Monday, January 16, 2017

No Light Without Darkness

We've relocated from Alaska to Arizona for a few weeks. Yes, it's good to be able to go to the mailbox without worrying about slipping on snow or ice, but the best thing about heading south is the daylight.

It's been rainy our first few days here, but the sun has been playing peek-a-boo all day today. It's high enough in the sky that when it does appear, it casts lovely sun puddles through the windows, much to my dog's delight. In Anchorage, the sun never gets high enough to shine through the windows this time of year, and after a month of eighteen+ hour nights, I appreciate what a wondrous thing winter sunshine really is.

This is the view today from the top of the mesa. Look at the way the light and shadows paint the valley below. It's the contrast that makes it beautiful. And I think that's the lesson life is teaching me today. Without shadows, the sunshine would be flat and uninteresting. 

It's true in fiction, too. In any good story, it's the struggle that makes a happy ending so satisfying. The characters need to grow and change to deserve their reward. And we readers have to experience the darkness with them in order to feel the joy when they come into the light. 

Have you read any books lately that left you smiling?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Catching Lizards and the Path to Publication

Did you ever try to catch a lizard when you were a kid? I did. It’s not easy. They’re incredibly quick, and they don’t often get too far from safety. Meet Roxy – Lizard Hunter. She’ll spend hours prowling around rock walls and rip-rap piles, sniffing in the cracks and looking for lizards. She’s had little success, but the occasional lizard sighting or scent is enough to keep her hunting.

I was thinking today that a career as a writer is a little like lizard hunting. Someone said eighty-one percent of people surveyed wanted to write a book. I have to wonder why, because another survey said only seventy-two percent actually read even part of a book last year, but that’s a topic for another day.  The point is there are a lot more people writing than there are publishing slots to fill.

Sending out queries to agents, hoping to catch their interest, is a little like sniffing around the rock pile. Just as Roxy occasionally spots a lizard, occasionally an agent will ask to read all or part of the manuscript, but more often than not, that ends in a polite rejection, or in Roxy’s case, a vanishing lizard.

So you write another story. And then the big day comes. An agent actually likes the manuscript and wants to represent you. Hurray! Now you’ve got the lizard by the tail. But as Roxy discovered, sometimes those tails are detachable.  Sometimes, even though the agent loved the manuscript, she can’t sell it.

So you write another one. And another. Don’t give up now. Catching that lizard tail only spurred Roxy on to greater enthusiasm, and eventually, she caught a lizard. And, if you’re very, very lucky, eventually your agent finds an editor who recognizes your brilliance, and you become a published author.

Of course, that's just the beginning. Every new book you write will be a challenge. As a writer, you must prove yourself over and over. 

So why do it? I think Roxy’s wagging tail as she sniffs along the rock wall answers that question.  She hunts because she’s a hunter. That’s what she was born to do. Writers write. Whether or not they’re ever published, they create stories.  It’s what they were born to do. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Being Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving, a day set aside to take stock of all the good things I tend to take for granted. Family, community, home, health, country, pets, books, love, laughter, and so much more. I have so much to be grateful for.

It’s funny how even bad things can turn out to be blessings, like that broken leg in March that gave me lots of couch time to write one of the two stories that led to a writing contract in September.  I’m thankful for good medical care and a devoted husband who picked up all the slack while I was laid up. I’m thankful to the people who shared their knowledge and experience to help me become a better writer. And I’m thankful for the support of my friends and family. My cup overflows.

What were your special blessings this year?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Visit to the Corvette Museum

Can a car be a work of art? I vote yes. I’m not really a car person, but even I can appreciate the sinuous curves of a Chevy Corvette. I should say Corvettes, because in the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, we got to see Corvettes of all vintages, and I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite.

Seeing these amazing cars, many displayed in historical dioramas, makes me wish I could climb into Roy Orbison’s '67 Vette and roar off to explore Route 66.

The Corvette factory is here, too, and in the entryway to the museum, brand new Corvettes sat behind velvet ropes, awaiting their proud parents to come and claim them.

The museum also contains an unintentional display of a natural disaster. In February of 2014, the cave under part of the museum collapsed, creating a huge sinkhole that dropped eight Corvettes thirty feet into the earth. Fortunately, the museum was closed at the time, and no one was injured. The cars have been pulled out, but as you can see, they were severely damaged. A tape marks the outline of the sinkhole, and they’ve left a window in the floor so visitors can see just how far they fell.


To top off our nostalgic tour, we enjoyed burgers and fries at the adjacent classic diner. It was a fun outing. If you ever find yourself in Bowling Green, I’d highly recommend it.

One warning: a trip to the Corvette Museum can be expensive. Not the entry fee, that's only ten dollars. No, the expensive part is that after seeing all those gorgeous sports cars, my husband is itching for a 1977 model of his own. And judging by the vintage Corvette dealer just a block away, he’s not the first to catch Corvette fever. 

What do you think? Can you see yourself in one of these beauties?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Christmas Gourds: How To

Two years ago, a garden experiment resulted in an overabundance of gourds. I've been trying to find ways to use them ever since. These are small gourds, about four or five inches tall, so they're not really big enough for birdhouses. I've been dying, painting, and woodburning them, and even adding polymer clay. Results have been, shall we say, mixed. I'm not much of an artist, but I've been having fun.

My latest project turned out fairly well. It involves making gourds into Christmas tree ornaments, for indoor or outdoor trees. It's a fairly simple project. If you'd like to try your hand at gourd-craft, here's how I did it.

You'll need a gourd, a pencil, a small paintbrush, and paint. Also a woodburner, a jump-ring, jewelry glue, and spray-on clearcoat, all optional.

1. Clean the gourd well, scrubbing with a stiff brush or steel wool. You'll need to remove the natural waxy coating so the paint will stick. As they cure, gourds get this ugly black stuff that looks awful, but most of it scrubs away. If it leaves a few stains, that's okay. It adds character. Now let it dry.

2. Mark your design with a pencil. I freehanded this one, but there are lots of poinsettia clipart designs on the internet. 
3. Use a woodburner and go over all the lines. Add veins to the leaves and petals. My woodburner cost around twelve dollars. This step is entirely optional, but I like the way it looks.

4. Paint. Because I wanted the woodburned lines to show through, I thinned the acrylic paint with water to create sort of a transparent wash. If you decided to skip the woodburning, you'll want to use paint at full strength so it's opaque. If you use the opaque method, let the paint dry and then paint veins onto the leaves and dots in the center.
Here I used ivy green for the leaves, and red for the flower, and yellow-green for the center.


5. Glue a jump-ring on top so you can hang it on the tree. Jewelry Goop works well, and you can get the rings cheap in the bead department of the craft store. I tried screwing a tiny screw-eye in, but the stem end of a gourd is surprisingly hard. The glued-on ring works well. Or you could just glue a ribbon to the top.

6. Let dry, and spray with a gloss clear-coat if desired. I recommend it. It protects the paint, darkens the gourd to a nice leathery finish, and makes the whole thing shine. 

7. Thread a ribbon through the jump-ring, and there you have it: a Christmas gourd ornament. 

Are you working on any crafts for the holidays?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Spirit of Giving

Here's a chance to do good and have fun. A group of wonderful writers have joined together to produce this collection of fourteen holiday novellas, and the proceeds go to to diabetes research. 

I've got my copy.

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