strong.
She ran thirty miles to join the Duke’s men,
And when recruited, she gave her name--Paks.

Paks marched, trained, made friends in the troupe,
A natural warrior, she excelled,
A favorite of officers and troops.
Yet some tainted ones wished her only ill.
Magic framed her for foul deeds she’d not done.

Truth comes with faith, a sign of honor lived.
Good routes evil, strengthens Paks’s rank.
Soon Duke chooses year’s elite recruit group,
Who’ll lead companies south toward a war.
Paks and her squad lead off to great Valdaire.

From Valdaire war’s campaign in Rotengre,
Paks held sword, facing awaiting foes.
Ending with leg near lost, magic cures all.
Ambush on return home costs more friends lives,
Again magic hands, Duke’s intervention.

Rage-filled hearts demand decision--vengence,
Confusion fuels fires, though Paks seeks justice.
Seasons change and wars, mercs fight for money.
Paks marches again, a siege to begin,
Evil demi-gods fight paladin’s might.

Orders come, Dwarfwatch needs protection, too.
Fortress must stand rear guard, Paks goes again.
Treachery takes the unwary by day,
Captain slain under truce, gates drop war tight,
Leaving Paks, Canna, Sabin hiding out.

The three break cover by night, Duke’s men all.
One wounded, two recruits, stealthy woodscraft,
Hiding, creeping, staying low, avoid foe.
Two die so close, so far, just hours away,
Paks finds sentry, gets to Duke, collapses.

That villain, Honeycat, eludes Duke’s wrath.
Duke loses captain but retakes fortress.
Rest, heal, regroup to fight again in siege.
Gods battle, men die, evil crawls away.
Nothing solved, Time to return to Valdaire.

Months pass, wounds heal, tempers banked, fresh recruits
Arrive to flesh out depleted troop strength.
Duke’s pledge made. Honeycat’s head on a pike.
Merc companies rally in Valdaire, each
With a stake in likely southern outcome.

Revenge stalks forest, towns in running war.
Battles rage, skirmishes erupt for weeks.
The end is near, the rumor runs--death comes.
Rumor told truth. A ruined citadel
Held Honeycat, that evil Liart’s dupe.

Duke chose Paks to take squad for trap, await,
Capture, hold their prey for final revenge.
Magic brought sleep, shadows bought escape plans,
Paks fought sleep, watched shadows, foiled escapees,
Caught, held, injured, Paks saw Duke’s swift justice.

Hailed as hero, Paks shied from paladin,
Though drawn, she could not remain with the Duke.
Other calls drew her north to find herself,
Her justice sense needed satisfaction.
And so, with trader and elf, she moved north.

Adventures, training, mysteries, intrigue
Showing her trails. Paladin--her powers
Granted by four Gods for justice’s sake.
Paks knew herself, she knew her loyalties,
Gods worked her, protecting their interests.

Questing for rightful king for throne moves her
Back toward Duke’s East. Phelan holds key to quest.
An elf sword, Liart priest, Gods battle, all
To put Duke on throne of eastern kingdom.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Highway Humor

Sometimes things happen that simply force a person to perk up and wonder about the fun things in the world. That’s what happened to my sister and I yesterday. Honest! We weren’t stalking the poor man. We just happened to be interested in his amazing traveling companion and we were going to the same place.

It all began when we were on our way to Glacier Park. That’s our backyard playground, you remember. We came up behind a man driving a vintage Volvo sports car. Vintage show cars are very common around here. It seems like half the population living here or visiting have at least one specimen garaged at home, which are brought out on the weekend.

Regardless of the little red car, it was the occupants in said convertible that held our attention. As we pulled up behind them in the right lane, sister began choking on her laughter.

I could tell she was still looking straight ahead and tried to figure out why she was reacting as she did. After a few minutes, I realized that the passenger was extremely tall. Sitting at least two heads taller than the driver was a dog.

I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, right. The dog sat that high in a sports car? Sure, I believe that. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

Fortunately for me, it’s true.

Jo passed the car so we could get a better look, and there in the passenger seat was the largest dog either of us had ever seen. Let me put it this way. It was so large that if it stood on its hind legs, it would easily have been close to seven feet tall. I’m sorry, but that qualifies as tall to this sight-challenged gal.

Light brown in color, the beast looked to Jo to be a cross between Great Dane and Irish Wolf Hound. Both are huge animals. Combined, they are mind-boggling.

Jo kicked herself for not being able to get a picture of the car, the driver (an older gentleman), and the passenger in his doggy seat belt harness. She wanted to be able to show the fact that the animal had to lower its head to rest it on the top of the windshield.

We got far enough in front of the convertible to pull over so she could whip out the camera and get ready. She didn’t bother getting out of the car. And wouldn’t you know it, he was going too fast for her to get a shot.

That’s when we pursued the subject. In passing, I told her that this was the first time I remember her turning into paparazzi, to which she told me never to call her that insulting name again. I’m sorry, but that was what turned the whole event hysterical. I couldn’t help myself.

For me, it became a case of the Keystone Cops after that. Of course, anyone listening in could have accused me of having a more serious problem at the time. I couldn’t stop laughing. The whole situation just kept getting funnier by the minute.

What made it even worse was the dog. Jo kept wondering if the driver and dog were talking back and forth. Why? Because the dog kept looking back at us to see if we were still there. Lips and ears flying, he’d turn that fawn-colored head and stare at us, turn it back and lean forward as if to make their car go faster.
We moved along the highway in our two-car caravan for several miles before our subject turned into the Glacier Park entrance. Jo had him in her sights. A chortle of satisfied pre-shot ecstasy escaped her with the thought of having cornered her prey.

That’s when disappointment not only reared its ugly head but body slammed us as well. The car with fascinating occupants turned down a private road to a residential area instead of moving forward into the park proper.

Being an ethical person, my sister didn’t continue to follow him. She refused to be accused of stalking for the capture of a photograph. That kind of behavior simply isn’t acceptable. After all, the open highway is public domain. A person’s driveway isn’t.

As a result, we went on into the park to find as yet unseen treasures to put on film and take home for memory files and possible professional use.

We will never forget those moments of mirth. We managed to laugh through much of the remaining afternoon.

Moral of the story. Just because life hands you a wonderful piece of humor to lighten your heart and bring a smile to your face, doesn’t mean that photos will be easy or possible. Perhaps the mere memory of the sight or event is all that’s allowed the viewer as a memento of the occasion.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Experiment In Media

For those interested, the poem is old. The photo is brand new this past week. Funny how they go so well together. This is one of the new things I'm doing with those spare moments of play time.



And Yes, I realize there's a wee typo. I'm working on getting it fixed today.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Chaos of Market Selection

Checking The Listings

I went to market today,
A list of poems in my hand.
Stalls there of needy publishers,
Reaching for gold from the land.

The words I wrote have worth here;
Readers and mags follow my trail.
Hustlers call out with promises,
Seeking bargains; the holy grail.

Should I commit to publish,
Signing away my thoughts' last rights?
Should I hold onto ownership,
Or submit to prizes’ sites?

Decision flees from my mind,
When possibilities abound.
Prizes everywhere tempt me on,
Toward a giant lost and found.

This poem epitomizes my day today. Aside from traveling two blocks down the street to get my hair cut and the time it took to do laundry, my time was used for investigating literary mags or travel mags. Would that I could make up my mind.

This writer rediscovers a terrible problem each time the marketing quest takes over. It revolves around the seemingly boundless array of choices possible for each piece of treasured verse or prose. I spent five hours today looking through submission guidelines for the appropriate venue for my little babies to sparkle and dance before editors’ eyes.

I came away with a minimum of ten submission sites for poems and short fiction--all for adult. Finding something that fits me and the market in adult work is something else again. On the creative non-fiction side of things, there were a minimum of five markets there that could allow me to do something that I would really like to do.

Oh, there were dozens more on every front, but I was thinking only in specifics, and reading through that many market guidelines takes me inordinate amounts of time. So I called it a day when I got to the mid-point of the B’s. When I think about this dilemma facing each writer, I also think of the same problem and its impact on everyday life for everyone.

Back in the 50’s when I grew up, going to the grocery store (supermarket) was a simple matter of filling the list Mom carried in her head. The cereal aisle consisted of limited offerings: oats, shredded wheat, cream of wheat, cream of rice, puffed wheat/rice, farina, corn flakes, and rare handful of others.

Today there are probably 50 different kinds, most of which have generic brands offering the same thing for less. The soda aisle sported perhaps 10 different choices at most and no such thing as flavored waters came into the mix. It seems that every broad grocery aisle overflows now with choices to tempt the shopper into a stupor of either over-shopping or decision-making chaos. I feel sorry for the young kids of today. I hear it nearly every time I go through a store.

Parent: “Well, make up your mind so we can get out of here.”

Child: Dead silent, enormous eyes riveted on five sets of shelves, each spanning twenty feet of length, and all of them filled with choices. There’s no time for internal debate or eeny-meeny…

We wonder why kids have problems with decision making and problem solving skills today. Producers have made it nigh on to impossible for people to make a decision they can live with. There will forever be that question mark in the back of their minds which connotes the nagging voice saying, “Did I really get the best thing I could have, or should I have gotten…”

And so child and parent forgo feeling good about any decision they make. When selection becomes so large, so do possible mistakes. One can never be certain that success is reached, regardless of assurances by family and friends.

Everyone now must balance seemingly endless choices against immediate success/good feelings about the decision.

In the publishing world so many choices of markets helps a writer find potential placement for whatever gem she/he wants to submit for publication. It creates markets for those writers who wouldn’t fit a mainstream mass market mag or a literary mag. For the publishers the payoff is more potential subscribers and contributors. In that sense it’s a win-win situation.

It has subtle drawbacks, though, as most situations do. For the writer it also adds to confusion. For the publisher it adds to the work load of unsolicited manuscripts. That’s part of the downside. There’s the potential for another question mark for both writer and publisher. “Did I get the best market/writer for my effort?”

For someone like me, who likes to write in several genres equally, it broadens my scope of potential markets. And it adds to decision-making chaos each time I dive into potential benefactors.

I’m not complaining about the increased potential--merely commenting on the mental chaos that results. For me, I become the child in the toy aisle, looking at that magnificent selection and being told to hurry up already, and pick something.

My imagination still works fine, though, and I could well imagine how a piece of my writing would look behind those covers I perused today. That wasn’t difficult at all.

Now if I can just write the perfect cover letter for each submission…



Monday, September 13, 2010

New Release Coming

I don’t do this very often, but I want to announce that my friend, Courtney Rene has a wonderful book that will be released on September 15, 2010.

Shadow Dancer by Courtney Rene is a YA fantasy set in another world with enough twists and turns to satisfy any reader of the genre. I just wanted to give the author some advance PR. All writers can use a bit of a boost with a new release. And I’m happy to  do that.

It will be available from on the 15th as an ebook for Kindle. Book releases on the 25th.

The publisher is Rogue Phoenix Press at:

Check it out and decide it it’s something you’d enjoy.

A bientot,


Get Ready, Have Rake, Make Leaf Pile

Well, friends, autumn is here and with it comes cooler temperatures, skies of a different blue, and nature’s colors. Some people are forlorn this season. Throughout the Midwest, due to the drought conditions of the summer, trees have already lost many of their leaves and those left behind are a basic brown. I agree. Not nice at all.

Here in the north country, though, we’ve begun the changing of seasonal robes. Snow came to the high country in August. Now, the larch are turning into candle flames of gold among their evergreen neighbors. Burning bushes are flaunting crimson twigs for all to see. The aspen shake their shiny golden leaves in the slightest breeze.

And confused maples have taken to sporting tiny helicopter wings among still-green leaves. Crabapples are ready to begin dropping fruit for human and squirrel alike. Huckleberries still vie for bears’ attentions with big, bright rose hips.

The big game braves the roadside for a chance at prime vegetation. Migrations have begun of geese, cranes, and stork. There are many things to take stock of during this season of winding down from high summer and preparation for winter’s slumber.

For many this is the time for festivals and celebration. Harvests are going on throughout the country. Great pumpkins are showing up in supermarkets everywhere. Winter squash seduce the cook with varied colors and shapes--so many from which to choose.

Apples and pears scent the air with aromas that cause mouths to water. It’s time to enjoy the fall of leaves and the closing of the growing season.

Here are some considerations for the future. Soon children of all ages will ring doorbells across the country in search of the elusive treats to compromise tooth enamel and cause a sugar high. Turkeys will come down in price as growers everywhere bring the birds to stores where wives and husbands will pick and choose just the right one to grace their table at Thanksgiving.

Once that day’s had its run, a tree will rise in living/family room. Kids and adults will bestow upon its boughs a multitude of colorful ornaments, tinsel and ribbon or garland. Christmas stars and snowflakes will flutter among the decorations through the house, spill out onto the lawn, or up to the roof to proclaim this new season within the winter season.

Or, Hanukkah specialties will be brought to bear on the house and home for the family of that faith. Kwanzaa will take precedence for others. And some will ignore the time of year all together.

A few days after that second turkey or big ham or corned beef, the year will change its name for another, and our lives will move on into another cycle. It never stops. Only we make the seasonal changes of attitude, expectation, and enjoyment.

This annual progression anchors our lives within a somewhat predictable pattern. If any of the holidays were removed, we’d all have a difficult time adjusting--if we could adjust at all. If Autumn arrived in November and Winter moved to February, we’d all panic. It’s that predictability that keeps us following our personal calendars of events.

For now we are safe from any untoward elimination of festivities. Apple cider will flow as freely as last year's. Pumpkins will roll into your house for the annual carving of Jack-O-Lanterns for placement on front stoops. Turkey with stuffing can still be planned for late November.

It’s nice having a calendar that still works for the adult stage of the child that you were, isn’t it?
Have fun with this season. It doesn’t last all that long and offers many opportunities to revisit that inner child of yours. Get out and see whatever color comes your way. Play with the clouds as when you were a kid. Find the dragons, dogs, and castles that float within the sky’s white vapor shapes. Rake the leaves, only to jump into the pile when you finished.

Who says they must stay in a pile? Who made that rule? That’s the only enjoyment in raking leaves in the first place.

See y’all later.


**NOTE: All photos used here are from BJ Jones Photography at: