Windows into Solitude

It’s raining today. I have my writing and a sleeping dog to keep me company.   This blog expressed what solitude means through their words and their photos.  Grab that cup of tea and celebrate the introvert within.

Five bloggers on the virtues of alone time, with photos from our recent “Solitude” challenge.

via Is One Really the Loneliest Number? Five Bloggers on the Virtues of Solitude — Discover

Where to Hide Dead Bodies and Thieves: the Laundry Chute

Love this article about the creation and evolution of the laundry chutes. It satisfied the history lover and my darker side as an author. Does it surprise you that this convenience helped people get rid of their “dirty laundry”?

Longreads

At The Atlantic, Sarah Minor notes that dead bodies, thieves, skulls, and historical bits of ephemera that fly out of pockets on the passage down are just some of the hidden secrets that laundry chutes reveal.

In June 1998, while renovating his home in St. Louis, Joseph Heathcott found a collection of trash moldering in the slender cavity between his pantry and his laundry chute. It was a stack of small paper scraps “lying in repose at various scales,” with sooty edges that were just beginning to stick together and combine. There was a box of playing cards, a train ticket from Kansas City, a receipt, a diary entry, a delivery card, sections of handwritten notes, a laundry ticket, and labels from Christmas packaging. The scraps had gathered over a century, escaping from pockets as garments fell from the second floor, and some of the scraps slipped through…

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Heroes or Anti-Heroes

I’ve read a few articles written by other authors on the subjects of ‘Heroes’ and ‘Anti-heroes.’  I’d never really put much thought into what categories my characters might fall under.   I understand the basic concepts of heroes and heroines, love interests, villains and/or antagonists.   But I’ve never plotted out in detail whether or not I’ll have an anti-hero in the story.  I’ve had characters who would be classified as an ‘anti-hero’ — someone who performs heroic actions but doesn’t have the typical qualities attributed to heroes such as morality, courage, and idealism.

I didn’t consciously think about how to create a particular type of character. My approach to storytelling is a fluid process.  I predetermine my main characters before I begin writing.  But, sometimes a minor character develops as the story is written, and ends up with a meatier role.   I like revealing certain aspects of a character’s personality while some traits are left a mystery for the reader.   This practice isn’t exclusive to me or my writing.   I know other writers who, like me, are more reactive as they write their story and others who prefer to plan their stories in great detail.

One way isn’t better than another.  When I read the articles, I wondered if I should do more planning before writing my stories.  I can see where some individuals might enjoy the in-depth plotting and research prior to beginning their projects.  Would changing my methods improve my stories and my characters, or would it inhibit my natural storytelling abilities?   I guess I will never know until I try it.

I hope my readers are surprised and entertained when they read my books.   I believe I would miss my own surprise and wonder as my tale emerges from my gray matter and ends up on the page.  I’m as entertained by the developments as I would be if I were reading it for the first time.

How many other writers feel the same way?   Do you insist on plotting your story out?   Or are you operating with a very fluid story arc?

 

 

Spending Time

My mom is 82 years old.  Two years ago, she battled breast cancer and won.  Now, we have a different battle.  She has gotten progressively weaker making it difficult to get up out of a chair and walk with aid of a walker.

She remains independent in her own home but relies more and more on the help of others for meal preparation, personal cares, and day-to-day activities.  It saddens me to see these gradual changes.  My younger sister provides much of this assistance.  When she planned her vacation, I offered to step in.

So, I’m spending my Valentine’s Day with my mom with my husband’s blessing.  Today, Mom asked me what I wanted for Valentine’s Day.  I told her being with her and spending this time was gift enough.  I know it touched her heart.  I’m very much like my mom in that I don’t like to show vulnerability.  I keep many emotions private showing myself to only those people I trust.

If you have read my book, Exodus, you will recognize this character trait in my protagonist, Clare Thibodeaux.   Just for clarification,   I’m not Clare and she is not based on me.  Aspects of her character tend to mimic some of my more flawed personality traits, but she is a work of fiction.  

While I’m writing this blog, Mom is watching her favorite shows — “Judge” shows, talk shows where people throw chairs and pull hair, and reruns of comedies from the eighties.  I have to admit to loving the Hallmark Channel’s movies.  I’m a sappy romantic under a tough exterior.

I’m blessed to have the time to spend with my aging parent.  So many children don’t have those opportunities because of work obligations, distance, and other constraints.  I find myself becoming more introspective.  I realize I will be the oldest member of the family of my youth.  Will my great-nieces and nephews call me “the old one” as my sons had when meeting my grandmother?  Will I be that wacky aunt who wrote suspense novels, studied Tae Kwon Do, was an Army officer and embraced aspects of the hippie culture of the 60’s and 70’s?

I would love nothing more than to be a real-life character in the stories of future generations, just as my father and mother are destined to be to the current young ones.  My tough South Bronx gang member father with his Irish immigrant parents married a farm girl from the Midwest who played basketball and wanted to be an FBI agent at a time when not many women worked outside the home.

Looking at the white-haired woman sitting by the window in the sunlight, it’s hard to picture the young woman from the past.  Spend a bit of time with her and her steely resolve and iron-will become recognizable if one takes the time to look.

I believe as William Shakespeare wrote so eloquently that life is a story and we are all characters with our parts to play.   I am my mother’s audience during this week of “Spending Time”.

All the World’s A Stage

(from As You Like It, spoken by Jaques)
                                        All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
 

Taxing Times

It’s that time of year again — Tax Preparation Time!  I’m not one of the procrastinators who waits until the last moment to prepare and file my taxes.  I like getting it over with as soon as February begins.

To be frank, my taxes aren’t complicated.  No second homes (darn!) or overseas accounts in my life.  I can usually complete them in one evening.   They aren’t 1040EZ easy, but they aren’t as involved as say – President Trump’s taxes.  Although we haven’t seen them so who knows?

I have a great respect for the Internal Revenue Service.  My uncle worked for the IRS until he retired.   I think they have a terribly difficult job, and think about it, most people don’t want to have any dealings with the IRS.  That can be a lonely feeling.  They should have a “Be Kind to your IRS Agent Day”.  We have Nurses’ Week, Administrative Assistant Week, Buy Your Boss Lunch Week (What!  You mean it isn’t a WEEK!  It’s a day…  I’ve been had.)

20 Minutes Later…

Sorry about that.  I needed to call my therapist.   So, remember the IRS doesn’t call you as a first contact.  They will send you a letter.  Don’t let your neighbor, Jack, do your taxes for you because he’s a nice guy and likes to use a calculator.  It happened, I don’t like to talk about it, okay?   Anyway, back to my tax preparation advice.  Don’t use pretty pink ink on your tax forms.   IOU’s aren’t accepted in lieu of a payment.

I hope this was a helpful blog.  Tax deadline for this year is April 18th.  I hope you get the refund you want instead of the one you deserve.  Disclaimer:  I do not have any expertise in regards to tax preparation.  This blog is meant to be humorous (I apologize if you didn’t find it so) and not to be taken as serious advice.  

And Jack, I hope you aren’t mad at me.

 

A Tableau of America

Ah, the quintessential sporting event of the year had the nation enthralled for the evening.  Super Bowl Sunday.  I know there’s also the World Series, Wimbledon, and the Masters, and they are important events.

But, the hoopla around the Super Bowl is different.  Million dollar plus commercials have some people just tuning in to see the unique, but always memorable marketing masterpieces.  Who can forget the little lost puppy and the Clydesdales?

They opened the roof for Lady GaGa and her army of 300 synchronized lighted drones dancing in the sky above her.  Followed by the entertainer rappelling off the roof and onto the stage far below.  I’ve never seen dancing drones at the Masters — only hideous green jackets.  It’s a tradition, I know, but who thinks those jackets are spiffy?

Last night was the first time ever the Super Bowl went into overtime.  At the half, the Falcons were ahead 28-3.  I’m sure some people thought the game was over.  I’ve learned the game isn’t finished until the final buzzer.  The momentum and the score can change quickly.  It can be won in the last minute as it was last night.   I’d like to extend my congratulations to the Patriots and the Falcons for making it to the big game and playing with heart and determination.  The only thing I would change is having the Packers playing.  Go Pack!!

Another surprise were the political statements contained in the commercials and performances.  I don’t remember seeing anything similar during the commercials in previous years.  Unless nacho chip eating in a laundromat and Betty White undergoing a transformation after eating a candy bar has political undertones I’m not aware of.

I can’t wait until next year!