Morning Coffee: First Anniversary

Healing HeartOctober 2nd will be the first anniversary of Morning Coffee. Over the past year I’ve managed to share my thoughts with you every week; not always an easy thing to do. Not only because it can be hard to come up with the time, but because who would have thought I had so many thoughts! Right? Ok, Ok, no chiming in from the peanut gallery…and you know who you are.

I’ve accomplished a lot over the past year. My biggest accomplishment: I finished my first novel, a historical romance, “Mary Bishop”. I’m now in the submission stage, hoping to soon be able to report I have a contract. Currently, there is a publisher who has voiced an interest in it. The editor acknowledged my talent and said if I was willing to change the book from first person/present tense to third person/past tense I should feel free to resubmit. Of course, my response to that was thank you and I will. That’s what I’m working on right now and it’s not so much a difficult task as it is more time-consuming that I originally guessed it would be. You see, the original version has two timelines. One takes the reader through the story of Mary’s first love with her now late husband Earl. This takes place from pre-Civil War through the end of the Civil War in Virginia. These chapters were written in first person/past tense. The other timeline is the story of her current second chance at love and takes place in post-Civil War Wisconsin. These chapters were written in first person/present tense. I’m currently in the process of slowly reading through the entire 300+ page manuscript and carefully changing everything to third person/past tense. The editor’s right; it is better.

I’ve also started researching and writing my second novel, another romance set in Wisconsin, but this one takes place in 1919. The United States is at war, both in Europe and on the home front as the Spanish Flu epidemic sweeps the nation, killing without mercy. This one is entitled, “The Healing Heart”. More on this later.

This past weekend I attended my first romance writers’ conference and the speaker was the one and only Eloisa James. She spoke not about writing techniques like how to write dialogue, plot a romance, or how to write a really steamy sex scene. Instead, she talked at length about the business of being a writer. You see, this is a business. I am a business. She talked about agents and editors, contracts, bookkeeping, doing your own PR and marketing, branding. She talked about what to expect and what to accept, how to stand up for ourselves in negotiations. She told us how to get noticed in a good way, and how to get noticed in such a way as to ruin our careers before they even start. Ms James (a pseudonym) is a tenured Shakespeare professor. She runs the graduate program at her university. She’s a wife and a mother. And she is an incredible speaker, very inspiring…but, then again, that’s what makes her a good teacher. She was honest. You can write only what moves your heart and then you can put it in a drawer to collect dust, or you can admit you want to make a living doing this and write what you love that also fits with the demands of the current marketplace.

champagneI’ve accomplished a lot this year in the pursuit of my dream to be a published novelist. Over the coming year I plan on being able to tell you when and where you can purchase “Mary Bishop”, and in the meantime, I will finish “The Healing Heart”. Thank you everyone who has come along on this ride so far. Some of my posts have been hits and others not so much. I appreciate everyone who hung in there with me and I hope you feel you can stay with me a little longer, maybe bring along a few friends. CHEERS!

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Morning Coffee: The Color of Autumn

Healing HeartThis morning it rained, not hard and not for long but enough to make everything wet. This afternoon the sun came out and the leaves glimmered like emeralds sprinkled with diamonds. Looking out the window of my office I get the feeling of summer; yet, when I open the sliding glass doors to the deck the cool breeze reminds me that it is that uncertain, ever-changing, time between summer and fall. (By the time you read this, fall will have officially arrived.)

I love autumn! It’s one of my favorite seasons. While winter is mostly white with muted blue/gray shadows and stark black tree trunks, spring a promising pastel, and summer just about every shade of green you can think of, autumn is a multitude of bright colors. Autumn is a Mardi Gras parade. Autumn is the high school gymnasium on prom night. Autumn is a grand farewell-see-you-soon party for Mother Nature before she goes down for her long winter’s rest.

Autumn means back to school. Autumn is football games and the Homecoming dance. It’s when we put away our swim suits and bring out those warm fuzzy sweaters. It’s hot chocolate instead of lemonade. It’s chili with cornbread, pot roasts with baby red potatoes, baked squash, apple pies, and anything pumpkin. (I just ordered four boxes of pumpkin spice K-cups. I don’t want to run out anytime soon. They’re seasonal, you know, and sell out fast.)

Red and green apples hang heavy from the trees, waiting to be picked and made into sauce, pies, and cider. Orange pumpkins and yellow and green squash are ready for harvest, soon to be baked or roasted. Hardy mums both big and small bloom in burgundy, purple, pink, orange, yellow and white replacing the delicate flowers of summer. Cornstalks that were cool and green not so long ago are now a dry dusky brown rattling in the wind; soon to be gathered and tied in bunches to decorate our yards. Clouds begin to take on a darker more ominous gun metal gray. Even the deer that happen through our yard have changed from their rich auburn coat to the heavier brown cover they’ll need to keep warm during the short days of a long winter.

Most spectacular are our trees. They’ve already begun their change from green to red and yellow and orange. Soon the hills and roadsides will be ablaze with color. Air temperature and moisture are the main two influences on how bold and bright the colors are from year to year. For truly amazing color we need a succession of warm, sunny days and cool, but not freezing, nights. A late spring, or a summer drought, can delay the start of fall colors by several weeks. I don’t recall what our spring was like, but based on our very wet summer (no drought here) and our current temperatures, I’m going to predict a glorious autumn this year. Plan a long weekend and go leaf-peeping in our beautiful Wisconsin woods, or any other northern state where leaf-shedding trees are in abundance. Go to https://weather.com/maps/fall-foliage to find the current leaf-viewing hotspots. Take your family, the dog. Stay in a cute little B&B. Pick some apples and buy some pumpkins to take home. And by all means, don’t forget the camera! You won’t regret it.

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St Croix River, Oct. 2014

 

 

Leaf Color Guide
Ash: yellow, chartreuse
Linden: green, chartreuse
Aspens: yellow
Yellow Poplars: light golden yellow
Hickories: yellow
Oaks: red, brown, russet
Dogwood: purplish red
Red Maple: bright red
Sugar Maple: orange-red
Black Maple: yellow

Morning Coffee: Icarus Dilemma

Healing HeartHubris, the Greek word for Man acting like a God, excessive pride or self-confidence. The ancient Greeks believed the gods punished those who did not recognize and live within their own limits.

They tell the cautionary tale of Daedalus. He fashioned wings using feathers and wax and with these wings he was able to fly. He gave a pair to his son, Icarus, but with the warning not to fly too close to the water or they would get wet, nor fly too close to the sun or they would melt. The shepherds and plowmen who witnessed their flight from below believed them to be gods. Well, we all know how this story ends. Icarus, filled with the arrogance that comes with pride does, indeed, fly too close to the sun. The wax melts from his wings, he falls to the ocean below, and he drowns. Hubris caused Daedalus to lose his son, and Icarus to lose his life.

Such tales of pride, though usually not as colorful or dramatic, are not absent from today’s world. For example, just because we are capable of manufacturing nuclear weapons does not mean we should. God gave some of us great knowledge with which we can create great things, but with that there is also great power. . .and power can be abused. Armies with massive weaponry can either protect us or tempt our leaders to go where we don’t belong, or take what is not ours. Ventilators that can buy an ailing and damaged body the time to heal can also keep someone otherwise deceased “alive” for untold days, weeks, months, even years, without any hope of recovery. Where is the line between true greatness and hubris? How can we defeat the Siren’s song that lies deep within us all?

I don’t know if I have the answer to those questions. The line is gray, blurred, often shifting position depending on circumstances. All we can do is look deep within our heart, pray for guidance, and ask ourselves what our true motive is, whether it is money or fame or the hope for a solution to a much bigger problem. We can vote for leaders who are wise and willing to listen to their advisors, able to weigh all the possible outcomes to their actions and pick the best for all. . .even when every option on the table is undesirable in and of itself. As individuals, we should remember our words can hurt or they can heal, but they cannot be unsaid once out of our mouths. We should be more aware of our actions toward our family, friends, neighbors, even strangers. When you see someone in need and you look away, ask yourself why.

Humility is the opposite of hubris. It doesn’t mean living beneath our God-given talents, ignoring the knowledge we were born to achieve. But it does mean recognizing what is good and what is not, what will bring good to others and what will only bring good to us. Our naturally sinful nature means we will not, cannot, always succeed, but shouldn’t we at least try?

Fall From Grace
By Jane Yunker

Adam fell from God’s eye.
Not soft and gentle as
the seed of the milkweed
drifting on a warm breeze,
but a hard fast freefall,
like Icarus from the sun.
Hot arrogance melting
wax from his wings, releasing
feathers of selfishness
to flutter slowly after,
covering his body in sin.

Morning Coffee: Hallmark Addiction

Healing HeartI have a new addiction: Hallmark romance movies. Saturdays from ten in the morning to ten at night I can watch six Hallmark original movies about love and romance. In fact, that’s what I’m doing as I write this blog. Every now and then there’s an actress/actor/storyline that doesn’t interest me, or life interrupts and I have to record for later, but it no longer feels like Saturday without at least a couple Hallmark movies under my belt. Then I round out my weekend with their new Sunday night series, Chesapeake Shores. They make me laugh. They make me cry. They make me smile.

Week days are filled with a million responsibilities, chores, expectations. Our schedules both at work and at home keep us all hopping. Then there are the committees, the foundations, all the volunteer opportunities that allow us to give back to our communities and our churches. At the end of the day we are left with very little time for ourselves, sometimes even for those we love the most.

Everyone needs to make time in their life for a little love and romance…or a lot of love and romance. Not just romance movies and books, although I whole-heartedly recommend them, but through the little things we do for or with the one we love.

Turn off the television and turn on some nice music during dinner. Light a candle, pour some wine, and actually talk to each other, maybe get up and dance. Later, finish off that bottle of wine as you share a bubble bath. In between, wash those dinner dishes together. That’s right, you heard me, even washing the dishes can be romantic if done together. Your hands touch over the dish drainer; you brush against each other in passing.

Romance isn’t all grand gestures, expensive jewelry, or exotic vacations. It’s found in those small moments. It’s there when you laugh together about your day. It’s in the shoulder or foot rubs, the quick hug as you pass in the hall. It’s there when you kiss good night and again when you open your eyes in the morning and that person lying next to you smiles.

Romance isn’t only for the rich, young, and good-looking. Romance is free and it’s for everyone.

Morning Coffee: Plotter or Pantser II

Healing HeartWhen I wrote my first novel, Mary Bishop, I was very much a “pantser”. I sat down one day and just started writing, the story coming to me “by the seat of my pants”, so to speak. This worked for me because my heroine was telling me her story and insisting I get it down as fast as I could. Unfortunately, by the time I reached the end of my first draft this had become a problem. You see, while I wrote, questions came to mind; and as I answered those questions, I had to keep going back and making changes. Then when my critique group read my first draft they called me out for being lazy, leaving out long sections of time because it was easier than trying to answer some of the tougher questions about my heroine’s back story. They were right. This meant I had to go back and revise my existing chapters as well as add many new ones. I even added an entirely new character that had to now be accounted for throughout the book. By the time I was done, my manuscript had almost doubled in length and was, I admit, much improved. But it was accomplished over a longer period of time than necessary.

So, as I prepare to begin writing my second novel, The Healing Heart, I’m trying a new approach. I’m going to become a “plotter”. Some plotters map out their manuscript down to the last detail and then stick to that outline until the last word. Not me, I can’t go quite that far. I recognize my characters are going to insist on going their own way from time to time and I will want to follow them. But at the same time, if at all possible, I don’t want to find myself back in the position of having to do some of those same major rewrites I experienced the first time around.

I started with my characters. My friend Danielle shared with me her “character profile” form, two pages of questions meant to fully define each character’s past and present. This tool has proven to be invaluable. In order to answer each question I have to consider everything about them that makes them who they are, and it’s raised additional questions that are adding to my plot. I won’t use every little detail of their back stories, but they are more real to me now and will act according to the life experiences they’ve had in their past.

I’m currently researching my plotting questions. The Healing Heart takes place against a backdrop of WWI, the Spanish Flu epidemic, and early nursing. As a history major, I love research. With all this information at hand I’ll be able to craft a general outline of my plot and then, only then, will I be ready to start writing. Hopefully, even though all this pre-planning delays the start of my writing, it will make that part of the process go much smoother with fewer major revisions.

So, as the days grow shorter and the nights longer and colder, as the trees begin to show a hint of the bright colors to come, and I try to patiently await word from publishers regarding my first novel, join me as I happily delve into the world of my second novel.