Friday, January 22, 2016

It's All in the Name

The rough draft of my first novel is crammed in a loose leaf binder and stuck on the shelf within arm's reach as I sit here at the computer. I haven't touched it in a couple of months, but that doesn't mean I'm not working on it.

A woman in my Tuesday morning short story discussion group grew up in William Faulkner's neighborhood. She said all the children disliked the old man in the white suit who walked through the neighborhood without speaking and took great delight in finding plausible excuses for splashing him  with the water hose.

A relative of Loretta Lynn's said it's taking your life in your hands to ride in the car when Loretta is driving and thinking about a new song. The better the song, the faster she drives.

I'm not in the same league with either of these highly creative people, but I know the feeling. The characters you make up take over your mind. Faulkner was preoccupied with populating an entire Mississippi county of fictional characters. He never saw the children or realized he'd been splashed. 

The challenge is to create believeable people, put them in an environment that rings true to them and put them through a believeable series of events.

My rough draft is populated with characters that have developed depth and maturity in my mind since I stuck the notebook on the shelf. Part of the maturity took place in the course of the writing process while the rest continues to build as I follow my usual daily routine.

In the meantime, results of a recent DNA test has extended my family tree and provided me with a number of great surnames for fictional characters. Names can go a long way towards communicating the personality of the character to the reader. The villan in my novel will carry the surname of either Slaughter or Conn.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Hole in My Life

Today would have been my mother's nintieth birthday. She died 37years ago. The sense of loss is no longer as raw as it was when she first died, but I don't think anyone ever gets over losing someone they love. We merely learn to accept the loss, deal with the consequences and take comfort where we can find it.

When faced with a problem not readily solved, I've learned to step back and think what Mother would have said; how she would have reacted. It's comforting, but there's always going to be a hole in my life where she belonged.

The older I get and the more people I lose, the more I feel like I'm living a Swiss cheese kind of life.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Is That You, Lou?

There was some confusion with the phone company when we first moved to New Jersey regarding our phone number. They gave us one already in use by a fella named Lou who sounded like he knew his way around the Garden State Parkway to the Pine Barrens in south Jersey and could easily lay his hand on some fresh cement and a tub.

Our phone rarely rang the first month. After living with three teenage girls, it was downright eerie. Then the phone company contacted us to explain. I put in a call to Lou, got his answering machine and left a detailed message with what was probably way too much information including our correct number.

Our phone started ringing off the hook later the next day. Every caller reported they'd had the nicest conversation with a really nice man named Lou who knew all about us and our situation. My "the glass is always half empty" beloved spouse feared some great huge man was going to rush up to one of us in a crowd and kiss us on both cheeks before blasting us into eternity.

Nothing of the sort did happen of course, but several weeks later, we got a call. Some man wanted to talk to Lou.

There's a wide range of accents in this country; some of them are almost laughable. But experience taught us that people are the same everywhere no matter how they sound.

Saturday, January 9, 2016


Our son has had two best friends since the third grade. One of them is married and expecting a baby in the next few months. He lives in southern California only a few hours drive from where our son lives in Sacramento. They talk on the phone now and again and visit in person once in a while.

Old friendships are precious; especially this one. This man's grandmother was best friends with the priest who married Jack Stewart and me. He was the pastor at the Catholic Student Union at U T Austin. The grandmother teasingly called him Marrying Sam after the character in Little Abner.

Once the Christmas decorations were put away, I pulled out my baby yarn and pattern collection and started a afghan. A prayer and happy wish for this new life goes in each and every stitch.

The afghan is about four inches long now, and I have the pattern pretty well under control. There's one minor mistake at the very beginning, but as my knitting guru always says, the baby will hang a toe in one of the lacey parts and pull something loose. No one will ever notice the mistake.

It's always comforting to have a long knitting project for the cold weather. It warms the knitter's lap as it grows.

Distribution of Raiders and Horse Thieves is going well for a first book from a total unknown. The publisher printed 515 copies in the first printing, and as of last Monday, 243 had been ordered.

Next week I'll return to my usual irregular blogging schedule. In the meantime, if you hear loud regular clicks in the far distance, it's only me knitting and praying away.