Friday, November 30, 2007

The Art of Inventing Non-humans


Werewolves! Vampires! Aliens! Creatures of all descriptions and with all sorts of paranormal abilities abound in the romance world. How do your invent your own creation? How do you make them unique and yet, believable?


Much like world building, you decide your parameters. What special abilities does you character have? What vulnerabilities do they have? What do they look like? How is their body different from a human body? If your character is going to have a sexual relationship with a human, how do those differences affect that?


Let's take the ever popular vampire...a vulnerability that is pretty common is that they can't be in the sun. Another one is that they require human blood to survive. If your vampire isn't going to have to contend with those two issues, then what exactly makes him/her a vampire? Your parameters must be clearly stated in order for your story to work.


I once read a vampire story where it was clear that the writer hadn't made any decisions about what the vampire really was going to contend with. On one page he desperately needed blood--so much so that he attacked a human in a park. Three pages later he was having a steak dinner complete with dessert and wine with his werewolf friend. Several pages later he he was driving in the desert (wearing his sunglasses with the top down on his convertible) during the day. Two chapters later, he very seriously explains to the heroine how the sun will kill him.


Once you decide on the parameters and description for the character, then you can decide how those limitations and abilities will enhance the story. Always, always, you must remember what that character can and cannot do.


In my Mystic Valley series, the valley people are blue. They have pointed ears and small fanged eye-teeth. The genitalia on all humans tends to be a slightly darker shade that the rest of the body, whatever that primary shade. However, it's usually a hue that ranges from rosy pink to light red. I had to translate that quality to my blue people. Darker blue? Violet? Lavender? And what about nipples? What color should they be?


It gives the expression blue balls an entirely different connotation. Every reference had to be carefully considered because while I like humor as much as the next person, I certainly didn't want inadvertant laughter from an ill considered description. I gave the females the ability to lock the male's penis inside during intercourse. Then I had to decide if that would be every time? Or if only at special times, what would determine when those times would be?


And you thought I only worried about whether the men had long hair! Speaking of hair...In this case I decided that hair colors and eye colors would resemble those out-valley. But hair styles for the men are determined by their position in the valley. There's an elaborate system of ranking that's indicated by the chinka colors. None of that made it into any of the books so far, but I know it's there and if I choose to use it in a plot, I won't have to worry about how it will affect earlier books.


The valley people have a variety of paranormal abilities. Some have been revealed in the stories, some have not yet made their appearance, but they are plotted out by individual so that three books down the line I don't have my editor saying to me, "Where the heck did that come from?"


Finally, it's not enough to invent the character, but you must make them real. They must have emotions and thoughts that make them someone the reader will care about. Sad to say, many vampires and wolfies are cardboard charcters, stamped out like so many ticky-tacky non-humans. I always wonder how does this character feel about being a vampire or alien? Aren't there things he/she must deal with that are less than pleasant? What are the advantages to being a vampire? How do they feel about never seeing the sun?


All of us must walk in our own skin so the only way we can experience the way other people live is if the writer shows us that inner life. In the end, that is what makes a successful character.


Anny


In this excerpt from Traveller's Refuge, we meet Wrenna and her brother Wolfe and watch as they deal with the unfortunate effects of their little brother's greed.


Without bothering to track down the rest of her sibs, she settled into her task for the afternoon—small squat clay jars destined to hold salves and ointments prepared and dispensed by her brother, Llyon in his healing practice. When she ran out of space on the tray she kept for curing, she realized that she had made twice as many as Llyon had requested while she was day-dreaming.

Well, perhaps it wasn’t exactly daydreaming. Mulling over the events of the past moon since her bond-brother had arrived wasn’t really daydreaming, except when she wondered what his brother, Traveller was really like. Her sister, Eppie had asked Dancer to describe Traveller but it wasn’t until he had shown them a small picture of Trav that Wrenna was completely heart-struck. Dancer had called the picture a photo and smiled as he gently ran a calloused fingertip over the glossy surface. Since Dancer didn’t smile very often, Wrenna was happy that the picture brought back good memories but she wished she was comfortable enough with her new bond-brother to ask for a closer look.

When she stared absently at the tray of jars and then shook her head, her loosely secured topknot listed precariously to one side. Ruefully she stared at her hands, strong pale blue fingers covered with creamy colored clay. Even after she wiped them on the tan smock covering her bright yellow meerlim, they were too dirty to touch her hair. With a deep sigh, she studied the small pots. No doubt Llyon would eventually use all of them but until then, she would have to find some place to store them after they were fired. Maybe Ciara, the herbalist at Dai’s Hamlet, would take a few. She sighed when she thought of the long walk down to Dai’s Hamlet just so she could find out what colors Ciara would need.

“Wrenna? Are you out here?” Wolfe pounded on the side of the dome with a heavy hand. “Can you come in, please? Cougar threw up all over me and I need help getting him cleaned up…”

She rushed over to the shop door, skidding to a halt when she caught the full meaning of her sib’s monologue. Ewww! Wrinkling her nose, she stared at the regurgitated blueberries covering his bare chest and filthy sharda. “You’re trying to tell me there was more than that in that boy’s belly? Where did he fit it?” she demanded.

“Exactly the problem,” Wolfe retorted. “He must have cleaned every bush in the Deep Meadow. Wait until you see him.”

She followed him back into the house, biting her lip to keep from chuckling. Wolfe was the most fastidious of all her siblings. She couldn’t even imagine how he’d tolerated the mess long enough to fetch her from her pottery shop. “Go on, Wolfe and get yourself cleaned up. I’ll take care of Cougar.”

“I’ll send Falcon to help you if he’s in our room,” he promised before turning away toward the bathing room he shared with his older brothers.

Wrenna went into the main bathing room and silently surveyed her youngest brother. Cougar stood naked in the empty bathing tub, his pale blue skin covered in goose bumps, shivering and filthy. His twin, Gazelle, sat on the toilet, slow tears running down her face while she mournfully held his hand. “All right, it’s not that bad,” Wrenna said kindly. “Cougar step out here on this bathing sheet and let me wipe the worst of it off of you and then we’ll run a warm bath and finish cleaning you up.” She studied him seriously for a moment. “Are you finished? Or is there more where this came from?”

He moaned. “No more.”

“Is that a wish or a fact?”

“Truth,” he muttered. “No more left.” He clambered out of the tub and stood while Wrenna wiped him down. When she judged that the worst was off, she motioned for him to get back in the tub and she started filling it with warm water.

“Gazelle, you stay with him while I run this out to the laundry tubs. Then you can tell me what happened.” Bundling up the bathing sheet along with his sharda and the dirty washing cloth, she carried it out to the laundry shed and dumped it in the soaking tub. His sandals, she figured were a lost cause but she dropped them next to the tub and returned to finish cleaning up one seven-year-old who she suspected would stay away from the blueberry bushes for a while—at least until next year.

When Cougar was finally clean and dry, she settled him in his bed with Gazelle to keep him company while she went back to the kitchen to prepare him some wachaz tea to settle his belly.


Wolfe, fresh from his bath, stalked past her with the bundle of his sharda and bathing sheet. His shiny black warrior braids were gathered up in a twist held by two carved skewers but the glassy chinkas on the ends still clinked musically when he moved. By the time he returned from the laundry shed, the tea was nearly ready.

“Cougar’s sandals aren’t worth messing with,” he observed shortly as he pulled the skewers from his hair, allowing his braids to slither down his back. He tucked the skewers in the waistband of his sharda and went to the sink to wash his hands. “I tossed them in the trash heap. They were his old ones, anyway.”

She nodded while she added a healthy dollop of honey to the tea. “I thought as much but he was waiting by the tub, so I just left them. I have plenty of hot water here. Do you want tea?”

He shuddered. “No thanks. I don’t think I could face anything right now. Do you think he’ll be okay?”

She cocked an eyebrow at him. “I think so. You’re the one with healer talent. Why?”

“He was violently ill. I’ve never seen any of us get that sick.” He took the mug of tea from her and led the way down to the room the younger boys shared. Gazelle was curled up next to Cougar, holding his hand and both were sound asleep. Wolfe set the mug on the bedside table and fetched a light coverlet to spread over them.

“Well, I guess he’s okay,” he said doubtfully. “Gazelle seems peaceful enough and she would be making a fuss if he wasn’t.” In the way of all of the twin sets in the family, Cougar and Gazelle shared the bad times as well as the good.

“He will be fine. Can you help me for a few minutes out in the shop? I need you to move a curing tray for me.”

Wolfe shot her a knowing glance before slowly shaking his head. “You made too many again, huh? What was it this time?”

“Oh, just thinking. So much has happened in the last moon.” She sighed quietly. “Dancer came and bonded with Eppie and then we had that terrible bonding storm. Llyon and Tyger finally swore a covenant bond. Homer died trying to kill Silence. It seems like it’s been several moons instead of just one.” She led the way out to the spacious dome perched on a low rise above the river. Completed only the week before, as a gift from the villagers, she still got a little thrill every time she looked at it. “I guess you didn’t find Falcon. He never came to help.”

“Hawke dragged Falcon out to the back patio to help him make a new loom,” Wolfe replied absently. “He damaged Hawke’s old one. You know how attached Hawke was to that loom just because Tyger gave to him. When Tyger gets past what he did to his own great loom on his bonding night, I’m pretty sure Hawke’s going to ask him to take him as an apprentice. I looked around for one of the others but they were all busy. Arano’s still out at Silence’s house helping her sort through Homer’s belongings. I don’t know what’s taking so much time. Surely he didn’t have that much stuff!

“As usual, Arturo is training the third level boys out at the field. You know that Panther and Llynx are still grounded for breaking old Marta’s window. Well, Arturo caught them down by the river and sent them home so now they’re weeding Mama’s garden.” He shrugged. “Hawke’s keeping an eye on them.”

“You would think with fourteen of us, there would be more help available,” she grumbled impatiently. “Ah well. The little twins will probably sleep for a while. After you move that tray for me, I’ll clean up and start dinner.”

He easily lifted the tray and carried it across to the shelves where she kept her curing items. “This all right?”

“Great. Would you mind very much going down to the smoke house and bringing something back for dinner?” She looked around at the mess in her shop with a vague glance. “I’ll be in as soon as I clean up.”

“Not a problem. What do you want?” he inquired while he casually picked up various items and set them in place with the ease of long familiarity. At one time, he had considered apprenticing with Wrenna but potting wasn’t in his future. He enjoyed it as a relaxing occupation for his free time but it wasn’t going to be his life’s work.

“What I really want are some gilly fish,” she said wistfully. “But I’ll settle for a rowan roast, I suppose.”

“In this heat? The kitchen would get hot enough to cook it without the oven.” Wolfe shook his head, setting his jeweled chinkas to tinkling like a waterfall. “Nah. I’ll drag Hawke and Falcon down to the river and we’ll catch enough gillies for dinner. We can cook them out on the grille on the patio. You fix the rest, okay?”

“Oh, yeah. That’s no problem at all.” He suffered a quick hug from Wrenna before making his escape but he didn’t miss the quick smile that lit up her face. Since Dancer had arrived, it seemed like her normally sunny disposition had gone into hiding. He had a notion that it had something to do with Dancer’s brother, Trav. He took a deep breath and then asked, “Wrenna, are you sure about Traveller? He’s the one?”

She froze, taking a long moment before she answered. “I’m sure—just as you’re sure that Raven is the one for you. Do you doubt that?” The serious expression on her face didn’t seem right. In all his eighteen years, Wolfe didn’t recall more than a handful of times that Wrenna wasn’t smiling. Mama had commented once that people with red hair supposedly were quick tempered but that definitely wasn’t Wrenna. She always had a smile on her sweet face and infinite patience.


“I don’t doubt our attachments,” Wolfe said slowly, trying to capture the essence of his unease. “I just wonder why? Why is each of us attached to Dancer’s siblings?"


More? Check out Traveller's Refuge from Ellora's Cave at http://www.ellorascave.com/productpage.asp?ISBN=9781419910593


Don't forget to check out Amarinda's blog at http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/ for her daily take on life as an Aussie. And then pop over to Kelly's blog at http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/ where she's interviewing Norah (ND Hanson-Hill) author from Cerridwen Press. Blessings on your day!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ah! Romance...

Occasionally when I'm bored or have some extra time on my hands, I'll go blog surfing. I came across a blog where there's a hot debate raging over what constitutes a romance. There were some interesting points brought up, but naturally, there was no consensus. It does seem to me that the definition of romance has been stretched out of shape entirely. It's easy enough to look at a story/movie and decide for yourself that it's not a romance. But the problem comes when you're trying to define what is a romance.

At one time, a romance was a male and female (one of each) who met, fell in love, got married, and had a family. That's what was popularly known as the HEA (happily ever after). Then romances stretched to include a widely varied population of vampires, weres of all descriptions, aliens, demons, angels, same-sex partners, multiple partners, and assorted kinky behaviors. Exactly where do you draw the line and say this is a romance and that isn't? What determines which kinky behaviors are too kinky to qualify? How many people is too many? Which non-human participants should be barred from the story?

I'm thinking that it has to do with terminology. Because "romance" comes with certain connotations, it's more and more difficult to make all those extra components fit. There is that narrowly defined required ending of an HEA that becomes increasingly difficult to manage. I wonder if we would do better to call them "love stories". Love stories don't have preconceived notions tied to them. Love encompasses a whole host of possibilities.

We're vaguely uncomfortable stating that a same-sex partnership has a romance. But feel easier about declaring that they've fallen in love. There may very well be very romantic elements in their relationship, but the primary component is that they fell in love. Same goes for the other host of possible contestants. Love is something that can forgive, compromise, cherish, has infinite patience, and fills the heart. With love, the reader feels that all things are possible. Love is a deeper, surer emotion than romance. Love understands that sometimes the deepest love means setting the love object free. Love speaks from the heart.

To me, romance just makes me feel impatient. That's not to say that I would turn down a chocolate bar if the house hunk happened to bring one home, but the picture of candles, flowers, candy and bling as the only worthy demonstration of romance sort of leaves me cold. If you want to ring my chimes, do the dishes. Or carry out the trash. Vacuum the apartment, walk the dog, or cook dinner. Now that's romantic.

I think somewhere along the line, we've gotten away from the true demonstrations of love, of cherishing, and settled for a perfunctory floral arrangement and some cheap candlelight before the participants jump into bed and do the deed. I'm all for hot sex. Anyone who's read my books can probably attest to that. But isn't there more? Shouldn't romances be more about commitment and less about who's doing what to whom?

Commitment implies that you're going to take care of all those nitty-gritty details in life like cooking and washing dishes and laundry and cleaning--all of the participants. That's what life is. Commitment is getting up with a sick child. Commitment is helping care for elderly parents. Commitment is both of you hunched under a car on an icy February night while you change the muffler. Commitment is waiting together in an Emergency Room while they stitch up your child. Commitment is having a funeral for the cat because it was hit by a car. Whatever flavor your love story is, it's nothing without commitment.

Without commitment, there is no romance. Without commitment, the participants can't be secure enough to tie each other up, or have a trio instead of a duo, or settle down with a same-sex partner, or leap into the unknown and embrace a vampire or werewolf. All of those require a commitment that only comes from opening the heart and falling in love. That kind of falling in love is the forever kind--not the "until something better comes along" kind. And in the end, isn't that a Happily Ever After?

Anny

Please drop by and see what Kelly has done to the Saga at www.kkirch.blogspot.com and then pop over and catch Amarinda's take on her day at www.amarindajones.blogspot.com Blessings on your day!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Brave New Worlds and the Saga

How do you think of stuff like that?

That is probably the number one question I get from readers. I think the answer lies in the creation of new worlds. Every story--short or long--regardless of genre needs a setting. Most of us invent the setting for various reasons. My settings are just a tad different. (Stop snorting Kelly!)

I like to play "what if." Now that's a lot of fun, but eventually you have to get down to business. There's a very simple rule about world building. I learned it from reading Jayne Ann Krentz's early sci-fi romances. No matter how strange the world and beings that occupy that world, there must be something familiar for the reader to relate to.

In one of her books, the hero had a pet rockrug. It resembled a furry bath mat and had three rows of teeth on one edge. And that could be a little off-putting. But she named him Fred. See? How could he be that strange if his name was Fred? For every oddity, she hooked it back to something familiar.

Within that framework, there are certain things that must be decided up front. What kind of monetary system does the world have? What type of technology? What type of government? Clothing? Flora and fauna? And how do males relate to females? What do the people look like? What type of buildings do they live in? What is their mode of transportation?

Those are all decisions that need to be made before the story begins. You would be surprised at how many references we make in casual conversation to current events and technology. For instance. If your monetary system is a barter system like the one in the Mystic Valley books, then you must rework any expression that refers to money. "If I had a nickel for every time he did that..." Oops. No nickels. "I'd bet my paycheck..." Oops. No paychecks. I reworked one expression--"My barter credit is on you."

How does your world tell time? If there are no clocks, then there are no minutes, seconds, hours... so you must eliminate "Just a minute (or second)." And a host of other expressions that use time references.

Once you have made the basic decisions about your brave new world, I recommend a notebook. Every time you add a new facet, put it in the notebook. Then when your editor or FLE has a question, you don't have to pull your hair out trying to locate or remember the answer. Now why did I make them all blue? Just to make my editor crazy. Little did I know she was made of sterner stuff than that.

Here I should interject another observation. If you're going to invent words, keep a running glossary. A) Your editor will probably thank you. Maybe she will... B) If your publisher decides that your books need a glossary, it won't be so difficult to whip it up at a moment's notice. C) It's easier to check the glossary to make sure you don't use the same word for two different objects.

The same thing goes for a character list. It doesn't have to be difficult or fancy. John Smith - the baker, Harold Jones - the blacksmith, Clooney Clancey - the butcher... and so on. Mix common names with unusual. Too many unusual names just make your readers cross their eyes--especially the names with jumbles of letters.

When you've organized all your information about your world, then you can begin the story. There will still be things you will encounter that you'll have to think about. For instance, in my current work in progress, I needed a dangerous critter that could kill one of my bad guys. I thought about it. Within the context of the story, it needed to be something that was scary and frightening even before it attacked. Eventually, I settled on a large carnivorous spider. Now it would take a pretty darned big spider to do much damage. So the scene was changed to allow for a LOT of the critters. Think about that snake scene in the Indiana Jones movies. See? That's scary.

Most of the work that you do for your world building won't actually appear in your story. After all, you can't spend pages describing stuff. A lot of your world building will be for you, the writer. Things that you need to know. I use maps that I've drawn so that my characters don't go to the baker by way of the scenic route. It provides consistency from book to book. If you write with a sure touch because you know exactly where you're going, then you sort of tug your reader along with you.

Then when you've finished the story, let someone read it who hasn't had any exposure to your creation. Take note of the questions they ask. Make sure that you clear up the discrepancies. If you do a good job, your readers will embrace your new world and anxiously await each new installment.

Anny

“My life has plenty of colour.” Wanker – she once had a pet goldfish called Tarquin. She had to flush him down the dunny. “What about when I saved the Kambucatan High Chieftain, Wang Chung, against the knife throwing Tibetan anarchist Yum Cha?” Emmeline could see she had piqued goldfish boy’s interest. “It all started when I was sitting in the mountains of Tibet searching for…

“… the meaning life?” Tarquin interrupted her.

“No, I had run out of film and I came cross this village.” Emmeline gazed into the distance as remembered it as if yesterday. “At the gateway of the village, an ancient curse had been painted on a rock. It said…”


“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then two pictures are worth ten thousand words. Whoever cast their eyes on this curse shall spend eternity seeking the Golden Carrot.”

Tarquin was confused. “The Golden Carat? What is that?”

“Carrot,” Emmeline said impatiently. “Like the vegetable. The Golden Carrot!”

“So where is this Golden Carrot?” he demanded curiously. “And what do you do with it when you have it?”
“YOU PEEL IT, of course!” She kicked at his toes. “Why else would I carry around a PEELER?”

Gamely trying to work out the puzzle behind the carrot and the peeler, Tarquin cautiously inquired, “And then what? Once you peel it, then what do you do with it?”

“Duh… Eat it?” Emmeline rolled her eyes in disgust. “Hello? Laser eyes here… I need Golden Carrots to keep my laser vision!”

“Well, can’t you eat regular carrots?” he asked. “I thought regular carrots are supposed to be good for your eyes.”

“Laser vision!” she shouted. “Do you see anyone else around here with glowing laser eyes?”

“All right, all right. So where do you find the Golden Carrots?”

“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be looking for them, would I?” Emmeline was beginning to think that Tarquin was even dumber that Zoltan. There wasn’t much hope for Tarquin. Clearly she was going to have to use her peeler on the twit. She twiddled with her peeler, twirling it in circles while she considered the best way to dispose of the idiot…


Bamm! Emmeline shook her head and stared at her surroundings. Dammit, she'd done it again. When would she learn not to press the green button? The wall with the curse towered over her, blocking her view of the soaring mountains. Tibet, again?

Don't forget to check out Amarinda's blog at http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/ where she's interviewing Jean Hart Stewart, author of the Druid series from Cerridwen Press. Then pop over to Kelly's blog at http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/ where she holding forth on "the early onset of male chauvinistic pigism in our schools". Heh. That I want to read! Blessings on your day!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Writing by the seat of your pants

There are generally two styles of writing. One is by plotting (outline, complete plot decided ahead of time) and the other is calling pantsing. Just sit down and write and hope it comes to you as you're going along. In general, I'm a pantster. Oh, I may have a general idea of where the story might end up, but mostly, I don't have a clue.



There are big advantages to both methods. I suspect that the best is a combination of the two but I haven't figured out how to do that. So I say a prayer and hope for the best.



I'm near the end of my current work in progress and have some burning questions to deal with. The bad guys (BG) have a huge military base. The good guys (GG) need to destroy the base. The GG are currently hanging out in an underwater habitat (UH). Haven't figured out how to get them from the UH to the big base. That's one problem.



Problem number two. How are they going to destroy the base?



Problem number three. Should they destroy the base? Or should they take control of the base?



Problem number four. What should I do with the aliens captured by the BG and held prisoner at the base?



Problem number five. What the heck does the BG military base have to do with my GG anyway?



For a book that started out as a sexy book about a trio, somewhere along the way, it blew a tire and ran off the road--as usual--and now I'm wandering around in the rain forest or under water or in the underground tunnels, fighting off giant carnivorous spiders called shadowdancers and undersea creepie crawlies that are a combination of shark and crab--sharcrabs.



Hmmm. See that's the problem with writing by the seat of your pants. Sometimes your rear end gets scorched. I think a need a new pair of pants. My simple story has taken on a life of it's own and turned into one of those never ending choose your adventure computer games.



Note to Editor: So far I only have four "made up" words and a small cast of characters instead of my usual cast of thousands. I need a pat on the back for that accomplishment.



On the other hand, I never ever in my life was able to write from an outline. It usually survived oh... about three paragraphs before it went the way of the dinosaurs and I was diving down dark alleys after characters that were no where in the original plan.



Well, I have to wind this up and get back to the BG at the base. And the GG. And the allies of the GG. Or we could go with that old soap opera standby--it was all a bad dream. Now that has possibilities. Perhaps the Girl in my GG is on some freaky hormone that gives her nightmares.



That's it. It was a baaaaaad dream.



Tune in tomorrow for As the Planet does a Somersault.



Anny



Do you want to win some fantastic holiday reading? If so come celebrate the Twelve days of Romance with 12 authors from Ellora's Cave, Total-E-Bound and Cerridwen Press. Each day beginning December 8th and running through December 19th each one of the twelve authors will leave a clue as to what their "True love gave to them" on either their blog or website.



Participating authors are: Kelly Kirch, Sandra Cox, KZ Snow, Barbara Huffert, Anny Cook, Heather Hiestand, JacquƩline Roth, Cindy Spencer Pape, Bronwyn Green, Brynn Paulin, Lacey Thorn and the Jones girl - Amarinda.



Collect all twelve answers and go into the drawer to win some great books.There will be three lucky winners.



The prizes –1st prize--6 books

2nd prize--4 books

3rd prize--2 books



All books and prize winners will be drawn randomly. For more details visit http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/ or http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/ or http://www.annycook.blogspot.com/ on December 6th.

For more fun drop by Amarinda's place to see what she's done to the Saga at http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/ and then roll on over to Kelly's Place to see what she had for us today at http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/ Blessings on your day!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday's Musings

Today is my cousin, Molly's birthday. She is four days younger than me, so she delighted in teasing me last night on the phone by pointing out that I am now 58 while she was only 57. Well, dear, now that is no longer so. We're both 58. Happy Birthday!


Normally, I have an author interview and book review on Mondays, but I figured that on Thanksgiving weekend, that would be tough to pull off. So, I shall do a mini-interview of myself.


How long have you been writing? Since I was a teenager. I started college when I was twenty seven and rediscovered writing. And through the years I've written off and on, periodically interrupted by life. The first book I submitted was Dancer's Delight.


Where do you get your ideas? I have no idea. I sit down and begin to write and they just sort of pop out. My best writing is the stuff that I just allow to appear spontaneously. Some judicious editing is okay, but if I get too planned, the writing gets stiff and formal.


What is your most--and least--favorite part of writing? Planning the book is still my favorite part. By planning, I mean the world building, vocabulary, maps, costumes. The beginning and end are my least favorite parts of writing. I suspect that is because in the beginning, the book moves slowly while you offer the necessary information to get it off the ground and in the end you have to tie up all the loose story lines.


What kind of advice would you give a new writer? Know your market. When I first had the idea for Dancer's Delight and the other Mystic Valley books, there was no place that would have published them. They were much too early for the e-market. So I delayed writing them until there was a place that would publish them. Whatever genre a writer wants to write, they should know exactly who/where/when their book will have a chance. For instance, at the moment the demand for Regency stories is waning, though there is a strong market for stories set in other historical time periods. As a writer, it might be good to know that.


How do you deal with writer's block? I write. Write something. The weather report. A were-tick story. A letter to your mother. A letter to the paper. Write anything. Eventually, that little tickle of an idea will appear. Also, take a nap. I find that often writer's block is really a tired brain, so I take a nap. If that doesn't work, eat lunch. It might be that the brain is hungry. Writers tend to get caught up in writing and neglect to take care of themselves.


How many books are in the Mystic Valley series? Hmmm. Well, there are four books currently available. Depending on how I combine the stories, there could be another five to eight books. At the moment, I'm working on the planning for a book combining the stories of Bishop and his half brother Nikolas.


When will you have a book in print? I don't know. The rule of thumb seems to generally be somewhere between six months and a year after the initial e-release, depending on how many books are in production. So far, I haven't made that list.


If you could meet any author in the world, past or present, who would it be? Georgette Heyer. She held the Regency genre in the palm of her hands while writing incredibly creative stories. I loved the men in her books. They had humor and attitude while conforming to the manners of the day. Her women were strong without being masculine. And her children were realistic and engaging.




And now a little excerpt from Cherished Destinies now available from Ellora's Cave.


Arturo sat in the bedroom he had shared for so long with Arano and stared blindly out at the raging bonding storm. So, he thought. Arano’s patience finally came to an end. With a dreary sigh, he acknowledged the death of his own unfulfilled longings and dreams. Even knowing the impossibilities hadn’t quite killed them like Arano’s bonding did. Time to accept reality and move on for Arano had never lied to him. His twin had never rejected his feelings or made light of them but had gently firmly shone a merciless light on them revealing the truth. They did not have the twin-bond that Tyger and Llyon had. There would be no covenant bond between him and Arano. He must find someone else.

Lightning flashed and lit up the dark room. Turo flung himself down on his bed and finally wept in grief, crying out his heartbreak. He would have liked to pretend that it was because of Jonathan’s vicious attack and rape but even in the midst of his anguish, honestly compelled him to admit that would only be an excuse.

The door opened and Wolfe entered, carefully closing the door behind him.


“Get out!”

“I don’t think so, my brother. There is no shame in grief. The shattering of dreams always hurts.” In the flickering light, Wolf moved to sit on Arano’s bed, across from Turo. “It is the retreat, the surrender to evil that is shameful. Do you think that Arano is suffering less than you?”


Turo looked over at the scornful face of his younger but wiser brother.

“I have an attachment with Raven, younger sister of Dancer and Traveller just as Robyn has an attachment with Tracer.” With deliberate detachment Wolfe continued, “Our out-valley grandfather sold our mates into slavery. I was present in Raven’s mind when she was repeatedly raped and beaten, just as Arano was with you. I was with her when they cut out her tongue. Robyn was with Tracer when they cut out his tongue and tortured him. Do you have any idea what it is to be in the mind of your beloved, witnessing unspeakable torments while powerless to prevent them?”


In the crackling flare of lightning, Arturo saw the sheen of tears on Wolfe’s face.

“You suffered. You were raped and beaten. And you are afraid.” When Turo would have protested, Wolfe stopped him with a sharp gesture. “Yes, you are afraid. There is no shame in fear but now it is time to seek help in dealing with it. You are not a child, Turo but until you deal with the fear and anger you will not be a man again. And until you are a man, you will not be able to present a whole heart to that man waiting out there somewhere for you.”


Wearily, he sighed. “I am leaving tomorrow for Rebaccah’s Promise to complete my healer’s training with Henry. Dai is going to his retreat with Tyger and Bishop. You should go with them, Turo. Go and heal. Stop running away from the truth and become the man and warrior that you’re meant to be.” He stood and looked down at his brother. “I love you. Do this for me. Do this for Arano. Do this for yourself.” Without another word, he left closing the door softly behind him.

The storm moved past, leaving Arturo in darkness more profound than any he had experienced in his life. When a distant grumble of thunder roused him from his self absorption he rolled from the bed and twisted the lightstone until it filled the room with a dim glow. Moving slowly he went into the bathing room, washed his face and returned to survey the bedroom through new determined eyes.


Wolfe was far wiser than he. It was time to move on—time to let go of his anger and cowardice, for though Wolfe had not named it such it was. He was afraid that he would grow old alone, afraid that with Arano gone, he would have no one. Abruptly sick with the image he saw, Arturo dragged his pack from beneath the bed and began to fill it with the clothing and necessities he would need for a sojourn down to Dai’s retreat.

When he was finished, he laid his weapons out on the bed and prepared them for travel. As Arano had promised, he would not be traveling alone but he also had a personal vow to keep. Never again would he travel unprepared for trouble. When his preparations were complete, he went about the room and packed all of his belongings in his trunk. Wherever he ended, it would not be here. The room was bare except for furniture when he was done. He stripped Arano’s bed and looked thoughtfully at his own. No, there was no need to be uncomfortable tonight. Tomorrow would be soon enough to sever that last tie.


He twisted the lightstone off and tumbled into bed. Time to sleep. Tomorrow would be a long, long day.


Anny


Kelly has the Saga today at http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/ so drop by and check out what she's up to. Then pop over to Amarinda's blog at http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/ to see what she's been up to. Blessings on your day.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Reflections



Well, I'm one tired puppy. Though I admit that I'm probably not as tired as my daughter and son and grandchildren after a marathon nine hour trip home. Two major accidents in the midst of busy holiday traffic kept them on the road long after they should have been home.

It was a lovely weekend. Busy, busy, busy, but lovely. My neighbor Jane may never be the same and ditto for her two tiny poodles. The two "T"'s as I call them entertained my granddaughters for several hours while Jane supervised. That freed up my daughter and I long enough to do the Christmas shopping. Thank God for wonderful giving neighbors.

We finished the gourds. It was an interesting experience. If you've never painted with a four year old, you have no idea what you're missing. I just have two words. Paper towels. Damp ones, preferably. And sponge brushes work well, too. We had a lot of fun with it.

The temperatures have sharply plummeted now so my feet are cold and the rest of me is chilly. The furnace doesn't seem to be up to keeping it warm around the patio door. I could do with a cup of hot chocolate. Maybe some marshmallows. I love a cup of hot cocoa on a chilly night or bitter winter day.

The dog and cat are exhausted. There's nothing like an active four year old to wear out an entire platoon of animals. The dog was so tired she didn't make it all the way onto her bed before she collapsed. It gives a whole new meaning to the expression dog tired.

My house is disgustingly clean as my daughter and granddaughters ran around cleaning and straightening and vacuuming everything before they left. I salute my daughter. She had enough stuff to fill a small semi and she fit it all into a compact car. I haven't a clue how she did it, but she was determined to take it all home. Determination goes a looooong way.

I suppose since the house is clean that I will have no excuse for not buckling down and writing today. Peace, quiet, and time. What more could a writer need, right? So today I'll get back to the book and try to finish it before the end of the month. Let's see now... that's not many days is it?

I hope that all of you had lovely weekends and enjoyed time with friends and family. For those of you who don't celebrate Thanksgiving, don't worry. All will be back to normal on Monday. Blessings on your day. One month to Christmas!

Anny

http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/
http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/

Check 'em out!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Black Friday AND the Saga



BLACK FRIDAY.... The very words strike terror in the hearts of parents. Thousands rise before sunrise on the day after Thanksgiving Day and head out to the mall, discounts stores and yes, even the discount-discount stores to snag a small share of the thousands of dollars sales offered to kick off the Christmas holiday season.





Normally, I shun the Black Friday shopping frenzy with a deep abiding passion. But this year my daughter was in town from NY where everything costs twice as much so I girded my, er, loins (or a reasonable fascimile) and we sallied forth to see what we could see.





You will of course, be delighted to know that we found everything on our list so we are done! I was very pleasantly surprised to find that we met with no long check-out lines. All cashiers were very nice and helpful. Other shoppers smiled and got along. Overall, it was probably the most pleasurable shopping experience I've had in a long time.





On the other hand, my knees will no doubt take a few days to recover. Right around the tenth time I hauled my carcass up into the truck, they began to protest loudly and by the time we parked at home, the old body had begun to protest as well. I'm glad to be done, but I have to say that I'm not built for marathon shopping and I'm heartily glad to be finished.





For the rest of you--happy shopping!



Anny





When last we left the Saga, Amarinda had cleverly arranged for Matilda to deal with the Red Ranger:

"Sunshine, I am not revealing anything to you." She reached into her glovebox and pulled out at a long silver wand. As a white witch she could only use it in extreme emergencies. Boredom by nerd was close enough. She turned around and gave him her best pissed off hormonal look. "Get out or I turn you into a frog."

His eyes opened wide with fright as he stared past her. "Ah, you have another problem bigger than me."

"What?" The fear in his eyes was too real to be faked. Matilda felt the hair rise on the back of her neck. Only one person gave her that feeling. It couldn't be him surely? Valerio was still in jail. Wasn't he? Matilda turned and saw the face she knew only too well. Holy crap! She knew her vow was no longer safe.


“So, Matilda, whatcha doin’?” Emmeline demanded. “Didn’t you like the movie?”

“What a load of …”

“How rude. I offered to send you a free ticket. I even offered to kick in a coupon for popcorn and soda.” Emmeline paced around the car, opened the door and hopped in. “You may as well take me home.”

“Me? Why should I take you home? Do I look like a taxi?” Matilda waved her wand in Emmeline’s direction. “Out of the car. And take the Red Ranger with you!”

“Listen up! Just because you’re my cousin doesn’t mean that you can boss me around. And I’m not responsible for your losers, especially not the ones in red tights and capes. Where’d you get him—rent-a-ranger?”

Matilda’s lips tightened in irritation. “He’s not mine, loser or winner. And I don’t need caped crusaders aggravating me after watching that swill. Go!”

The Red Ranger sat back and crossed his arms. “I’m not leaving until you fulfill your vow,” he declared stubbornly. “You can’t make me.”

Emmeline stared at Matilda in puzzlement. “What vow?”

“Matilda made a vow and I’m here to make sure she fulfills it.”

“Oh yeah? And who are you, anyway?” She asked.

“I’m Your Destiny!” he growled. “Wanna make something of it?”

Emmeline reared back in astonishment. “Did you just proposition me?” she demanded incredulously. “Did you?”

“You are insane. I wouldn’t proposition you if you were the last woman on Earth! I tell you that I’m here to see that Matilda—”

“Yes, yes, fulfills her vow. So what is the vow?”


Where will Kelly take the Saga on Monday? I haven't a clue. Tune in on Monday to find out. In the meantime, check in at www.amarindajones.blogspot.com for the latest from OZ and then pop over to www.kkirch.blogspot.com to see what Kelly has in store.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday's Last Look



Wow! Thanksgiving Day is over. Leftovers are packed away. Children have trailed off to bed. And at a few minutes after midnight I'm the last of the holdouts, still awake. Tomorrow, on Black Friday, I will venture out to go Christmas shopping with my daughter.




So how was your Thursday? Football heaven? Not here. After all two little girls aren't all that crazy about football. What's that you say? What did they do?


Well, first they played dress-up with Nanna's old work wardrobe. We won't discuss how many times Nanna's top was wound around the little one. Nope, won't even go there.


Had a lot of Gummi Bears with Poppy. That seems to be his number one bribe of choice. They considered watching a movie, but couldn't seem to settle down long enough to do that.


Then after dinner we hit upon an entirely new mode of entertainment. I found some gourds in my "workroom" that had been waiting for me to decide what I was going to do with them. We hauled out the paints and brushes. Borrow some of Poppy's discarded t-shirts for paint smocks and settled in for a contest to see who could come up with the most colorful gourd.


I'll let you be the judge. We're just on the first phase now. Later today, we'll finish up the gourd decorating. And no telling what else. I believe there was also some discussion about decorating Nanna's house for Christmas.
If you're on the road, I'll wish for safe traveling for you. And good weather. If you're out shopping, enjoy the season.
As I listened to my little ones saying Grace at dinner, it was "Thank you for letting us be together and be a family." Out of the mouths of babes...
Anny
Ah, my goodness. Check out what Amarinda has done to the Saga. I believe she's done it again. Go to www.amarindajones.blogspot.com And then stop by Kelly's blog where she'll have another new author at www.kkirch.blogspot.com And then? Blessings on your day!
PS: Thank you to all of you for your lovely Birthday thoughts. I appreciated them!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thursday Thanksgiving

Thirteen things I am thankful for.

1) My househunk. He did true heavy duty work this past week to help me clean and cook for our company. He cleaned things I wouldn't have cleaned. Thanks to him, the house is cleaner than it's been in a long time. He cooked. He baked. He paid for the fun we're going to have today.

2) My children. They remind me of what it was like to be young and struggling to get along. Sometimes the people my age forget that things weren't always like they are now. I'm proud of them because they just keep on chugging.

3) My grandchildren. Through them I remember what it was like when my own children were small. They keep me honest. They're forthright and loving. Good combination.

4) My friends, far and near, old and new. Each year I think now I really know what it's like to have good friends and each year I find that I haven't really learned all there is to know about good friends.

5) My parents. Through thick and thin they've been there for me. Some nights I talked for hours. Some nights they talk for hours. It's good to have parents like mine.

6) My siblings. Well, they're all guys so I suppose I could say my brothers. What can I say? They're guys but I love them.

7) My sweet sisters-in-law. Some people aren't nearly as fortunate as I am. My brothers were wise and picked the best.

8) My doggie and my kitty. Yep, they keep me sane some days. They love unconditionally. They keep me company no matter where I am in the house.

9) My friend Jane. Even if she thinks I'm absolutely nuts for gathering acorns, she still talks to me. She offers her support, she allows me to read all my sexy scenes to her first thing in the morning, and she's only a little shocked.

10) My blog mates, Janet/Amarinda and Kelly. I have no idea how I lucked out when I hitched up with them, but bless their pea pickin' hearts... they put up with me through thick, thin, and weird.

11) Freedom. Freedom to worship. Freedom to write. Freedom to read. Freedom to travel where ever I want to. Freedom to live wherever I can afford to live. Freedom.

12) My teachers. From the first one way back in Pima, Arizona to the last ones at Orange County Community College, I've had the best. Caring, interested, and wise... everyone of them. They are why I'm where I am today. They all believed in reading and the power of the written word.

13) Helen, the frog queen. How she changed my life with a few simple words a year ago. Blessings on her and her family.

Anny

Don't forget to stop by and say hello to Kelly at www.kkirch.blogspot.com and particularly to her guest author--a man! And then pop over and say a special hello to Amarinda at www.amarindajones.blogspot.com as she's at work instead of feasting. Australians do not celebrate Thanksgiving... or they do that every day. Blessings on your day!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wednesday's bits and pieces AND the Saga

Have you ever wondered about beauracracy? My husband received a letter from an out of state bank demanding his social security number and signature as proof of our address. Seems that the bank had some funds of ours (loooooong story) and they tried to reach us by letter at our old address. We moved five years ago so the letter was returned to the bank. Some enterprising soul checked other official sources (the internet), came up with this address and sent off the letter demanding proof of who we are.

Since this is the day of identity theft, my husband called them to find out what was up. They explained that the funds were no longer in their hands as the funds are now considered "abandoned funds" so the money went to the state of New York. Yay!

A few more phone calls elicited the information that we now need to write a letter asking for our money back, but it isn't going to be that simple. Of course not. Now we have to produce proof that we used to live at the old address. What is this proof, you say? Oh, nothing much. They want an old envelope addressed to us.

So! How about it? Do you have old bill envelopes from five years ago stashed somewhere in your odds and ends? I don't. Guess what we spent the day doing? Going through old stacks of paper, hoping to find something with our old address printed on it. I'm not sure whether to be excited or embarrassed to admit that we found something. However, we can now write the letter, attach our proof of address and send it off to the state.

Initially we were excited, thinking that we might have a couple of extra bucks for Christmas. No such luck. It appears we might possibly have the small sum in time for Valentines Day. There you go. Ah, well. Maybe the househunk can take me out to dinner. Or put gas in the car.

Interesting world we live in. When we moved here, I had to produce a birth certificate in order to transfer my driver's license. Seems that it wasn't enough to show them my old license. Who knows, maybe there's someone else out there that looks like me. Now that's a scary thought. Two Zen Queens. Anyway, I had to pay extra dollars to have my birth certificate sent to me from Arizona. And I had to fax them a letter "proving my identity" with a copy of the old driver's license from New York. Something about that doesn't quite make sense. Does it?

I've been "cleaning" for the last two weeks. The thing about being childless is that soon your home reaches a state of not being child friendly. So the cleaning mostly consisted of me putting away all those things that a four year old would be delighted to explore. Beads, paints, inks, yarn, artists chalks, pens, scissors... you know, stuff.

Then I decided that my company might possibly like someplace to sit down so I put away all the books that were piled around. Yes, I have a lot of books. No, they weren't in the bookcase because I tend to take a big pile of them off the shelf and sort of devour them, one after the other like Tim-Tams.

My main storage solution is baskets. Trouble with baskets is that they don't close. So I've been stashing baskets on the tops of bookcases. Interesting decorating technique. I don't think it's very feng shui, but it works. Now I'm down to the last bits and pieces which I will finish later today.

Then one last run through with the vacuum cleaner and I'm done. For all of you that plan to be on the road today, safe journey. For those of you preparing the feast, happy cooking. Blessings on your day.

Anny

Amarinda takes delight in leaving me out in the middle of a cow pasture up to my rear in ... well, let's just say is doesn't smell sweet. I'll show you what I mean:

“I will save you.” The Red Ranger waved his hand once and the assailant disappeared in a puff of red smoke. “I am your destiny Matilda Smith.”

“Of course you are.” Freaking nutcase.

“Remember that vow you made last week?” The Red Ranger saw the surprise in her eyes. “I am here to make sure you keep it.”

Holy Crap! How did he know? How could she ever fulfil that vow?

“You mean I have to …”


Argh! What is that? Heh, well, I did what I had to, so Kelly, don't you squawk! Amarinda made me do it!

“Yep, you have to.”

“Now look here,” Matilda objected. “I made that vow in a weak moment. You can’t mean to hold me to that!”

“Yes, ma’am. A vow is a vow is a vow. It’s serious business.”

“Listen up, Red. I don’t have time for this now. I’m busy. Thanks for getting rid of butter knife boy, but I have to go.” Matilda opened the car and got in with a little flounce of irritation. Really, where do they dig them up from?

She turned her head to check behind the car as she backed out and lo, and behold there sat the Red Ranger in the back seat. She stomped on the brakes. “Get out!”

“No can do, Matilda Smith. I am your destiny!”

“What you are is crazy! No red caped crusader is going to force me to keep that vow!” She looked at him with a considering look in her eyes. “Maybe if it was black… with turquoise or emerald accents… no, not even then!”

“Right. I can see that I’m going to have to bring the big gun.” Red wriggled around in the back seat, messing around with something down below her level of vision.

“Stop right there. What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded with irritation. “I assure you that you have nothing I want to see, no matter what the size is.”

“Matilda! You will fulfill your vow. Your reputation and future depend on it!”

She sighed. “Give me the bloody hat. Next time the Zen Queen actually finishes the book on time she can eat the hat! Say, you have any vegemite?”

So, drop by Kelly's blog and meet a new author from Resplendance Publishing. Psst. Ask her about her daughter's basketball game! www.kkirch.blogspot.com And then trot your bod over to Amarinda's place at www.amarindajones.blogspot.com and find out if she tells you about the latest war over the wall of wankerdom.



Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Photobucket Album

Tuesday Nooks and Crannies

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38 niv

Yesterday I had a lively discussion with my blogmates about the conspicuous consumption that is a hallmark of the Thanksgiving feast. Back in the early years of Thanksgiving, the feast was a true gathering of the best things from the harvest. The women of the house prepared all sorts of specialty dishes that were only prepared for very special occasions. The main meat course was whatever was locally available and usually something that wasn't normally served except for holidays.

And leftovers were carefully planned for several days' meals. Nothing went to waste.

But in the current era, leftovers are frequently tossed out. Far more food than is necessary or desirable is prepared. And all this while our neighbors go hungry. I have two adult children with families that would go hungry if I didn't feed them this holiday. I suspect that there are other baby boomers in the same situation. Resources are slim to none. One of them has no food pantry within miles. The other is limited to one grocery bag per month.

I stopped at a Salvation Army bucket yesterday morning and dumped out my change. At the moment it was all I had. The woman was shocked. She said I was the first person who had donated anything in the four hours she'd been standing there. Everywhere, need for supplemental help is up and supply is down.

There are homeless people all over this country--and yes, across the globe--due to famine, war, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and fires. Not a single one of them asked for their lot in life. All were helpless to prevent the disasters visited up them. For every one of those families, there are countless others who have suddenly found themselves unemployed because their companies/employers have been wiped out.

If every family that has the wherewithal invited another family that's in distress to have Thanksgiving dinner with them--and then sent all the leftovers home with them...if we all did that, there would be no hungry people on Thanksgiving Day...something to truly be thankful for.

There are generous people everywhere. We just need to get the rest of our neighbors motivated. Maybe they are embarrassed to open their eyes and look at the poverty of their neighbors lest they end up in that position themselves.

Quite a while ago one of my neighbors opened her home to us every single holiday. "Just bring whatever you have in the pantry," she said. Some times it was more. Many times it was less. But whatever it was, we contributed what we could and all was well.

One particular Thanksgiving, that generosity was extraordinary. Two weeks before Thanksgiving, my husband called my parents and informed them that I would be visiting them for the entire week all by myself. Then he went to my neighbor and friend, Joyce and handed her some money. "Go get whatever Anny needs, help her pack, and have her ready to go." So that's what Joyce did, even going so far as to take me to the airport and wave me off.

My husband had no particular plans for Thanksgiving. He knew how to cook and was well able to feed our four children. But it never occured to Joyce that the family wouldn't be having dinner with her family. Of course they would!

So while I pulled my fragile life back together with my parent's help, my neighbors generously opened their home to my family. I don't remember much of that week. I know I slept the first two days around the clock. I know that my mom showed me the bedroom and said, "When you want to come out, feel free. But as long as the door is shut, we won't bother you." I know that I went with my parents to my Aunt's house for the family Thanksgiving. A couple of aunts thought it was mighty strange that I would go off and leave my family alone.

My dad told the aunts that my family wasn't "alone". They were with good friends. And that's the best blessing of all.

Anny

When you're out tootling around don't forget to stop by Amarinda's Blog at http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/ where she has the Saga and other assorted observations. And then hop over to Kelly's Place at http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/ where she has more info on Resplendance Publishing. Blessings on your day!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Monday Odds and Ends...

For the real story about the Pilgrims and Indians, read Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick. I have this book, which is excellent, but eye-opening to be sure. For an excellent review click the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/04/books/review/04shorto.htmlw.nytimes.com/2006/06/04/books/review/04shorto.html
For a shorter version about the real deal and history of Thanksgiving click the link: http://www.caffeinedestiny.com/tigiving.html

Do you remember when you were in kindergarten and first heard the "story about the pilgrims? Maybe you had an Indian head band or a pilgrim hat. Some schools had roasted pumpkin seeds. Or that colored corn.


As an adult of course I knew that the reality wasn't anything like the story we were taught in school. A while back while researching our family history, I discovered that my husband has several Mayflower ancestors. As part of our research, we made a pilgrimage to Plimouth Plantation in Massachusetts. We did the complete tour and that particular day was re-enactment day. It was wonderful.

The interesting thing was that there was no black clothing. The Pilgrims were not Puritans. Their clothing was dull colors, but not black. The houses were tiny. The beds were tinier. I can't imagine when anyone found privacy or the time to have children. Yet one of my husband's ancestors had twenty. Hmmmm.

One of my favorite events happened in the Francis Cooke home. "Mrs. Cooke" was answering questions and one of the women in our group asked why Mrs. Cooke's clothing was wrinkled. What about ironing. "Mrs. Cooke" gave her a very direct look and replied, "But that would be vanity!" Until then I hadn't thought about how I was avoiding vanity by not ironing!

Certainly, it was a very educational experience. We'll go back again... hopefully for Thanksgiving some year. Every year they have a "real" re-enactment feast. That is something I would like to take part in.



One year, I think it was 1984, we moved into a new house the day before Thanksgiving. This was after spending four weeks in a hotel with four kids, three of them teenagers. It was a move from Houston, Texas to upstate New York. The kids were out of school for that four weeks because we didn't have an "official" address.

So finally, we moved in on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. That year it was also my birthday. The next morning when we woke up we had no water because the pipes were frozen. Nothing was unpacked, but we had the presence of mind pick up several aluminum roasting pans. For the turkey, we doubled two pans and plopped the turkey in the oven while we rousted out the necessities from the jumble of boxes that were piled high in the living room and dining room.

It wasn't the first time I had moved. Actually, it was move number forty. So the next morning chaos was not something new. There were the usual shouts of "Mom, where is...?" and the usual jockeying for space and attention. My husband was trying to figure out why we had hot water in the toilet. Just the little things in life.

When is was time to take the turkey out, the pan collapsed, burning my husband's hands. He tossed it on the top of the stove and it exploded. In a instant we had turkey, dressing, and broth everywhere...on the ceiling, on the walls and counters, down in the innards of the brand new stove...on the floor. Everywhere.

The househunk took the stove apart and carried it outside to wash the worst of it off with the hose in the yard. The boys got in an argument and my younger son "ran away". I remember kneeling on the floor trying to mop up that greasy mess and crying, "I want to go home!"

And my husband leaned down and calmly said, "We are home."

Heh. Well, the runaway came home. My daughters helped set the table and my sons helped wash walls and counters. Amazingly, we sat down to dinner, thankful to be in a home instead of that hotel. And every year, we retell the story of the exploding turkey dinner.

After all, it was way better than the fire in the furnace on Christmas Day. Trust me on this.

Anny

If you've read either Kelly's Blog or Amarinda's Blog in the last couple days then you know that we've all talked to each other on the telephone. It was an amazing experience. I loved listening to both of their voices. Kelly was so laid back and Amarinda's had such a lovely lilt. I really enjoyed talking to both of them so much. I look forward to next time!

Don't forget to stop by Amarinda's at http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/ for her Monday Ramblings and then stop at Kelly's Blog at http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/ for her introduction to Resplendence Publishing and the Saga. Whoa, wait until you see what she's done this time! Blessings on your day!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanksgiving

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."~Epictetus~

"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful."~ Buddha ~

"People who live the most fulfilling lives are the ones who are always rejoicing at what they have."~Richard Carlson~

"Thank God--every morning when you get up--that you have something to do which must be done, whether you like it or not. Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you a hundred virtues which the idle never know."~ Charles Kingsley ~

"True thanksgiving means that we need to thank God for what He has done for us, and not to tell Him what we have done for Him."~ George R. Hendrick ~

Thanksgiving Day is this week. Imagine--an entire day set aside to express our thankfulness for what we have. I wonder how many people will actually do so. You know...actually utter a list out loud. I wonder how many people will mutter a "grace" by rote before someone cries "dig in!"

Last week on an author's loop that I frequent I asked the others "What are you thankful for?" Not a single person replied. Have we reached that point that we have nothing to be thankful for? Even if we don't believe in organized religion, surely we are thankful for that roof over our head and that food on the table. Surely?

At the church I attended in New York, we had a chorus that we sang nearly every Sunday. The second verse in particular had great meaning for me, especially as I was going through a very turbulent time in my life.

GIVE THANKS WITH A GRATEFUL HEART
GIVE THANKS TO THE HOLY ONE
GIVE THANKS FOR HE'S GIVEN
JESUS CHRIST, HIS SON

AND NOW LET THE WEAK SAY I AM STRONG
LET THE POOR SAY I AM RICH
BECAUSE OF WHAT
THE LORD HAS DONE FOR US

GIVE THANKS...

Each morning I'm thankful that I have been given another day. It's not guaranteed, after all. And I'm thankful for those "things" I have in life. Shelter, food, health, spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings and friends. Look at the amazing abundance I have in my life. Though I am poor financially, I am rich. Though I have moments of self doubt my friends and family make me strong. Give thanks!

Anny

Stop by Amarinda's house at http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/ to see what she's been up to and then stop by Kelly's house at http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/ to read her Sunday Quote. Blessings on your day!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The grass is always greener AND the Saga

I haven't quite figured out why we always think the grass is greener in somebody else's pasture. Perhaps because it's further away we can't see the weeds and bare spots. On our own little patch we're intimately acquainted with every stone, every dandelion, every thistle, and every stubborn area that refuses to grow anything at all. Across the road, all we see is that beautiful sea of green.

Of course, our lives are like that. We look at celebrities and the rich and famous and think, "Their lives must be so much better than mine." And yet if all the recent media reports are true, the rich and famous struggle with the same difficulties as the poor and obscure. They just get to do it in the full light of day. True, money does help with some issues. It buys food and shelter and lawyers. But jail is jail is jail. It's a record that doesn't go away. Drugs and alcohol can ruin lives at whatever social strata they occur. Children of the wealthy can be just as neglected as children of the poor... maybe even more so.

Instead of lusting after the green fields across the road, perhaps our energies would be better spent in working in our own yards. Rip out those prickly weeds. Fertilize that bare spot and add some seeds. Or toss some wild flower seeds out there and allow some beauty to invade our lives. We can look around us and appreciate the abundance growing in our own patch of ground.

And it's okay if it doesn't look like everyone else's. Our patch should be a unique production that reflects who we are. Our hobbies and interests and talents are gifts from God that we need to value instead of wishing that we had someone else's. Everyone had a gift. The most valuable gift I know of is a smile. If you have the gift of a smile, then you're way ahead of everyone else in the world. Last night three of my friends made me smile. All evening. And when I went to bed I was still smiling. That's a priceless gift. Priceless.

What is yours?

Anny

Yesterday Amarinda left me in a ticklish spot...

“You’re just annoyed that The Mary got the better of you,” Sparky taunted the bird.

“Shut up!” That the bitch known as The Mary treated him so badly still ruffled his magenta feathers. “I have a plan.” Lawrence knew every great battle had a commander and he was the Winston Churchill of parakeets.

“Uh huh…” Oz murmured, eyes glued on the crystal.

“Pay attention!” He demanded, annoyed that his voice broke into a screech. It was so not cool when that happened. He could see Sparky snicker. He would be the first one Lawrence killed when he had the loot. “Here’s what we will do…”


Yeah, HERE'S what we'll do!

“Oh, sneck up, Lawrence! We’re watching this. The little dude’s got her down on the grass!” Sparky declared with glee as he snapped his fingers. “I told you he would win!”

“Wait!” Oz pointed a finger at Sparky. “You just hold on a minute!”

There was a low boom and The Mary popped into the room. “So guys…whatcha doin’?”

Lawrence squawked and put his head under his wing.

“Hiding, Lawrence? Just remember, I could have changed you into a hamster. Then you could keep Rinalda company.”

Lawrence lifted his head as he stared at The Mary speculatively. Rinalda hadn’t looked half bad in that push up bra. Six cups all brimming with…

“See! I told you!” The Oz shouted excitedly. “She’s got him down!”

They peered intently into the ball. “What’s the old dude doing?” Sparky asked in puzzlement.

The Oz squinted. “I don’t know. What’s his head doing down there?” Then she gasped in dismay. “He’s got the piercing needle!”

“No!” Sparky suddenly felt faint. As they watched, Zoltan handed Dai three golden rings. Sparky moaned.

“Shut up, Sparky! I want to see this!” The Oz declared impatiently. “You act like you’ve never seen anyone pierced before! They’re just quills for crying out loud!”

“No, Oz. Look,” Sparky whispered. “She’s turning blue.”

“Emmeline? No!”

“You owe me a hundred bucks, Oz.”


Well, it's Saturday so take time to check out Amarinda's Saturday wisdom at http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/ and then hop over to Kelly's Place to see what she's up to at http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/ Blessings on your day!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Serenity, Courage, and Wisdom

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change; the courage to change the things i can;and the wisdom to know the difference. The Serenity Prayer is the common name for an originally untitled prayer written by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930s or early 1940s. For more information about the Serenity Prayer... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer

A friend and I were talking about why I'm called the Zen Queen. She asked, "How can you be so calm?" I had to think about it for a while. I think it's because I took the Serenity Prayer as my general "motto" for life. Everyone has some tenet that they live by. It may be the Golden Rule or a quotation or a religious saying.

Many years ago when one of my children was involved in all sorts of dangerous behaviors, I attended Families Anonymous. In many respects it saved my life. At the beginning of each meeting we recited the Serenity Prayer. And I found it good.

There is a lot of old wisdom contained in this relatively short sentence. The sentence as printed at the beginning of this blog is the way it was originally written. Did you notice that the i's are lower case? That's one of the first things you learn in any of the anonymous programs... that it's not all about you. So. Small i's.

Serenity is a product of acceptance. There are certain things in life that we cannot change. I will never be five foot ten. I'll never be younger than I am right now. I know that you're thinking well that's just silly. Everyone knows you can't change things like that. What about bad judgment, hurtful words, or stupid choices? They're in the past. Things in the past are simply that--past. They cannot be changed. You can ask for forgiveness. You can make amends. But you can't change the past. "Grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change."

Courage is a little understood word today. We equate it with the military mostly or heroic deeds. But courage is really taking a leap of faith. It requires an immense leap of faith to make some changes. Changing a job. Changing a life style. Changing an address. Eating healthier. Going for a walk. Getting up an hour earlier. All of those require us to take a leap of faith that there is something better out there. Change is uncomfortable. Just ask anyone who's moved recently. We like our comfy little niches in life. Change requires us to move out of our comfort zones and try something new. "Courage to change the things i can."

Wisdom is mistaken for intelligence or education. Some of the wisest people I know are small children. They cut through the trappings of adulthood and go right for the heart of the matter. Unfortunately, as adults we don't gain wisdom without experience. Frequently the experiences are painful or bitter. It takes a while to understand the difference between "book learning" and "horse sense". With that hard won wisdom, we can determine whether the circumstances require change or acceptance. Sometimes it's best to simply accept the place we are in life. Other times we need to seize the courage to change. The wisdom we've accumulated helps us decide which choice to make. "The wisdom to know the difference."

I use these three short phrases to get through life. My child calls with an emergency. Not my emergency--but her emergency. The immediate visceral response is to leap in to save her. But wait. That would deprive her of hard won experience so that she can gain her own wisdom. So what exactly is required of me? Perhaps... all she really needs now is encouragement to follow the path of serenity, courage and wisdom.

Anny

Be sure to stop by Amarinda's Place where she has the Saga (boy did she get inventive) and she also had the low down on her fellow author's bad habits at www.amarindajones.blogspot.com Over at Kelly's place she interviewing author Sarah Richmond and of course she has today's tidbit about Australia at www.kkirch.blogspot.com Blessings on your day!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Odd Blog Topics

I asked my fellow authors for blog topics thinking I might get something unusual and different. And I did.

1)Blue lint in male belly buttons.

2)How long is a piece of string?

3)Why do we put throw rugs on top of carpets?

4)Why a kangaroo cannot walk backwards?

5)Knitting with dental floss

6)Why is there no rhyme for orange?

7)Different varieties of Potato Salad

8)Bad jokes

Hmmm. Well, I have no idea why men collect blue lint in their belly buttons. Maybe because they wear jeans? Maybe because the jeans turn the lint on their shirts blue? Anyone want to pitch in here and help?

How long is a piece of string? About that long. Of course, it's shorter if you fold it in half or tie a knot in it. But otherwise, it's about that long. Unless you stretch it. Then it's longer.

Now, the rugs...well to keep the carpets clean, of course. I live in an apartment with very, very light colored carpet. When I move out, if it's not clean, I will have to pay them big bucks. So I covered the entire place with area rugs. We've been here five years and the carpet looks pretty good.

Kangaroos... this suggestion came from Amarinda, of course. Who else? This is obviously a trick question but I gave it my best shot. I googled it. I read a lot of weird forums that discussed the fact that the kangaroo cannot walk backwards, but nobody knew why! So? Does anybody have the answer? Cindy, you zoologist you. Speak up!

Knitting with dental floss. Seems like it might be a bit labor intensive, but the end product is probably lacy and delicate. Personally, I would think that crocheting would work better but no doubt there is someone out there would will actually try this. Please get in touch with me and let me know how it works out.

Why is there no rhyme for orange? Because no one made one up! So in order to solve that problem we could just whip up a few. florange = orange flower, glorange = the color of the sunset, thorange = how your butt feels after you wear a thong all day, storange = where you store the kids Christmas presents, warrange = designated battlefield. There now. That wasn't that difficult, right?

Different varieties of potato salad. What varieties? There is no other potato salad except the kind my mother makes. The rest of them are not potato salad. They're wannabe potato salads, but the real true blue deal is my mother's potato salad. Got that? Right.

Bad jokes. I'm kinda of funny about jokes. A bad joke to me is a joke that makes fun of someone because of their religion, color, ethnicity, size, sexual orientation or a disability. Those aren't funny. In general, I can deal with jokes that play off the differences between men and women as long as they aren't mean. But there are a lot of funny situations in this world we live in. Enough of them that we don't need to lower ourselves to hurting those around us. I know this paragraph isn't funny...but neither are the jokes that make fun of people who are different from us.

I love humor and having fun unless it hurts someone's feelings. And you can never tell what thing you say might inadvertantly hurt the person next to you. Generally, on a person to person basis, people are people just like you and me. They may eat different foods or worship differently but ultimately, when they're cut, they bleed the same color blood as we do.

I hope you enjoyed the unusual blog topics. Tomorrow we'll return to our regularly scheduled programming. Blessings on your day.

Anny

Now pop over to Kelly's blog where she has the saga and a brief dissertataion about Auntie Jack, an Australian icon at http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/ and then stop by Amarinda's blog where she gives us another slice of life in OZ at http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Things I learned from my children AND the Saga

Raising children is an educational experience. Trust me--I learned so many things (many I would rather not know) from my children.

1)If you plan to build a campfire in your bedroom, it's best if you put a heavy layer of newspaper down first to keep the carpet clean. It works very well. Of course, it doesn't protect the carpet from burning, but when your husband dashes in there with the fire extinguisher, it does keep that white foam off the carpet.

2)If you like to sit on the roof, just looking around, it's best to do so at night so the neighbors don't call the police, the fire department, and an ambulance.

3)It's best not to allow a three year old to play with a working telephone lest they inadvertantly summon the emergency services by dialing 9-1-1. This can be particularly embarrassing if you and your husband are otherwise occupied when the police arrive.

4)Big Wheels + picnic tables = broken noses and visits from the social services to determine if you are abusing your children.

5)Never tell your children something you don't wanted repeated in the most embarrassing circumstances...even years later... especially if you use the word f***.

6)Unless you want your child to have a hairy eyeball experience with sex education, never assume they are asleep, outside, watching tv, or with their friends. Always lock the door. Even when they're grown up and have moved out.

7)No parent should teach their child to drive. No parent should ride as a passenger with their child--even after they've been driving fifteen years. Especially after they've been driving fifteen years.

8)When you receive a panicky call from your child while you're at work, get the important stuff out of the way first--are you bleeding? Does this call require an ambulance, firetruck or the police? No? Then we will deal with it when I get home. Your brother changing the channel from He-Man and She-ra to watch baseball does not constitute an emergency.

9)Waterbeds are not designed as substitutes for fish ponds.

10)Fire extinguishers are not substitutes for water pistols.

11)If your child swallows coins, they will eventually reappear.

12)If your child swallows charcoal lighter fluid, do not close the can before you take the kid to the emergency room. No one will be able to open that childproof can that your three year old had no difficulties with.

I earned every gray hair honestly.

Anny

Yesterday, Amarinda left me with...

“And Cyril?’

“Yeah?”

“Do something about your pants will you?” Emmeline kissed the ring and wished for the most peaceful place on earth. She departed in a whirl of colours, her mind focused on the future. A minute later she landed with a thump. “Crap that hurt.” Stood up and rubbed her arse. “Where am I and why is everything blue?”


My modest attempt....

The roar of the waterfall nearly drowned out the man’s voice. “Welcome to Dai’s Retreat.”

She peered around in the dimly lit cavern until she spotted the little blue man sitting next to a small flickering fire. Stomping up to him, she demanded, “Who are you? And where am I?

“I am Dai. And this is Dai’s Retreat for those who seek peace and rest.” He motioned for her to sit down next to him. “Sit, Emmeline. Relax.”

“Why?” she demanded warily as she squatted on her heels. “What are you doing? What is that thing?”

Dai plucked the needle from the fire. “A piercing needle. It’s almost ready.”

At once, she was on her feet, heading for the cavern entrance. “Nope. I’ve read the Zen Queen’s stories. She into some weird kinky stuff.”

Dai chuckled quietly. “You’re talking about Camelot and Avalon. Now Avalon gives kinky an entirely new meaning. No, no. Here we only pierce ears.”

“You’re not getting the picture here. I don’t want my ears pierced.”

“Oh, it’s not for you! Yours are already done. Three sets as usual. No, this one is for Zoltan. He should be here any moment.” Dai nodded wisely. “Then we’ll take you to the circle to say your vows… I’ll have to bite you of course,” he added solemnly. “Otherwise you won’t turn blue. We can’t have that at all.”

“What?” She dashed from the cavern into the brilliantly lit circle. A stone altar glittered in the center. All around the perimeter huge stone sentinels marked the edge of the circle. And filling the spaces between the stones were some old friends…


You will no doubt wonder what Amarinda and Kelly are up to. Amarinda has author Bronwyn Green as her special guest at www.amarindajones.blogspot.com and I believe that Kelly is going to explain what a Hills Hoist is on www.kkirch.blogspot.com and then after you check them out Blessings on your Day!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Blog Wars

Whilst I was tootling around yesterday afternoon surfing the blog world, I came across a strange phenomenon--BLOG WARS. As closely as I could figure, this is akin to the old word wars on the editorial pages of the local newspapers. Of course, there was a huge difference. By comparison, the word wars were extremely civilized. After all, there was an editorial staff responsible for what the public was subjected to.

Unfortunately, in the blog wars, there is no editorial staff to apply the brakes. No one is responsible for saying "enough" so the war escalates into tasteless trash with obscenities and insults tossed in for good measure. So instead of one party or the other metaphorically walking away from the fray, the war continues.

Then there are the readers who feel that it is appropriate to comment in favor of one side or the other. Soon the readers are slinging additional arrows into the fray. After a while, no one is even sure what the war was about. But every one is angry.

Now when I was growing up, my grandmother used to point out that it takes two to fight. Oh, I know that it only takes one to be the aggressor. But after that... it requires at least two. Now if you're being physically assaulted, you can either fight back or run away. But when words are involved, especially written words, you can choose to ignore your attacker. Or if you must make a rebuttal, then turn off the comment capability.

The truth is that blog land has opened up a new arena in the word wars. What I find very disturbing is that this new arena is global. In the old word wars, they were mostly conducted in small local papers that didn't have a huge circulation. But this new arena reaches all parts of the world.

Why do some people feel comfortable with airing their dirty laundry under the merciless light of the public eye? If you're truly unhappy with something I've done--whatever it is--then why not e-mail me privately? Public picking through the laundry is done for two reasons only--humiliation or one-upsmanship. Either way, it isn't about getting me to change my behavior.

Yesterday, my friend Amarinda commented about the general lack of manners in our society today. I think it goes much deeper than that. There is a terrible lack of self respect in the world today. When I was a youngster, there were certain things that you did because they were "respectable".

You stood up for the pledge of allegiance to the flag. If you were male and wearing a hat, you removed it. You stood for the national anthem. If you weren't singing along, you were quiet and respectful. It angers me when I watch football, baseball, or basketball games on television and see people talking to each other, walking around, and generally acting like they are bored silly.

Before I was allowed to walk out of the house when I was a kid, my hair was combed and I was dressed. My parents took care to impress on me that you try to look your best at all times because that showed that you had respect for your appearance. If you don't respect yourself, why would anyone else?

In the blog wars the overwhelming thing I observed was the complete lack of self respect. Why would anyone who truly respected themselves want to continue in a war of words? I suppose if the debate were about world peace I could see that it was important work. But that wasn't the case in any of the wars I encountered.

It's sad in this day and age that we've gone no further down the road than this same old pothole we've been stuck in since high school where the cliques abounded and the harsh war of words could devastate an individual for life. We still use words to hurt instead of heal. And believe me, they do. Bitter biting words once spoken cannot be taken back. Once typed and sent out over the electronic net, they can never be recalled.

So for all the combatants in the blog wars, I wonder if you all would consider a cease fire? The next time you are tempted to leap into the fray ask yourself will what I say make a difference in one year? Five years? Twenty? Then why waste the time? All of us are given a limited number of years on earth. It's up to us to use them in the best way we can.

Anny

Kelly has a tidbit on Ned Kelly the Australian outlaw and a few observations about TV editors at http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/ and then go straight over to Amarinda's blog where she upholds the reputation of all Aussies with her zinger on the Saga. My goodness, she was in good form. http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/ and then of course, Blessings on your day!