Writing…

Image copyright BigStockPhoto

Image copyright BigStockPhoto

There’s writing, and then…there’s writing.

These days, I enjoy writing novels, but…I’m actually typing them into a computer, not writing them by hand.

Why? Because, increasingly, I can’t write…not by hand, anyway. Actually, I’ve never been able to write well.

When I was a first-grader, we practiced forming the letters of the alphabet, both upper and lower case. With pencils. On blue-lined sheets of pulp paper in our Montag Blue Horse writing tablets (anyone remember those?) I was never able to do a good job at this.

Mama would “tsk, tsk” over each paper I brought home. She gave me encouragement and instructions on how to make my writing…well, readable. But no matter how much I tried, my scribblings remained just scribbles.

One afternoon, I brought home a paper that made Mama ecstatic. “See?” she said. “I knew if you kept trying, you’d get it right.” She proceeded to point out the smoothness of the strokes, the regular, consistent size of the letters…until she came to the name in the upper right-hand corner of the page. It didn’t say (all crookedy and messy) “Tommie Lyn.” Another little girl’s name was on the paper. (I wonder how her mother reacted when she saw my paper and thought, for one horrible moment, that it was her daughter’s.)

I was careful after that to make sure my papers didn’t get mixed up with someone else’s. Poor Mama, I don’t think she could have taken another disappointment.

My handwriting got worse when I advanced to the next grade and started learning cursive, and it never got a whole lot better. It was never anything to write home about, but it was at least legible. Until lately. During the past several years, it has steadily deteriorated as I’ve aged, and now, no one can read it, not even me. These days, the only way my hen scratching can be deciphered at all is if I print the letters.

Like I learned to do in the first grade.

Saying Something

Image © Byron Solomon via stock.xchng

The advice given to authors is to avoid commenting on religion or politics. After all, we wouldn’t want potential readers to discover what we really think and thereby lose sales of our books. But I realized that anyone who will be turned off by my statements of what I believe will likely be turned off by my books, anyway, since my world view comes out in what I write, whether fiction or non-fiction.

And of late, the danger that I see looming for my country is such that I can’t remain silent about it. Book sales are of no importance when compared to the demise of my country and the untold suffering about to be visited on my fellow citizens.

Granted, there are a huge number of those fellow citizens who have no clue what’s coming, and they embrace the very thing that will prove to be their undoing. And they will most likely ignore what I say. But I have to at least give a warning so they can’t come to me later and say, “Why didn’t you say something about what was coming?”

So…from now on, I won’t be silent, I’m saying something….

HyVee

Image by Tommie Lyn

I must say that blogging per schedule (i.e., having to churn out blog posts whether or not you have something to say) is wearing. Why is it that exciting topics hide when I’m ready to write, and others find them and beat me to it?

Plus, at this moment in time, my focus is on current events…which is a no-no in blogland (unless you’re a political writer, which I’m not).

The only other option, when your mind’s empty of possible topics, is writing posts about writing. Also a no-no, since other writers are the only ones likely to have an interest in reading them, and far better writers than moi cover writing topics much better than I.

That reduces me to digging up topics that no one, not even me, have an interest in reading or writing. For instance, I could talk about my addiction to working jigsaw puzzles (yawn!).Or maybe, a post about another addiction…Extra Dessert Delights Sugar-free Apple Pie Gum (yum, yum!).

Or…say…how about a post about…HyVee Supermarket? YAY!

Hubby and I made a trip to North Dakota this summer (part of his bucket list…he’d been in every state except North Dakota and Alaska and wanted to tick them off his list. Guess where we’ll be going next year?)

On the way, we needed some things and stopped at a supermarket in Kansas City, Missouri…a supermarket we’d never seen or heard tell of…HyVee Supermarket.

First of all, let me say, we were intrigued by the name, because, when one of our grandsons was small, he could never wrap his mind (or tongue) around the fact that hubby’s RV was, well, an RV. He called it a “high vee.” And here was a supermarket by that name. (An omen of what was to come, that this place was special? Indeed!)

But what bowled us over was the store itself. HyVee stores are employee-owned, and it shows the minute you walk inside. It’s clean, the staff is friendly and glad to see you, and the selection is amazing.

I walked in the door…and fell in love.

There were so many things to choose from, we spent more time in the store than we’d intended, just marveling at everything. Plus, they have restaurants in the store and a salad bar that is incredible. (Hubby got a fruit salad assortment and I got a tossed salad…never had a fresher, better-tasting salad, even the ones I make at home.)

Suffice it to say, I will pine for HyVee until, by some small chance, the HyVee company decides they ought to build a store in the Florida panhandle. Sigh…

What about you…do you have a favorite place to go grocery shopping?

History

Image © Beaucroft via iStockphoto

During my school years, history, with its dates to be memorized and dusty books, didn’t interest me. (Neither did math, for that matter). English was my favorite subject.

Family history was an important topic in my father’s family, though, and I absorbed much of it almost by osmosis. My grandmother made sure that I and my cousins knew what happened to our ancestors, at least, what she had knowledge of. I learned about our Cherokee ancestors, and about Dr. Pierre Chastain, a French Huguenot who fled religious persecution, arriving in Virginia aboard the Mary and Ann in July, 1700. But beyond that, I had little interest in what happened before.

Until, that is, I had children of my own. The thread of continuity became important to me, and I began to care about the people who came before, what their lives were like, and what they did. And not only my own ancestors, but the ancestors of others.

A friend of Scottish descent often spoke of the fact that his Scottish ancestor was a slave on a plantation near Savannah, Georgia. I was skeptical. And since I also had Scottish ancestors, I began researching Scottish history. And found out he was right…Scots had been enslaved at various times and in various circumstances (Have you ever heard of the Redlegs of Barbados? Read this article.)

“Why do so few people know about this?” I wondered. The answer came immediately. Lots of people are like me–they have no interest in history, and although this information is available in history books, they don’t care to read them. And I thought someone should write a novel, should fictionalize the historic record. If it were entertaining, folks might read it and learn what happened.

I deepened my research and chose a major event in the mid-1700s, The ’45, or, The Jacobite Rebellion, when Bonnie Prince Charlie raised a Highland army to fight for him, to help him reclaim his father’s throne, as the setting of the story. In the aftermath of the last battle of the rebellion, the Battle of Culloden, at least a thousand Highlanders were transported to the American colonies and to the Caribbean, some sold as indentured servants, some as slaves.

And I told the story of that time in the person of Ailean MacLachlainn in High on a Mountain, and I did my utmost to ensure historical accuracy as well as making the story entertaining.

I’ve continued delving into history, following Ailean’s descendants, trying to tell the story of some of the people who went before us.

What about you? Does history interest you?

Flatland

In my post about the mountains of north Georgia, I mentioned that when I was a child growing up, I thought we who lived in Dalton were flatlanders. And I continued thinking that until I went “back home” after many years away.

But as to another idea of flatlanders, I had never heard of the short novel, “Flatland” by Edwin A. Abbot, until I attended a lecture by John Clayton. He used concepts from the novel to help illustrate the nature of God, and he raised questions that had never occurred to me.

Like, what is the definition of “time.” (Hint: there is no definition…there are ways we quantify “time,” ways we measure it, but we don’t have a clear definition of it because it is outside our frame of reference. We live in a three dimensional world, and time is the fourth dimension, hence, we don’t have knowledge of it that would allow us to define it or understand it, just as a resident in the two-dimensional world of Flatland cannot conceive of nor understand an object that has three dimensions.)

I was intrigued (and still am) by the concepts Mr. Clayton presented, and I revisit Flatland from time to time. Today, I was surprised to learn there are Flatland movies based on the novel, Flatland: the Movie and Flatland: the Film. I haven’t seen either of them, so I can’t speak about them, positively or negatively. But I am interested in seeing both of them. And if I do, I’ll probably have something to say about them in a later post.

Usually, I’m the last to know about something, and by the time I hear about new things, they aren’t new any more. So you may already have been introduced to the concepts in Flatland. If you have or have not heard of this little novel or the movies based on it, what are your thoughts about it?

Cousins, Cowboys, and Bottle Caps

Image © Mikael Cronhamn via stock.xchng

When I was a child, we lived next door to my Uncle Cliff and his family. My four cousins were my playmates. The oldest was usually the director of our games of “pretend,” setting the scenario for a story of princesses in a castle, with all that entailed. But her interests changed, and she moved on to “older” things.

And then the second oldest found our play too juvenile, and so the third in line, who is one month younger than I, became my main playmate.

His interests were different from those of his older sisters, and so our “pretend” scenarios changed from princesses-and-castles-and-one-lone-knight to cowboys and cops-and-robbers. I was perfectly happy to play the games he chose, since they went along with the movie serials we watched at the Wink Theater every Saturday morning

But the most amazing thing about our play was something I didn’t notice at the time. When I look back now, I’m struck by my cousin’s creativity.

Image © Billy Alexander via stock.xchng

We didn’t have a lot of toys. For our cowboy games, I had a broken piece of a toy gun, and everything else was imaginary. Except for our “money.” My cousin decided we should collect bottle caps. We scraped the cork inner lining from them and flattened them with Uncle Cliff’s hammer to make coins.

My cousin wanted a fancy gun and holster set for our play, which he knew he was unlikely to get. And so he made one.

He used cardboard, made slits to thread his belt through, and attached a row of bullet loops made from a smaller strip of cardboard. The holster, though, was amazing. He folded cardboard over to make a smooth front roll, trimmed the back edges into the proper shape and fastened them together by punching holes and looping string through them in an attractive pattern. He painted the whole thing black, using shoe polish, and he decorated it with daubs of silver paint “studs.”

At the time, I thought it was absolutely beautiful. And I’m even more impressed now that I look back on my cousin’s ingenuity, his workmanship, and his persistence. Making that holster set took months, because he was so painstaking with it, getting every detail just right.

I wonder about our children today, with their overflowing toy boxes, their access to all kinds of electronic gadgets, and the ease with which they get what they want. Do they ever have a chance to yearn for something they can’t have to the point that they find a way to make something else to fulfill that desire (and thereby satisfying more than just that original want)?

What about you? What things do you remember from your childhood?

Something old, something new.

Image © Svilen Milev via stock.xchng

The old? That’s easy…me!

The new? My snazzy new blog header, complete with a fancy new log line (thanks, Kristen Lamb!)

Back in June, realizing my blogging efforts, which have been sporadic and unremarkable, needed help, LOTS of help, I enrolled in a blogging class taught by Kristen Lamb. And I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.

First of all, I’ve learned a lot about blogging and social media.

And second, I’ve become acquainted with some wonderful folks who are my “Blogging for Brand” classmates at WANATribe. We’ve helped one another, provided encouragement when it was needed, and given valuable feedback to each other. Superlative!

Thirdly, after analyzing my “homework” assignments, Kristen offered me a list of possible log lines to consider. And they were all fantastic! But one of them just jumped out at me…it defined ME in a few chosen words: Mountains in My Heart, Sand in My Shoes.

Now, that log line is proudly emblazoned on my new blog header. I LOVE it! Thanks, Kristen! (How does she do it? Wow!)

What about you? Have you got a super log line/header for your blog? I’d love to hear about it!

Image courtesy Svilen Milev http://efffective.com