Morning Coffee: Writers Write

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Writers write, and that’s something I haven’t been doing a lot of lately. My calendar has been pretty full for the last couple months; plus, I admit, I fell into a bit of a discouraged phase where I found it difficult to force myself back into the habit. So I turned to my wonderful writer friends for example and encouragement.

My WisRWA friends are the best! They’re always right there when someone needs a suggestion or just a little pick-me-up.

Writing is a tough business. You can pen a brilliant novel and have trouble selling it. Publishers are, of course, all about making money and your great American novel might not be what’s selling at the moment. Or, maybe they just bought a similar work from a name they know will sell on recognition alone. Again, you may have offered them the best book they’ve read in the last decade but if no one knows your name they might have trouble selling enough copies to clear their bottom line. It’s all in the timing, who you know, and who knows you. That’s where conferences come into play. You get to schmooze with editors and agents, pitch your novel, get your name and face out there.

But before a writer can get to the point of even worrying about such things…a writer has to write. I’m in between these two stages of my career. I have one completed novel I think is really good and another where I’m struggling to write that elusive first draft. It can be hard to work on the latter when the attempts to sell the former leave you questioning why you’re doing this to yourself in the first place.

I’m also finding my creative juices drained by my weekly search for a blog topic. With that in mind, I’m going to change from posting every week to every other week. I hope no one is too disappointed, but I figure it’s a win/win situation. You get better, more interesting, blog content and I get a steady flow of new chapters for my work-in-progress.

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Morning Coffee: The Wedding

SummerNot a wedding. The Wedding. You know which one I mean, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the handsome ginger-haired British prince and the divorced bi-racial American actress. The new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Until now, a storyline you’d only find in a romance novel.

Millions of people from around the world watched in awe, many getting up very early or staying up all night, so as to not miss a moment of the magic. There were the celebrities alongside the royals. There was the bride’s African American mother wiping tears of joy from her face while the groom’s family sat stoically and stone-faced in their seats; no doubt happy for the prince but just not accustomed to showing their emotions. And then there was the black American Episcopalian Rev Michael Curry who gave a beautiful and rousing sermon on love; again, much to the surprise of the royal family.

A lot was said about what everyone was wearing: the style, the designer, the color, and, of course, the hats. Leading up to the big day much was heard from the bride’s half-sister and half-brother about why they thought she was evil and hateful. Speculations were made over whether or not her father would be there to give her away…and ultimately, why not. I think there was probably more jealousy and tabloid money greed than heartfelt warnings behind their tales of woe.

What struck me the most, other than the beautiful clothes and flowers and people, was the love. The prince said, “You look amazing!” when his beautiful bride was handed to him at the altar. He could be seen wiping tears from his eyes on more than one occasion. The bride looked at him with a smile that could have lit all of St George’s Chapel brighter than any candles, electric lights, and the sun combined. They held hands during the ceremony. The Reverend was right when he spoke of “the redemptive power of love.” Love is everything. Love is all that matters. Before the ceremony I was uncertain whether or not I believed this marriage would last because the bride comes from such a different world than the groom. But when they looked at each other and said their vows I knew it was real. This is a love that can overcome everything thrown in its path. Perhaps because Prince Harry will never be king that pressure is off. He’s currently sixth in line to the throne. Or perhaps it’s because of Love. Love with a capital L.

*  Next week I’ll be on vacation. I’m going fishing in Canada and will be off the grid for a full week. I’ll be back on June 9th, when I’ll hopefully have a fish picture to rival my big catch of two years ago.

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June 2016

Morning Coffee: The Perfect Staycation

SummerCost aside, even in good times getting away on a vacation can be impossible. Parents’ work schedules. Kids’ school and sports schedules. What to do with the pets while you’re gone. All these things and more can get in the way of getting away; thus, the “staycation”. It’s a vacation without leaving the privacy of your own home. No crowds, no traffic, no impossibly long TSA screening lines at the airport.

A staycation can be as short or as long as you want. Maybe all you can manage is a quiet Sunday afternoon. That’s alright. Pop yourself a beer or pour a glass of wine, lemonade, if you prefer, and pick up the book of your choice. Within minutes you can be anywhere in the world or in another time period. If you prefer SciFi or Fantasy you can transport yourself onto an entirely different planet or a fantastical world of the author’s imagination. It doesn’t even have to be a work of fiction. A good biography can make you feel like you’ve just met the person you most admire. Perhaps you always wondered what it was like to fight for the Union army, or wished you were a fly on the wall during the coronation (or overthrow) of a great ruler. All these things and more can be found in a book.

Lately my life has become very busy. There have been the events already on my calendar and all those that came up last minute. This has prevented me from writing much more than this blog for almost two months; but I have still managed to do a lot of reading. There’s the benefit of studying how a favorite author, old or new, pieces together their story, as well as the chance to turn off all the to-do lists that keep scrolling through my brain. Even an hour or two before I turn off my light at night makes all the difference.

Right now I’m reading a non-fiction account of a then famous murder in 1889 Paris and the world-wide search for the guilty pair. The criminal forensics were new for the time. The woman involved claimed she was not guilty because she was under the hypnotic power of her lover and partner-in-crime. Naturally, he denied this. This led to a great debate over whether or not someone could be hypnotized to commit a crime they would never otherwise commit. All this was documented in detail in the newspapers, as well as the diaries of the detectives. Fascinating! I highly recommend Little Demon in the City of Light: a True Story of Murder in Belle Époque Paris by Steven Levingston.

With less than 100 pages to go I’m already planning my next read. The Drums of Autumn, part of the Highlander series by Diana Gabaldon. There’s nothing like a good book about men in skirts and time travel to take me away from the demands of the present.

What are you reading to get away?

Morning Coffee: Strong Women

SummerI love reading books about strong women. I’m currently reading “Last Woman Standing” by Thelma Adams. It’s about Josephine Earp, wife of the legendary Wyatt Earp, a Jewish girl from San Francisco who goes to Tombstone chasing the love of one man only to find it in the arms of another. Before that I read “The Last Tudor” by Philippa Gregory about the three Grey sisters: Jane, Katherine, and Mary. Lady Jane Grey was queen for nine days before being imprisoned and executed by her cousin, Queen Mary. Katherine was imprisoned and ignored by their cousin Queen Elizabeth until Katherine’s death. The youngest of them all and a little person, Mary Grey, was the only one strong enough to survive being imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth until her release.

A strong woman is not a bitch. A strong woman does not hurt others by climbing her way to the top over their backs. She does not have to be crude or rude or even ruthless. A strong woman believes in herself and can stand up for her beliefs. She doesn’t have to put down others in order to build herself up. Nor does she have to sleep her way to the top. She recognizes that sometimes doing the right thing means stopping to support another. She also knows when accepting the help of another is what’s right for her at that moment.

So many people have the wrong idea, the old antiquated idea, about romance novels. It’s been years since the main character was a weak woman who needed a man to save her from the bad guy; a woman who, when she says no really means yes; a woman who learns in the end that she really does love the bad boy who took charge and showed her the ways of love.

I write about strong women. In “Mary Bishop”, Mary learns just how strong she is when her husband’s strength fails him and she must rely on herself to hold their world together. And she learns her strength does not fail her when his death leaves her alone to fight those who would harm her, too. In “The Healing Heart”, Alice has to find her own strength when the influenza that almost takes her life does take the lives of her parents. When Alice’s fiancé returns from the war in France, a man damaged both physically and emotionally, she must decide if her strength is enough to bring him back to the man she fell in love with, or if it’s time to accept the love offered by another.

Strong women. Not mean women, or self-centered women. Strong women who recognize what they want in this world, but can also accept when what they want is not meant to be theirs. Strong women who don’t step on others, but also don’t allow others to step on them. Strong women grow tall in the knowledge of who they are, and who they can become.

Celebrate the strong women in your life. Be a strong woman.

Morning Coffee: New Friends/Old Friends

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Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.

Anyone who was a girl scout will recognize these lyrics. We sang it as a round at the campfire. It’s a lesson I still go back to from time to time.

I love my new silver friends since moving back to Wisconsin. There’s Julie, whose smile and laugh lifts my spirits every time. There are my WisRWA friends, most particularly Tina and Beth and Peg and Deb and Karen and Maureen, who encourage me and let me believe I can definitely write a publishable novel; particularly now that I’ve received another rejection.

Then there are my gold friends; the ones I grew up with, went to school with. I had the opportunity to meet up with them again this past weekend at our class reunion. (I’m not saying how many years.) We talked old memories and caught up on all that was new since the last time we got together.

Cindi and I have known each other since the first grade, spent a lot of time together as kids. As adults, well, life gets in the way. I went to college and she went straight into the work force. I moved to New York State while she stayed in Wisconsin. We both married, had children. Now she has grandchildren. We exchange birthday and Christmas cards, but our busy lives keep us from talking or getting together the way we should now that I’m back. We need to work on that.

We all have friends like Cindi. We might not spend a lot of time together, but when we do…well…it’s like we’ve never been apart. I have gold friends from my growing up years, as well as my years in New York. They’re all special to me. I know I wouldn’t be who I am now if it wasn’t for them being in my life back then. And I have my new silver friends. They will help make me who I will be in the future.

Morning Coffee: The Power of Nostalgia

feetNostalgia: a longing for pleasures, experiences, or events belonging to the past; intense homesickness.

We’ve all been there. A song comes on the radio and you’re back at the prom, maybe your first kiss…or whatever…in the backseat of your boyfriend’s car. You bite into a cookie and it reminds you of your grandmother’s recipe and there’s that moment where you miss her intensely all over again. This weekend I’ll be attending my class reunion. There will be lots of talk centered on “remember when”. Sometimes we’ll laugh; sometimes we’ll sigh, wondering where the years went. Hopefully most memories will be good ones, but inevitably some will not. We’ve already lost our share of classmates.

It’s why we treasure the photographs and videos. It’s why we’ll search endlessly for a recipe our mother or aunt or grandmother always made when we were children. It’s why we hit the dance floor without hesitation when “our song” begins to play. We love to remember what was in the past; the things we want to carry into our future. Nostalgia plays a major role in our holiday and special event celebrations.

A recent news story took me back to my childhood. One of my favorite candies may soon be gone. NECCO Wafers. I hadn’t thought of them in years, yet the moment I heard they may soon be discontinued I felt a panicked need to find them and buy them by the box. Commentators are debating whether or not they were any good to begin with. Some make faces and declare them tasteless and they’re glad they’ll be gone; but I’m tightly entrenched with those who say they were wonderful! Are wonderful!

The history of the NECCO Wafer is a long one. “In 1847, a young English immigrant, Oliver Chase, invented the first American candy machine, a lozenge cutter. After initial success selling his new candy, he and his brother, Silas Edwin, founded Chase and Co., which became the pioneer member of the New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) family. Over the years, NECCO Wafers became so popular that in 1913 the famed Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan gave them to Eskimo children on his journeys to the North. And in the 1930’s Admiral Byrd included 2 ½ tons of NECCO Wafers in his supply list for a two year stay in the Antarctic. Then, during WWII, the U.S. Government requisitioned a major portion of production for American soldiers serving in WWII, as the wafers didn’t melt and rarely broke during transport. Today, approximately 630 million NECCO Wafers are made each year. Placed edge to edge, they would go around the world twice!” (http://www.necco.com/candy/wafers.aspx)

I will definitely be searching out a supply to stock up on…just in case they really do go away.