Airport Again

28 08 2013

Image courtesy of Port of Portland

Summer means vacation. This might mean a trip to the airport. Or two. Not twenty.

This summer, I’ve been to the airport almost on a weekly basis. Actually, I believe I went twice one week.

Wow! I must have been traveling all over the place. Sounds fun. Exciting or even adventurous.

Wrong. I was little more than a taxi on most of these occasions.

Other than my flight out in June and my flight in from Germany in July, I traveled nowhere (except to the airport). Of course, in two weeks I’ll head for Hawaii. *maniacal grin*

As a summer job, my youngest son landed an interesting position working events for Intel. His employers mandated a drive to Dupont, WA. After that, he had more exciting venues: San Diego, Anaheim, Chicago, Dallas and finally Seattle.

He needed transportation to the airport for most of these.

One week, both boys flew out on the same day. Of course, one flight was in the morning and the other in the evening. For some reason, the one on the evening flight had no interest in spending the day at the airport.

Enjoying free WIFI

Enjoying free WIFI

Why not? They have free WIFI. That’s the most important element in this age of being connected via the Internet all the time, right?

Wrong. So, my youngest got a ride with his grandfather in the morning and my oldest drove through rush hour traffic to his evening flight. I had to drive my car back home, of course.

Summer means road construction. Road construction means delays and detours. Driving in the city exposes everyone to annoying drivers who think they should have special privileges.

My least favorite thing these entitled road hogs do: speed by in the empty right hand lane that ends (that’s why it’s empty) and then barging in ahead of those of us who’ve been waiting patiently. I’m pretty sure these are the same kids that cut in the lunch line at school.

Why is this irritating? They cause the problem.  Traffic backs up because of these people who make “cutting in line” their practice. Really. The line would move faster for everyone if they would just take their place at the back.

You can tell I love driving to the airport, right?

The boon of this airport taxiing: eating out. After the pickup at the arrival terminal, we drive a mile down the road and eat at Red Robin. We’ve almost become regulars. It would be terrifying if not for the bottomless fries and drinks.

Heading to the airport to pick up the vacationer returning from Las Vegas. I  get to be a passenger, while my husband drives among the crazies. I might read a book on my phone. Oh – and order a famous Red Robin burger.

Do you have any traffic pet peeves? Don’t be grouchy. Spin them in a funny way when you share them in the comments.





Words of Power

24 08 2013

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” – Proverbs 18:21

Langston Hughes spoke to me in his poem “A Dream Deferred.”  Many other words, written and spoken, altered my chosen path on the highway of life.

A similar conversation happened on the phone recently. I took a class from WANA International, which I recommend to those looking for inexpensive ways to learn more about the craft of writing. Part of the price was a one-to-one telephone conversation with Kristen Lamb, founder of WANA and instructor for the class I took.

Anticipation of the call is a mild understatement. “MY WRITING JEDI MASTER IS GOING TO TALK TO ME ON THE PHONE AND WAVE HER LIGHT SABER OVER MY MANUSCRIPT AND IT WILL BE PERFECT.”

Have I mentioned what happens when we have high expectations? If so, it bears repeating. High expectations can only be dashed while low expectations might be met or exceeded.

Boy, that Kristen has a powerful light saber. She filled my ears with wonderful advice and my head with plausible options for the fantasy world I had created. My idea was good and the theme (once we found it) will be a powerful one.

Bottom line: scrap that manuscript.

Okay, there goes the months of writing and the weeks of revising. I knew there were problems. I begged her to reconsider and give me ways to fix my hours of blood, sweat and fears (not a typo).

The woman is a rock. “You don’t want Bond-o holding it all together,” not exactly Yoda-speak, but true nonetheless. The infrastructure was shaky and too many patch jobs were needed. In the end, it still might not be something that an agent would buy.

I pulled out Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and skipped the first 50 pages. Actually, I skipped directly to the plotting portion. I promise to go back on read about character and theme. After all, according to Brooks, there are six elements in successful fiction and I want to master them all.

At this point, my job at the school district is looking better and better. Oh, right. I quit and they’ve hired my replacement.

Fine. All those emails I get from Career Builder and indeed.com will lead me to a new job. Instead of writing, I’ll fill out some online applications and send out my resume.

Writing is the dream. I’ve deferred it for too many years to list here and maintain the façade surrounding my true age.

I knew it would be work. The learning curve is steep. I thought college coursework was difficult? Ha! This is Mt. Everest to that Bunker Hill.

Kristen believes I have the foundation and that I’ll do the work. To encourage me, she offered to give me some names of people who could read and blurb my book ONCE IT’S READY TO PUBLISH.

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Master Yoda and Master Lamb, I bow to your knowledge of The Force. Time to get back to work writing.





Bittersweet Birthdays

21 08 2013

Isn't that the most innocent face?

Isn’t that the most innocent face?

My baby boy was born at a few minutes after midnight twenty years ago.

Just typing those words encouraged another gray hair to emerge – right in my part, of course!

Remember when you were five? People would ask, “How old are you?” and you always said, “Five and a half” if it was the day after your birthday or “Almost six” if your birthday was six months or less away.

What were we thinking? That the next age would offer us something the current one did not. The curse of youth is that we don’t realize how fleeting it is until it has taken wing and flown far away.

When we were ten, we couldn’t wait to be twelve. Once we got to twelve, we wanted to be a teenager. At thirteen, sixteen seemed the age when real freedom would be attained. Once we had that driver’s license, we wanted to be eighteen so we could “go where we want whenever we want and not have to do what anyone says.”

Yeah, right! The irony of adulthood – the freedom it promises to those dominated by parental control is just a chain of a different sort. Adulthood: bills, jobs, problems and responsibilities. All that stuff our parents handled for us while we were whining about enjoying our youth, it falls on our shoulders now.

Leaving teenagerhood behind to conquer the world

Leaving teenagerhood behind to conquer the world

My baby is no longer a teenager. He bemoaned this at church camp last year, when he was still weeks away from nineteen and very much a teenager. The leaders wanted him to be in charge of things. He just wanted to be one of the kids.

Get used to that feeling, son, it’s coming your way more frequently as your age number increases.

After college, the fun and games of youth become the drudgery and responsibility of adulthood.

Welcome to my world.

What birthday did you look forward to the most? Which one did you dread?





Self-Editing for Writers

17 08 2013

I’ve been an editor since I learned to read, always finding errors and mentally rewording awkward sentences. (Isn’t awkward an awkward word to type? The k surrounded by ws just feels so…awkward.)

Self-editing can be a whole different ball game.

To help me stick to my guns, I purchased the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. With chapter titles like “show and tell” and “point of view,” it seemed like it would offer straight-forward and applicable instructions.

It does. According to chapter 11 “Sophistication,” I’m a hack. Several of the sentence variants I rely upon in my writing have been overdone and thus are considered immature by many editors (the authors of this text included).

When you’ve just completed your degree in English and Literature, this sort of insult incites the arched back of a territorial kitty. I was the outstanding graduate, so how can I be a hack? I’m still processing that information. It doesn’t take me to a happy place.

It occurs to me that the things I learn from Browne and King can be put into action when I get to Step 6 of my rewrite. You can imagine that after my reaction to chapter 11, the second one I read, by the way (who reads a book in order if it isn’t fiction?), I am less than thrilled to continue my study of this text.

I have also noted on several writing blogs I follow that hiring an editor is recommended, even for those seeking traditional publishing (which is my plan at the moment). Since story structure seems to be an area where I’m weak, I am considering having a professional check that for me – once I finish the rewrite.

Do you feel writers can edit their own work to an acceptable level if they’re going the traditional route? I can see a definite need for a professional edit (and proofread at the end) before anything is self-published.





Life is Like a Dining Room Table

14 08 2013

Life - waiting to happen

Life – waiting to happen

I freely admit I’m no Forrest Gump, but I must say that dragging a solid oak table and ten chairs in and out of the house a few times makes me think. And once you get a writer thinking – look out – an analogy is on the way.

When reflecting on uses of this table, it occurred to me that our daily life and the seasons of our life can be seen in the variety known by our dining room tables.

Daily Life Reflections

Unlike many families in our eat-and-run culture, I ate dinner at the dining room (or kitchen) table. When we were kids, my sister and I also wolfed down our Captain Crunch and Apple Jacks at the kitchen table before walking to the bus stop.

A dining room table is a place for family togetherness. In our home, dinnertime serves as a moment for the four (or three or even two) of us to sit together and discuss daily events.

“How was your day?” The dining room table might reply, “I sat in a dark room staring out the front window. It was lonely until the cat came and scratched one of my chair legs and then curled up on a seat for a nap.” Have you had such a day?

“What did you learn at school today?” “What happened in your world today?” “Are we having chicken again?” It might not be a deep, philosophical exchange but it keeps us in touch with each other.

If you’re like my family, the dining room table is in the dining room and gets used for everything except mealtime. That’s a statement about our daily life, too. What we expect occasionally happens, but most of the time we live in the flux of the unexpected.

Our dining room table:

  • Collects an assortment of junk – mail, books, games and a quick look at my recent garage sale woes reminds you our life resembles this
  • Can be about fun and games – this is where the two, four or more of us gather with cards, Apples to Apples, Monopoly, etc. – life has some fun times, too
  • Invites friends and family to sit and stay awhile – have you ever noticed how everyone lingers even after the food is gone? Some moments of life should be savored
  • Can be covered or bare – some occasions merit a formal tablecloth, while others are happy to see the oak finish. Depending on where we are and who is around us, we might choose to cover our hurts or expose them

Seasonal Comparisons

Needing refinishing: When the boys were little, we had a booster chair that you hung off the side of the table. Needless to say, bowls, spoons and cups became drumsticks on the drum of the tabletop. It didn’t take long until the varnish peeled away.

When our kids are little, time is an elusive imp. There are never enough hours in a day to accomplish our to-do list, not if we want to sleep anyway. This season of life stretched like eternity when I was in it.

Using all the leaves: Whether for birthday parties, game days, dinners, or a hang-out for the neighborhood kids, we needed a table with more than one expansion. This was a joy to me because I wanted to know who my boys hung out with.

This season stretched, like the table with all the leaves inserted, through all the school years. It meant extra trips to the grocery store and a house more cluttered than clean, but it kept the mama table content.

Adding more chairs: Even as our kids aged, we needed more chairs at the dinner table and for holiday dinners. Friends from college or old high school buddies spent time around the table – mostly for D and D or LAN parties. Good thing we had those ten chairs.

Inevitable fact of life: kids grow up. They go to college and move away. They find a special someone to join with, starting the seasons anew. Our table has yet to see brides for our handsome princes, but both of them have serious attachments and those girls have a place at our table.

Storing the leaves: If you pull this beautiful oak table all the way open, there’s room to store one of the heavy leaves. The other one generally leans against the wall in the entry closet. They’re close at hand, ready to host a gathering of family or friends, but most of the time, a more intimate arrangement prevails.

I’ve spent a few posts mourning and delighting in this phase of empty nesting. I’m reminded anew that even though that table is solid oak, it requires attention to stay beautiful. The same can be said for marriage.

Too often we focus our time and energy on the children and our spouse becomes that stranger in the bed beside us. If that’s the case, the close quarters brought on when the table size is reduced can feel uncomfortable.

What sort of dining room table are you sitting at? Think of a benefit for your current stage, it will be gone soon enough (unless you’re an empty nester – we hope that one stretches for another 40 years).





Beginning a Rewrite

10 08 2013

Image from wikimedia

Writing is rewriting – E.B. White

I guess E.B. White knew what he was talking about since every good writer owns The Elements of Style. Considering the first draft of my novel, I’m beginning to agree to the validity of that assertion.

In order to rewrite my manuscript into something remotely readable, I’m going to use the methodology given in Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. Believe me, the young adult fantasy novel I just completed *happy dance* needs plenty of work.

According to Bell, the rewriting process has seven steps:

  1.   Let it cool
  2.   Get mentally prepared
  3.   Read it through
  4.   Brood over it
  5.  Write the 2nd draft
  6.  Refine
  7.  Polish

Because I’m serious about completing this process, I set a schedule. (Some who know me would say I’m organized or perhaps a control freak.) After I completed the novel, I waited a week, getting mentally prepared all the while. Now it’s on to Step 3.

First Read Through

Bell gives great ideas for making simple marks on the manuscript. He recommends just reading it and not stopping to make any additions or corrections. Use his marking system at this juncture, and when you get to step five, you can go crazy.

I started this on the scheduled date (Monday, July 29) and finished the next day. Disappointment flogged me. Where was the adrenaline? Excitement for my story migrated to somewhere south of where I sat.

This story was lame. It had several holes and so little description that I felt like no one could even remotely imagine the fantasy worlds I invented for this book.

Brood Over It

After sleeping on it, I pulled out my spiral notebook and made a plot diagram. Yeah, just like those your middle school language arts teacher made you draw and label. The story progression seemed to fit. I discovered where the plot holes were and plugged in events to fill them.

I think character arc will take more thought and planning. My main character has changed very little by the end of this story. Yes, that’s a major faux pas for any story. I need to evaluate what her real motives are and get a better picture of what she’s like and how this adventure is changing her to be the girl who helps take down the Big Boss Troublemaker in book three.

Writing the Second Draft

This is what I started on Monday, August 5. Yes, that was a full three weeks ahead of my original schedule. Rather than patting myself on the back, I’m planning to utilize that extra time to fill the plot holes, finagle an interesting character arc and rewrite something that will get my blood pumping.

After all, I want to be proud to claim this work as my own.

What are your thoughts on rewriting? Do you start over with a blank document or do you cut-and-paste?








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