• Is there hope for the Odd Ones among us?

    Sometimes I wonder how my wiring got screwed up. It had less to do with nuture than nature, that much I am certain, but family oddities are a little difficult to deal with. So I don't impose myself a great deal on my family. They are great people; wonderful and caring, but we are all better off for having a few thousand miles between us.

    Yet sometimes I find that I can't quite slip into the regular channels of everyday life either. The other day someone told me that the new guy at work reminded him of Steven Seagal, I asked when Steven worked for us. The kid thought I was kidding, prodding me with descriptions of his martial arts prowess. I caught on it was an actor, eventually.

    Just as I caught on when I thought it was odd that they would make a duck portray Batman. Yes, when they said Ben Afflek was going to be Batman, I thought it was the silly duck who goes around screeching Aflac! I mean, I have a goose name George and his mate is Gracie, so a duck named Ben didn't seem so far out. To me, dressing a duck in a Batman suit conjured amusing images and a great satire. The 'real' Batman doesn't interest me at all, nor does the person who Hollywood picks to portray him. I could not get outraged at the thought of some actor named Ben Afflek being chosen as Batman. A duck with a black mask and codpiece, trailing a rubber cape allowed my mind to wander along paths of laughter.

    My private amusement and bemused grins that have little bearing on what is occurring around me, happen when my mind has managed to get away from me again. My thoughts have moseyed off on some strange tangent. I have wonderful, dedicated friends, but I think they often worry for my sanity. I can't imagine why, I haven't had any for a very long time. Perhaps as bad things compounded, my mind eventually decided to become amused rather than distraught. So it leaps around, never idling even in sleep, to contemplate all manner of things--from the origins of man to religious development to how a person could get a duck to wear tights and a codpiece.

    Reading is the pastime which most effectively satisfies an unquiet mind. It teaches me, answers questions, inspires me, keeps me slightly in balance. People ask how it is that I can restore a 1938 Farmall tractor, build a deck, create a model railroad through a garden, convert a railroad car to a library, write novels, and produce a report on water saving measures in response to a drought. Because I read.

    It sometimes annoys people that I am able to accomplish such a variety of things. I often wonder though, if they ever consider how demanding it is to actually keep all those various projects in my mind. And if I did not read, at least one book a week, often more, I would have no way of acquiring the knowledge. So its a bit busy in my brain cells most the time and the background activity of my mind can be rather distracting.

    Which is why my friend and I laughed hysterically over a little story about an ninety year old woman who went shopping with her make-up and hair done, matching bra and panties, nylons, heels and her purse. It seems she might have forgot to complete the outfit after that point. But we weren't laughing at the little old lady, we were envisioning me, standing in my boots, socks, and underwear outfit, wondering where I put my wallet as I was checking out at the cashier. Yup, I can lose track of the simplest task right in the middle of it, as my mind races on to some new idea or project. So the idea of me reaching the point where I could forgot to finish dressing before dashing off, just isn't so far-fetched.

    It concerns me, I suppose, that I have trouble reining in my mind, keeping it on task and proceeding orderly through life. But its a life long affliction and I don't really know how to turn it around at this late date. The best I can hope for is that at some point, some kind soul will take sympathy and direct my attentions to the present. I don't know if I can ever relax enough to become involved with TV and movies unless they find a way to speed them up. But maybe, just possibly, I can keep myself from becoming one the truly Odd Ones, the eccentrics that people watch with a wary eye, in case they lose control. Of course in my case, losing control would be a fit of wild laughter rather than mass murder, but if I am doing that while shopping in my undies, it might be reason enough to call out the nice young men in their clean white coats, to trundle me off to the Funny Farm. I just want to know--are the nuts eligible for equal rights protection?

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  • Writing tips--maybe not for everyone?

    I have seen, or perhaps noticed, an upsurge in quotes, interviews, books and other information on writing tips. But sometimes I read them with a furrowed brow. After reading a wide variety of works, from so many varied authors, in so many different time periods, I am left to wonder, if there is really a set standard to create a story.

    Some claim not to use adverbs, yet I have seen them used so wonderfully that I feel like I am a part of the story. Others detest dialog tags, reccommending that writers stick strictly with said. I love dialog in a book, so when I can envision a person through their dialog, I can't help but wonder why shouted, growled, whimpered, demanded or so many other tags are scorned. I can picture the type of person who might demand that the person in front of them respond immediately. But if they just 'said' it, the writer might have to add a complete sentence of the person towering over the victim.

    Others say drop the descriptive scenery, while I have been transported to place I've never seen. I can feel the cold, seeping walls of the dungeon; or the ominous mood from the forest's drooping canopy and rustling leaves; or the dessicating dust from the walking behind the plow as the metal cuts into the tough prarie soil. It may not work in every book, but I've felt the chill, the excitement or the thrill from a descriptive scene at times.

    I cannot tell if I am the odd man out. For me, writing is a creation of the author. If they were all the same, following a set pattern, I would think reading would become tedious. There are good pieces of advice and somethings that all writers should consider. Before violating grammar rules, any good author should understand them completely so they can make a conscious effort to set their own mark without making their work look dumb. If you don't know punctuation, then we can end up reading an entirely different meaning into a sentence. A misplaced or missing comma can change the tone of a sentence completely.

    Yet as long as we have such a wide range of types and genres to enjoy, I think that writing tips might only be applicable to the style a particular author might be producing. I read them all, I pick up what is useful, smile at some I think are a little off base, and other tips I just tuck away for future reference. I will have to find my own voice, and hope I can find readers who enjoy it. Most my education comes from reading, however. There are authors who I adore for their excellent use of language. I can read things totally beyond my normal tastes from a writer who makes their novel a creation by their skill. I call it wordsmithing, and their are many authors who I literally revere for their ability.

    Tips are good. Learning proper language skills is essential. Then I think an author has to create beauty, depravity, honor, deviousness, wonder, amazement, sadness or any other sensation through their own style. Write, re-write, read, seek advice, work some more, read some more, and never stop growing. Become yourself and give it back to your readers through your own unique delivery.

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  • The Gifts from my Dogs

    Some people might have thought that I was insane, I dedicated my first book to all the dogs I have had through the years. That was only because the sequel to my first book was written first, and it was dedicated to my husband who died several years ago. It was more appropriate for that book because he took a chance on me, and his love made me grow to become a much better person.

    But before my husband, during our twenty-five years together, and since his passing, my life has always been filled with dogs. As a matter of fact his little dog was one of his most attractive features. I figured that any man who could have such loving, sweet dog had to have some pretty decent qualities. I discovered over my lifetime with dogs that they are far better trainers and indicators of human qualities than people project by themselves. The people with the big bad dogs, or those who beat their pups into submission, are just petty, insecure people who have to have an alter ego in the four legged variety to make themselves something. They are pretty much useless in general scheme of things because they don't recognize love when it stares at them from the eyes of their dogs.

    I, on the other hand, find my dogs are what help shape me. When I am impatient, I sometimes yell at them for being underfoot, when in truth, its my own poor planning getting me frustrated. My dogs show me my misplaced anger--oh so subtly. They pout. You'd think I took out a stick and beat them. In their minds, they were just joining in the frentic activity in an effort to help, so when they get yelled at, they're devastated. And yet, it always brings me up short because I realize how unfair my response is. And so the next time, when maybe a co-worker or friend gets in the midst of my mad dashing, I've learned to calmly say, "Could you just hold that thought for a moment, I'm having a bit of a crisis at the moment." It beats the heck out of saying, "What the hell do you want now?"

    And I admit to being a sucker for their little ploys anyway. At the dog park, my one pup will go fetch a ball and bring it back to me with tail wagging, as long as someone else is watching. When he picks up the ball after I toss it, he glances around, if no one is watching him to see what an obedient dog he is, he just drops the ball and makes me fetch it. And I do! Okay, so they have the training thing down better than I do.

    That's because training, teaching, learning, is all based on love. Everyone starts out their life wanting to please someone at some point. Dogs always want to. They spend their whole lives looking for ways to be useful so they can gain our love and approval. All our faults and failures will be readily forgiven if we only give them a pat on the head and tell them they're a good pup. I think maybe kids would do it more often too, if we take the time to give them a little pat on the head more often. If a person believes there is the potential for approval, they'll make the effort to seek it. My dogs made me fully aware of that. It's been very useful through the many years of being a supervisor--if I want my crews to work for me, I have to acknowledge their efforts. Unlike dogs, people will give up after awhile of going unnoticed, after realizing their efforts don't mean much to anyone. So a little encouragement can go a long ways to making a difference in someone's life.

    My dogs have helped me through some pretty rough spots in life. They have stuck by me, forgiven my transgression, did not judge me, and always were willing to love me. At times, when I was rather alone in the world, without any support from family or friends, my pups served as a reason to keep trying. And even better, they've helped me become a better person because of it.

    I know now some simple truths that make everything better:

    Most everyone has good points, so if I look for those traits and ignore the irritants, it's much easier to like people.

    Waiting for the storms to pass before trying to get my opinion in is more productive than inserting in the midst of upheaval

    Nothing was ever lost by stepping back, taking a deep breath and waiting for calm to return. I lose nothing by it. I gain by it because it keeps me from saying something foolish out emotion rather than reasoning.

    There are more, but I will have share them later. Right now my dogs have informed me that it's just about time for dog park. I hope they never learn where the keys are because if I don't respond to their less than subtle hints, one day they may just decide I am too slow to bother with and drive themselves.

    What have you learned? Care to share?

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  • What was I thinking? Peering from the closet.

    As my commenter mentioned, I love writing but I hate promoting. I can't argue that. As a matter of fact, all I can think of is why? Why did I decide to publish?

    I know at this point I'm supposed to share some profound bit of inspiration, but it's a blank. I haven't the foggiest why I decided to publish. Because it was there? Since writing has been a part of my life as long as I can remember, I can't think of a good reason to publish my book. It took so much time to get everything formatted, the cover challenged me right up to the point when I put it up on Amazon, and still plagues me. Then I had to try to navigate all the 'social sites' which I've never spent a whole lot of time with. And to top it all off, I forged ahead on building this website, which was almost as much fun as doing my taxes for the IRS! The level of cursing was comparable.

    It might be more rewarding if I had the burning need to finally see my name in print as author, but in truth, even that doesn't explain it. I never thought I would be published so it never occurred to me. I can't write trendy works or those that can be spun out in a month or two, one after another, trying to add a scene here and there to get my word count up. Getting the numbers up is never an issue, getting it down is always the cross I bear. And I dwell, and re-write, and move, cut, paste, delete; I research, re-word, re-write, I read other similar styles, I research some more, study the areas, the time periods, think of the attitudes and viewpoints, and I re-write some more, I have it edited when I can afford it, and then I re-write it. And every now and then, I produce something and say Wow! that came out great.

    It's the wordsmithing as much as the story. I want to tell a story but I want it flow, to create images, to move into a person's thoughts as they contemplate it. But since I am never certain I can quite get it right, I was just as happy writing in the closet. And no matter how much I contemplate trying to go with a more popular genre just to get my foot in the door, when ever I make the attempt, I don't get very far. I can't find the stories in me to meet the trends. Heck, I don't even know what the trends are half the time.

    It's not easy being the odd man out. I don't watch TV, I don't read popular magazines, I don't even go to movies, so I spend a lot of time of the fringe. I build things, all kinds of things, like turning a full-sized Pullman Passenger car into a library. My pets all demand my attention and since they are always my biggest fans, I have to bow to their desires too. I can get through at least one book a week, sometimes more. But the only way I could figure out trends is to give up my writing or my job. I doubt my writing will sustain me.

    I would like others to read my work, I think. I know it's not for everyone, however. I can live with that since we all have our likes and dislikes, but I don't want anyone to feel that I did a lousy job with my writing--that I didn't care about my readers. And I worry over that, since I have no ability to judge my own work. Nor do I know if the subject matter would even interest anyone.

    After all, my stories are about reality. They're about lives from another angle, another side of the coin that people usually have preconceived notions on; or have never considered; or perhaps never even believed happened in the real world. Not gay living; or single motherhood; or I beat drugs and became a world class speaker. I may have mentioned, I'm not that trendy. They are about everyday people stumbling into situations that they cannot figure out how they managed to get into. Sometimes they're heart breaking, sometimes painful, sometimes funny, and even occasionally outrageous, but they're mostly based on reality; sometime even on actual events. And throughout is a thread of hope and strength, that we can often get through some of the worst life can hand us and still discover there is more good than bad in the world.

    So why did I do it? Will I find an audience when I don't even know if such an thing exists? And will become so pre-occupied trying to find that elusive creature that we call an audience or promoting my work that the time I spend writing dwindles. If only I could be content with a first run, an edit and proof read, and bang on with the production, I might have a reason for this publishing stuff. But I can't, I can't give up the craft for the volume. I can't move to popular genres and their current style without preserving my right to make it 'right' but that's not and easy or quick thing to produce. And often, by the time I'm done exploring all the tangents, my work goes beyond the simple, quick read .

    Maybe it's just tiredness from getting through all the tedious stuff. I hope so. I hope I might find a way to 'find' my audience, to promote my work perhaps, and gain some confidence in sharing my efforts. At least, unlike some others I have known who get discouraged when their work doesn't get much attention, I cannot be discouraged from writing. It will always be a part of me and I will always work at it, try to develop it--find that magical moment when I read something I've wrote and say, "Damn, that's good!" Even from the closet, my love of writing won't be dampened.

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  • Trying to get it Ready!

    All the promoting is making me have writing withdrawls. I think I'm odd, I can always write about something, always find another story to tell. The idea of writers block is foreign to me. However, I have never been faced with the need to meet a publishers requirements. I have always been able to write what I've wanted to. So I sympathize with these folks. Just trying to get this stuff that's been suggested to me ready has been overwhelming. So to think of them trying to write and respond to the demands of those doing the paying is probably rather burdensome. True, they get a little more help to do the promotions, which would be a wonderful asset, and they know they're going to make a little money for their efforts, but they also have to write knowing they obligated.

    I don't think either way is easy. I do believe that the more demands and distractions the harder it is to concentrate on a story. It all seems to be rather weighty when compared to the blissful joy of closet writing where only me and my hard drive shared my work. And today, just to add to my entertainment, I am typing one finger short since I broke my favorite index finger this weekend. At least I have an excuse for typos and I can read without quite as much guilt.

    If I was ever given a precious gift, it was the ability to read. Long before I started school I was already dragging books around, forcing my older brothers, my parents, and any other innocent visitor to read to me. My first book was Green Eggs and Ham!

    Now there is so much I want read; I'm surrounded by stacks of to be read! Sometimes I read something that makes me feel so good that I actually contact the author when possible just to thank them for their excellent work. Its a humbling experience reading some of these people who manage to put so much feeling and emotion into their work that I can feel as if I'm a part of the characters. Of course that's always followed by self doubt that I could never be equal to them. So between promo and self-doubt, I sometimes wonder if I have it in me to be a successful writer.

    I salute those who've managed to fulfill that dream successfully!

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