Friday Favorites: Character Chat—Loralee’s Lyrics

Guest blogger: Loralee Anderson, character from Murder on Music Row

Hey ya’ll,

Just on principle, I’m not gonna bitch about Amy hacking into our blog a few weeks ago. Nan posted last week that I couldn’t let it go, but I can to, damn it. I’m just pissed Amy had the balls to do it in the first place. Oh, I know she’s the widow and I should maybe cut her some slack but hell’s bells it was downright tacky for her to post on our blog.  I guess it seems like I’m the bad person here, not her, so that’s all I’m gonna say on the subject.  Except Amy needs to mind her own business and keep her cotton-picking nose out of our blog in the future. See. I’ve let it go.

Nan also told you me and her took Gracie and Abby (Kat’s kids) bike riding a couple of weeks ago. I did take a tumble like Nan said, but it weren’t no fault of my own. The brakes failed—I swear they did—and that’s why I ended up being throwed off the bike when I missed the curve. At least there was bushes to break my fall some, but even so I got a big old bruise on the top of my leg and more on my arm and shoulder. I was wearing a helmet so I didn’t get no brain concussion or nothing serious like that.

When I fell there was several walkers and runners in the area and they crowded round me like I was a steak on a grill. Then this one guy told everbody else to back off cause he was a doctor and cause I needed air to breathe. Well let me tell you when I saw him, I could hardly breathe at all and it weren’t because of the fall. It was cause he was hot, hot, hot. He told me his name was Sean and he’s a ER resident at Vanderbilt, but a resident is still a bona fide medical doctor, they just ain’t got their specialty license or something. Remember that guy from the TV show The Bachelor who was finishing his residency at Vanderbilt who picked the kindergarten teacher from Nashville to get his final rose even though they did the show somewhere in Europe, I think, but then they ended up not getting married and he moved to Colorado and now he does a TV show with some other doctors? Well this guy was even hotter than the bachelor doctor and the bachelor doctorTravis I think his name washe was cute as a puppy.

Pretty much everbody went back to their walking or running or whatever they were doing before my crash while Sean checked me over to make sure I didn’t have no broken bones. Nan and the girls were there lickidee split and Nan told Sean she’d take care of me. Now that was one time I wish she’d hadn’t been so Johnny on the spot or gone ahead and took the girls to the car or something. I didn’t get nearly a long enough exam. I asked him for his name and number in case I had a question or anything and he gave it to me even though I was sweaty and dirty and my hair looked like crap from wearing that helmet, but since it probably saved my life I can’t complain too much.

We stayed a while when we dropped the girls off then Nan brought me home and made sure I was comfortable and had everthing I needed before she left. My leg and arm had already turned purple as a eggplant and were sore as heck, but other than that I was fine. I thought it only proper to call the doctor and let him know I was going to be ok since he took the time to make sure I weren’t hurt bad. And I needed to tell him thank you again—that’s just good manners.

So I called his cell #—that’s the one he gave me—and a little girl answered. When I asked to speak to the doctor she yelled, “Daddy.” I almost peed in my pants. He was a daddy? That meant there was a mommy, unless he was divorced and had the little girl for the weekend but if that was the case where was she when he was out riding his bike that afternoon?

I know I was calling to say thank you and to let him’ know I was ok, but the first words out of my mouth when he answered were, “You’re married?” I don’t know how, but he recognized my voice and totally ignoring my question he ask how my injuries from my spill on the bike was.  I told him I was fine and thanked him again for taking care of me—that was the purpose of the call, after all. Then I asked him why he didn’t have on a wedding band if he was married and had kids. He just laughed and said he was glad I was ok and hung. Can you believe that?

Now, Nan might date married men, but I don’t. I reason if they cheat on their wives with me they’d cheat on me with some other bimbo—not that I’m a bimbo, mind you. But I just don’t think it’s right that married doctors (or lawyers or whatever) go around without their wedding rings, especially if they’re gonna rescue single women when they’re in trouble. I think there ought to be a law that if you’re married you have to have your wedding band on when talking to someone who ain’t married.

But I’m just one person and even though nobody’s ever accused me of being old fashioned this is one thing that sticks in my craw. What do you readers think about this subject? I’m real curious to know. If a lot of us feel this way maybe I’ll start a campaign to get legislation passed in Congress or something.

I guess I have been on a soapbox today. I’ll be better next time. I promise.

~Loralee

Wildcard Wednesday: RIB’s (Random Idea Blurbs)

As writers we get ideas all the time. My problem is remembering them. I always think this time I’ve got it, then I’ll remember I had something to recall, but that’s as far as it goes. To keep what’s left of my sanity I’ve had to develop techniques for remembering what I call RIB’s (random idea blurbs).

Ideas can come from numerous sources—newspapers, television, real-life situations … While I am certainly against plagiarism, I also know there are few, if any, new ideas out there.  Pretty much everything has been thought and/or written in some form or fashion previously.  The trick is to take an idea and make it unique—to write it in my words, in my voice with my personal spin on it. Then it’s mine.

A lot of writers claim they get their ideas from dreams. I’ve always had an active dream life. In college I’d work on a calculus problem for hours and still not have an answer. Then I’d go to bed and my subconscious would take over and solve the problem. I learned, however, if I didn’t get up and write down the solution immediately it was gone forever. Likewise, I often dream of plotlines, characters, settings, etc. I know at the time (in my almost awake/almost asleep place) that it’s the best idea since Chick-Fil-A diet lemonade, but if I don’t write it down right then, it’s gone. It’s very difficult to leave a warm bed and great snuggle partner to get up to write something down so I’ve lost many (brilliant, I’m sure) ideas through the years. I’ve finally learned to keep a notepad and pen next to my bed.  It’s not uncommon to hear, “What are you doing?” from said snuggle partner as I frantically scrawl in the dark.  Then the problem is deciphering my scribbles the next day.

Writers are notorious eavesdroppers.  I’ve been known to sit (alone) with my laptop in a coffee shop or restaurant and type the conversations I hear around me. When I look at it later, sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t but I believe it creeps back in when I need it whether I got it recorded or not.

Another place the idea muse likes to tease me is while I’m driving, and always in traffic. I also keep a notepad and pens in my car, but have learned (the hard way) to only make notes while I’m at a complete stop. To remember the idea until I can write it down I frequently find myself repeating it over and over or making a song out of it. At least with Bluetooth technology, I no longer look like an idiot—or if I do, there are lots of other idiots singing their ideas too.

Mediation is a great place for ideas, though the whole point of meditation is to clear one’s mind of thoughts. Well, I’ll just tell you, a clear mind invites idea invasion. I suppose I could always interrupt the meditation to write down the idea, but that seems disrespectful of the process so I use the idea as my mantra and retain it by chanting the mantra which ironically often leads back to a meditative state.

Recently I found a new place for ideas. Hubby and I got bikes a few weeks ago and like to ride on local greenways. Understand I’ve not ridden a bike since I was a child—when brakes were on the pedals and there was no such thing as gears, at least not on my bike—so riding takes my full concentration. I even find getting on and off the bike to be a challenge. Anyway, last weekend we were riding along a river with lots of trees foliage on either side. I motioned for Hubby to come up next to me so I could talk to him. He pedaled up probably expecting yet another question about what gear to use on a hill, but instead I told him this would be a great place to murder someone. I explained in the long isolated stretches of this greenway a villain could quickly ambush a walker and pull him out of sight. As long as they kept the victim quiet and didn’t leave clues on the greenway other walkers/bikers would be none the wiser. I was all into the idea until I heard him explaining to the walkers behind us I’m a writer, not a murderer. It’s sort-of like the TV show Castle (which I know is procedurally awful, but I like the show anyway). The intro starts in the voice of novelist Richard Castle. “There are two kinds of folks that sit around thinking about how to kill people.  Psychopaths and me, do I look like a killer to you?”

Where do you get ideas and how do you remember them? Curious writers want to know.

Until Friday when one of the characters from MURDER ON MUSIC ROW will return as my guest blogger,

Kay

Manic Monday: Are you in color?

Do you dream in color? Do you think in color? Do you write in color? I know I dream and think in color, but do I write in color?

I use color as a part of my process when I am writing. I use different colored fonts or highlight words or sections as cues to myself to come back to check them. Either I need to research something, but don’t want to interrupt my writing flow, or it’s just not right and I want to see if I can get it to work better on another day.

Even though I consider myself a writer (right-brained), I also have a pretty strong analytical side. When I was gainfully employed, I had a reputation for doing everything by color-coded Excel spreadsheets and it was a reputation that fit. I still use spreadsheets to make lists and whenever I have to plan things and I find color-coding them comes naturally. For example, as I start the query process on my novel, MURDER ON MUSIC ROW, I’ll have a list of agents I want to query. I’ll only send out a few queries at a time—maybe five—and I’ll highlight those in one color, say turquoise. If I get a request for a partial, I’ll change the color to yellow or to green if the request is for a full. Rejections will be highlighted in red and those waiting to be sent won’t be highlighted at all. Then, at a glance, I will  know if I need to send more out and where I stand on the others.

One of the blogs I follow is called ProBlogger. This is a guy who knows all of the tricks of blogging and has turned blogging into a very profitable profession for himself (and others). I was reading a post of his recently and saw he also uses color. To see his take on it, click here.

But all of this is literally using color, using it as a visual, as an aid—not writing in color. I want to write in color. I want my readers to see what I see, but I also want to engage their imaginations. To describe someone or something  just as I see it would be too much description and wouldn’t allow the reader to put his/her own spin on it. My job is to weave description in so as you read you create a picture in your mind. Does it have to look identical to my image? Of course not. We’re all going to put our slant on it—tall, dark and handsome to me might be tall, dark and ugly to you so you use my description to create the images that works for you. Too many details not only bog down the story, but also fail to give the reader enough credit to think for him/herself.

Having said that, it’s extremely important I know much more about my characters, settings, etc. than what is in the book. I need to know the color of house Joe lived in growing up, but unless it’s relevant, I don’t need to include it in the story. It’s a pretty delicate line to walk, giving enough description to engage the reader’s imagination but not so much that they don’t have to think at all. I want certain details to be vibrant, to stand out and be distinct to the reader, but the finer details only I need to know, I don’t want them to distract from the story.

So even though I see my characters, settings, plots—everything about my writing—in vivid color, do I give enough description to convey images that are in color for the reader? I If I’m using description effectively, then I do.

What about you? Do you dream, think and write in color? Do you have any tricks for doing it?

Until Wednesday …

~Kay

Friday Favorites: Character Chat—Nan’s Notes

Guest blogger: Nan Macomb, character from MURDER ON MUSIC ROW

Hi everyone,

It’s been a while since I’ve guest blogged. Fridays are becoming busy days.

A lot of you have wondered if it upset me when Amy blogged a couple of weeks ago. Even though she took a couple of pot shots at me, it really didn’t bother me. In fact, I’m taking the high road here and going to let you decide from HER posts how you feel about my ex-lover’s widow. Now Loralee, that’s another matter. She’s harped about Amy “hacking” into our blog for two weeks now. I hope she’s over it before she posts again. We’re all tired of hearing about it.

I had a new experience tonight—reflexology on my feet. I’ve had lots of pedicures and massages, but I’m new to reflexology. There’s no reason I haven’t tried it before—I’m not ticklish or anything—I’ve just never thought much about it … until this week.

The Titans played Monday night so Sunday afternoon was a rare non-football Sunday for Nashvillians. The weather was perfect (in the 60’s) and the colors of fall are close to peak. It was a spectacular day to be outside and Kat’s girls wanted to ride their bikes. They usually go as a family, but Josh had to work and Kat went to a baby shower so Loralee and I said we’d take them. I was a little surprise they trusted us with them after the last time we babysat—but that was a slumber party. I guess they don’t think we can get in trouble during the daytime. Boy, were they wrong!

I’ve not ridden a bike in over ten years, but when I lived in NYC I worked as a bicycle messenger while I was in cosmetology school so I’m an extremely competent rider. Loralee, on the other had hadn’t ridden since we were kids and as I recall she didn’t ride much then. Part of it has to do with her height—at 5’12” she has to have a pretty big bike—but Josh is taller than she is so she used his bike and I used Kat’s.

They have a portable bike rack that they put on Kat’s orange mommy-mobile so Loralee traded cars with her for the afternoon. Josh got them loaded up, showed Lor how to get them off and put them back on, and off we went—to one of Nashville’s beautiful greenways.

Since they ride all the time, Gracie (7) and Abby (5) set the pace. Abby got her training-wheels off earlier this summer and boy can she scoot. I had to remind them there is a 10 MPH speed limit on the greenway and walkers have the right-of-way. I let Lor go ahead of me mainly because I didn’t want her to fall and be stranded behind us. Her phone, as usual, had zero charge. I ask you how hard is it to put the thing on a charger when she goes to bed at night? For her it’s apparently like rocket science, because she can’t seem to manage it.

We planned to ride about ten miles and then go get ice cream. We made it fine to our turn-around point and were headed back to the car when Loralee lost control of her bike. I’ll admit it was a pretty steep hill—we all had to get off our bikes and push when we’d gone up it—but for goodness sakes, that’s what brakes are for. Anyway, she goes zooming past the girls who thought she was just being funny. But when she got to the steep curve at the bottom, she didn’t make it and took quite a tumble. Yes, she was wearing a helmet (Thank God). By the time the girls and I got to her she’d attracted quite the crowd. Now you know Loralee—the girl does love attention—so she was moaning and groaning like there was no tomorrow. Luckily one of the runners who’d stopped is an ER doctor so he took a look at her and said she might be bruised and sore the next day but otherwise she was fine. While she would have preferred a more dramatic diagnosis, he was a cutie patootie and she was satisfied to get his number, in case she needed follow-up treatment. You’d think I’d be use to it by now but her boldness still manages to shock me. She hasn’t mentioned it, but I guarantee you she called him that night.

We managed to make it back to the car, her bitching and griping the whole way. The girls were getting cranky and I had to keep reminding them about ice cream. When we got to the car, she got in and left me to get the bikes back on the rack. Now remember, Josh showed her how to do this, not me, and it’s pretty important to do it right because losing a bike on the highway could be a major problem. She’d laid the passenger seat down and refused to get out to show me how to put the straps on. The girls tried to help, but at 7 and 5, I don’t exactly trust their expertise. Then, wouldn’t you know it, Dr. C. P. finished his run and his silver Lexus convertible was parked right next to us. He offered to secure the bikes—I was about ready to cram them in the back of the car—and twice in one day became our hero. When Lor heard his voice she, oh so bravely hobbled to the back of the car ready to assist.

We took the girls to Maggie Moo’s for ice cream before we dropped them off at home and traded cars again. Loralee recanted her mishap in minute detail to Josh and Kat who were both already home when we finally made it back. While Kat cleaned up Lor’s scrapes, Josh and I had a glass of wine on the patio and I told him my account of the day. It was almost dark when I drove Lor’s car back to her apartment and picked up mine. She insisted I help her up the stairs and get her settled.  She plopped on the couch with her remote control and I brought an ice bucket full of ice with a couple of cold beers buried in it. I got her a blanket, some pillows to prop her leg up on, and made sure the phone was nearby. I even got her a bag of frozen peas to put on her sore spots.  By the time I left I more mentally fatigued than physically tired from the bike ride.

I wasn’t even sore the next day—I think it’s all the stretching and yoga I do. But the arches of my feet hurt. I mean they really hurt. When I got out of bed, I could barely put weight on them. I take Monday off, so I could hobble around the house but I had to work on Tuesday. As a hair dresser I’m on my feet all day every day so it’s been a tough week. I wore a different pair of shoes every day—tennis shoes, boots, Crocs, even bedroom slippers—but by the end of the day, my feet ached. I tried soaking them in Epson salts. I tried rolling them on a frozen water bottle (not fun!). I tried everything I could think of and nothing helped.

It’s hard to remain professional when your feet hurt so I told most of my clients about my pain. One suggested reflexology and even called her reflexologist and made an appointment for me before she even left my house. I went tonight and WOW. They say in your feet (and hands and ears) there are pressure points that correlate to all of your organ systems and a session can help everything from headaches to constipation.  I don’t know about all that, but it is a damned good foot rub. I sat in the most comfortable recliner I’ve ever been in—kind of like a pedicure chair but better—and she wrapped my feet in hot towels. They she started working on them through the towels. She took off the towels and put lotion or oil or something on them and really did some deep tissue work, then she repeated the towel part. I’m here to tell you this stuff is better than sex (well, it is when your feet hurt). She told me some places do a massage first and then end with thirty minutes of reflexology. I think I may have just found heaven on earth. Try it and see what you think.

Until next time,

~Nan

Wildcard Wednesday: Football and Dancing or Why I’m Angry with ABC

Well, it happened again. ABC preempted Dancing with the Stars with Monday night football.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Tennessee Titans and took great pleasure in watching them shut down the Jacksonville Jaguars.  I’m sad our quarterback, Vince Young, sprained his knee in the first quarter, but according to today’s Tennessean, it looks like he might be able to play against the Eagles Sunday. It must have been a deja vu moment for him as it was an injury while playing the Jags that benched him for most of the 2008 season. Young’s injury Monday night gave veteran Kerry Collins a chance to lead the 30-3 romp in Florida.

Kerry’s had his ups and downs during his career, but he was 13-3 after Vince got hurt two years ago AND he’s pushing 40. Two really good reasons to admire him in my book. The best reason to respect him is  he tackled a fairly public battle with alcohol addiction, went to treatment and is now in recovery.  That’s an accomplishment for anyone but even more so for someone constantly under public scrutiny.  In addition, according to Wiki he’s one of the most charitable players in the NFL. For example, after signing with Carolina his rookie year, Collins permanently endowed the QB position at his alma mater, Penn State. In 2005, he donated $1000 for every touchdown he threw to the American Red Cross for the Katrina relief fund. These are just two examples of his generosity.

As much as I admire Collins  and support the Titans—I wear Titans clothing on all game days—dancing ranks a notch above them on my totem pole. I DO NOT miss Dancing with the Stars (DWTS). My friends and family know not to call on Monday night–I could do a whole post on things I’ve done to be in front of a television on Monday’s.

When the Titans have the honor of playing Monday Night Football, our local ABC affiliate preempts DWTS to show the football game.  Then they show DWTS at some ungodly hour like 1:00 a.m. I could almost (but not completely) understand if ABC was the only network showing Monday Night Football, but it isn’t. It is also on ESPN–you know the channel designated for sports. The redundancy is infuriating.

Why does it matter? DWTS is a reality show. I know. I know. I said I’d never get hooked on reality TV, but this is an exception—it’s about dance and as a wannabe dancer, DWTS could be considered educational. OK, that’s a stretch, but back to why it matters. As a reality show, fans vote for their favorites to come back the following week. Voting is for a finite period of time, by time zone, and when the show finally airs (like I’d stay up to watch it at 1 anyway), the voting period is over. Do I really think MY votes would make a difference? Of course not, but I do think it’s possible the votes of all viewers in pre-empted areas might.

So yesterday when I settled in with my TiVo to watch the middle-of-the-night broadcast, what did I get? Jimmy Kimmel. I hit fast forward and about an hour into the two hour segment, DWTS started. Of course when the two hours ended, the show wasn’t over. So I clicked on Castle (also preempted and also TiVo-ed) and got the rest of DWTS and the start of Castle … but then it cut off after the first few minutes of Castle. By the way, the programming is automatic, not manual. I’ve set my TV to always record new episodes of certain shows and these are two of them.

Now I know Castle is a procedural joke among crime writers (just ask Lee Lofland), but it’s a damned cute show. The energy between Castle and Becket is similar to that of Remington Steele oh so many years ago.

Finally, the obvious—yes, I can watch these episodes on my computer, but not in real time. Truth be told it’s early enough in the DWTS season that I’m not vested in who stays and who goes and probably wouldn’t have voted this week anyway (though I did hate to see Florence Henderson voted off). Chances are, if shown simultaneously, I would have flipped back and forth between the Titans and DWTS/Castle. (That remote control disease isn’t exclusive to males, I’ve found.) The difference is I would’ve flipped to DWTS/Castle during football commercials, zoomed through DTWT/Castle not watching their commercials, then gone back to the game until its next commercial, then zoomed some more, etc.

Yes, I know it all comes down to the almighty buck. ABC is going to make lots more money showing beer commercials during a football game than Slim Fast commercials during DWTS. But it still irks me that I don’t have the choice to watch “my shows” real time on Monday night if the Titans are playing. Rest assured, though. I’m not watching the commercials regardless.

Until Friday when one of the characters from MOMR will be back to guest blog.

~Kay

Manic Monday: Where oh where did that blog I liked go?

It’s already been a big week for me. Yesterday I guest blogged for agent and blogger extraordinaire Nathan Bransford. Woo hoo! What an honor. And today is my 50th post on my own blog since creating it earlier this year. If I wanted to be literal, I suppose yesterday’s post on Nathan’s blog would actually have been my 50th, making it my golden post, using traditional anniversary symbols. There’s something poetic about that, I think.

I’ve followed Nathan’s blog (as well as those of several other agents) for some time now. I also follow the blogs of friends and people I’ve met online, my favorite authors, and those of a couple of publishers. I’ve struggled with finding a good way to keep up with the blogs I liked. I tried subscribing so they came to my e-mail—and then either deleted them or put them in a “to be read” file that never got read. I tried making the blogs one of my favorites but usually forgot about it until I was looking for something else. I tried putting the links in a document titled “Favorite Blogs” on my desktop but it too would remain unopened. I even tried adding them to my toolbar but they got in the way of all the other links I’d put there.  None of my methods worked and I found myself reluctant to add additional blogs, no matter how much I liked them, to a dysfunctional system.

I discovered Google Reader when I took an online blogging class and the teacher wanted us to follow each other’s posts. Eureka! A simple way to organize my favorite blogs. There may be other (and maybe even better) ways to do this but GR works for me.

With Google Reader, I have all the blogs I follow in one place, sorted and organized in folders I’ve named. Since using GR I’ve found I’m much more likely to add a blog to my reading list because I know I’ll actually read it. For example, I think Nathan is going to have a total of ten guest bloggers while he’s away from his office. As I’ve read these posts each day (and marveled that mine is one of them) I’ve added their blogs to my GR in a folder titled Nathan’s Guest Bloggers and Others so I’ll remember where I found them. I’m also adding the blogs of those who left interesting comments or who visited my blog and left a comment (thus the “others”. Now I open my reader from my toolbar, scan my topics for “new” posts and read them as they come in. If you get way behind you can mark everything as “read” and start over.

Maybe I’m the only person in computer-land who was unaware of its existence, but just in case there are others, I’ll tell you a little more about Google Reader. It works like an inbox for the entire web. It constantly checks news sites and blogs you’ve designated for new information. When there’s an update the category and title become bold just like a new e-mail. It can read both Atom and RSS feeds—I guess that’s good—either online or off line.

Supposedly GR works on any mobile phone browser too. I’m not there yet—I’m doing good just to check my e-mail and use the GPS on my DROID. Even then I have to find reading glasses to read the oh-so-small display. Other, more advanced (for me), features include creating a GR public page where one can share favorites by sending links to friends. There’s also a customizable clip that displays the items you’ve shared on your website or blog’s sidebar according to the online information about Google Reader.

Maybe one day I’ll venture out and try some of its other features, but for now I like how Google Reader organizes my blogs so I actually remember to read them. If you’re interested in adding this technology to your computer just Google it (sorry, I couldn’t resist) “Google Reader” and follow the directions. It must be easy. I did it.

Until Wednesday,

~Kay

Friday Favorites: Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink

As a departure from my usual Friday blogs where either I do a contest, an author interview or one of the characters from MURDER ON MUSIC ROW does a guest post, today I am participating in Blog Action Day—a chance for bloggers world-wide to raise awareness of a particular issue. This year the issue is water.

This seems like a fitting topic for a Nashville author to tackle because on May 1st and 2nd this year, Nashville had its worst flood in history. Many people are still homeless, our world-renown symphony hall remains closed as are other businesses—some forever.  One employer alone (Gaylord, i.e. Opryland) laid off over 1200 employees, though I’m happy to say the Opryland Hotel recently reopened and I presume most of the unemployed got their jobs back. The one-story mall next door, Opry Mills, is still closed with the exception of Bass Pro Shop and they worked around the clock for months to reopen. A few of the other stores in the mall relocated to higher ground, but most remain closed.

The flood was devastating, yet Nashville is somehow stronger for having survived it. There is more of a sense of community than before. There was little crime or looting during the weeks following the flood. Everyone was trying to help those less fortunate than themselves, and there was always someone less fortunate. I did several posts on The Flood of 2010, as it is being called. To read them go here, here or here.

I remember when I was in the fourth or fifth grade traveling from my home in south Alabama to visit relatives about two hours away in Pensacola, Florida. To get there we had to drive over a fairly long bridge and miles and miles of causeway. I piped up in the back seat and said, “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.” My mother thought I was brilliant quoting Coleridge at such a young age. I actually misquoted the stanza from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner that goes:  “Water, water, everywhere,/And all the boards did shrink;/Water, water, everywhere,/Nor any drop to drink.”

Though precocious, I wasn’t brilliant. I’m pretty sure I didn’t know who or what a Coleridge was. I was simply quoting the lead story in a recent edition of Weekly Reader, the student-targeted current events magazine we got every Friday as a part of our social studies class. This had been a cover story and, as I recall, it talked about how water covered about three-quarters of the earth’s surface.

At the time, I wasn’t very good with fractions and was still trying to figure out how why a quarter of a dollar was twenty-five cents and a quarter of an hour was only fifteen minutes. Was three-quarters of the earth’s surface a 3/4 of 100 or a 3/4 of 60?  (Remember this was in 4th or 5th grade and was a LONG time ago, before fractions were taught in kindergarten and certainly before my cognitive thinking kicked in). I was, however, smart enough to recognize this was a whole heck of a lot of water.

I e-mailed Weekly Reader to see if by chance they had the issue I so vaguely remember digitized and if I could get a copy. I haven’t heard from them but I did learn Weekly Reader Publishing is over 100 years old and the first classroom edition of their magazine was for the fourth grade in 1928. Wow.

I’m not sure my interpretation of blogging about water is what the good folks promoting Blog Action Day had in mind. I think they wanted me to tell you something more like:

~ African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink.

~ Nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions each week.

~ A report commissioned by the United Nations found that in the 21st century water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict (war) in Africa.

~ Every day 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of in water sources.

~ Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs the global economy $12.8 bill a year.

~ Today, 40% of America’s rivers and 45% of America’s lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming or aquatic life.

Where did I get these statistics?  It’s just a small portion of the information sent to me in regards to Blog Action Day 2010, powered by Change.org.

I apologize for the bleak message on a Friday when usually I send you into the weekend on a much lighter note.  I’m seldom accused of being an activist, but the water situation on our planet is something about which we all should be cognizant. Even so, I hope you have a wonderful, fun-filled weekend.

~Kay

P.S. Don’t forget I’m the guest blogger for the infamous Nathan Bransford on Sunday.  My post is recycled from my blog, but it will be more special on his! Check it out. Leave a comment. “Like” it.

Wildcard Wednesday: Writing Contests and Such

It’s difficult enough for a writer to maintain focus without the distraction of contests and other avenues for getting one’s work published, but the truth is these distractions abound. The Catch 22 is publishing credits might make an agent/editor take a closer look at a submission, but submitting for contests, literary journals, magazines, etc. can take on a life of its own.

I’ve avoided these sinkholes of time ever since I won first place (and $100) in the first short story contest I entered. I figured there was no place to go but down from there. (I also got a surprise divorce the same month and had other things—like moving to a new city and finding a paying job—on my mind.)

Anyway, as I was trolling blogs (i.e. procrastinating) early last week, I saw Nathan Bransford, a big-name agent and blogger was holding a “Guest Blog Contest Festival Event” and entries had to be submitted within 2 1/2 days.

Truthfully, I’ve looked at many contests over the years and thought I might like to enter, but just never got around to it. Fear, forgetfulness, fatigue—who knows the reason? The point is I didn’t feel strongly about submitting anything until I finished my novel.

But this contest had a looming deadline and I had several months’ worth of posts from my blog I could peruse, cut and paste, and then submit. How hard could it be? Really. I went back through my posts that remotely had anything to do with writing and selected one. I logged onto Nathan’s site and saw over fifty people had already posted entries, and another full day remained before the contest closed. I opened a few submission from other bloggers—damn, they were good. I already had my post on my clipboard, so I might as well post it, right? RIGHT! I posted it. I forgot it. I went back to writing other things.

Thursday afternoon, I saw I had an e-mail from Nathan Bransford himself.  My first thought—how nice of him to send a form rejection for the entries he didn’t select—classy too. I read the e-mail and it said he liked my post. Well, that was kind—rejection letters for my book usually say they liked it, but it wasn’t a good fit for their agency.  (BTW, that’s called a form rejection.) Back to Nathan … he said he liked my entry AND he wanted me to be his guest blogger for Sunday 10/17. I jumped up, danced around the room and repeated Sally Field’s Academy Award speech, “He liked it; he really liked it.”  I called my husband. I called my sister. I called … well no one else actually. I decided to wait and announce it here.

Honestly, it took me an hour to settle down enough to send him the short BIO he’d requested. (I’m afraid to go back and read it—I think I thanked him fourteen times.) If I get this excited when someone allows me to guest post (granted on a well-respected, very popular Blog) what will happen when an agent offers representation or (gasp) someone wants to publish my book? Can my heart stand it? I’d sure like to test it.

Nathan (we’re on a first name basis now) posted on his Friday (October 8th) blog, “there were actually so many spectacular entries that I decided to expand the number of contest winning slots. That’s right folks, this blog is going seven days a week. … I have notified the winners, but shant reveal them so as to preserve the surprise.”

I doubt if I’ve spoiled his surprise by announcing I’m going to be one of his guest bloggers, but I’ve kept it to myself (well, I haven’t posted it anywhere) for almost a week. A girl can only go so long without sharing good news! I’m excited, but I’m also nervous. Nathan’s blog frequently gets hundreds of comments per day. The first guest bloggers have been well received with lots and lots of comments. What if NO ONE comments on mine? I only had two when I posted it on my own blog and one of those was mine commenting to the other comment. The most I’ve ever gotten for a single post was sixteen and I was giving away a book from a best-selling author. And what if some of his followers do like the post and decide to check out my blog? What do I have to do to keep them coming back? Oh, the pressure is on.

So now what? I need to forget it until Sunday when I’ll probably post it on Facebook and Twitter and hope some of my friends will go to Nathan’s blog and leave a comment about what a brilliant guest blogger I am. I need to continue writing my posts just like I always have and not worry if someone else’s readers will like them. Either they will or they won’t. (Hopefully they will!) For now, it’s back to reading, writing, tapping and biking.

See you Friday,

Kay

P.S. Xander is doing well. They removed one vertebra and detethered several spots in a five hour surgery last Thursday. They had one spot they couldn’t detether so now it’s a waiting game to see how he responds. He got out of the hospital earlier this week and his pain is under control. The challenge now is keeping him still. Check out this picture of him in the hospital with his service dog, Harley. To see last week’s blog about his surgery click here.

Xander and Harley

Manic Monday: Time to Write–Now

October is National Cancer Awareness Month.

A little over eight years ago one of my best friends, Donna, was diagnosed with cancer. She and I first met when we both lived in a smallish city in north Alabama. We were in some of the same clubs and organizations, but didn’t become close friends until we prepared for a three week trip to New Zealand with our spouses and another couple. The plan was to spend a few days hiking the Milford Track on the south island.

For months before we left home, we “trained” for the trek by wearing our new hiking boots and weighted backpacks as we walked our neighborhoods, trudged through local parks and trails, and climbed to the highest point in Alabama.

In New Zealand, Donna and I bonded as non-hiking, non-camping sissies as we tackled the thirty-four-mile hike through the Southern Alps. We also shared a fear of snakes (New Zealand doesn’t have any), a fear of swinging bridges (our journey had thirty-one), and our fear of heights without rails (I’d guess twenty of the thirty-four miles.) Neither of us slept much the night before we slogged the narrow switchbacks to the highest peak we crossed before heading down to bona fide beds and bathtubs. When we returned to the states we were best friends.

A half-a-dozen years later we both moved out of state—unfortunately to different states. We stayed in touch, but it wasn’t the same. We were both busy making new friends, finding new past-times and for the next few years our relationship wasn’t as strong. Then I got divorced and moved to Nashville and we reconnected. She lived in a beautiful mountain home a little over an hour away. She’d been divorced and was remarried so she helped me through the pain and grief divorce creates. Her home became my retreat, and once again, we were the best of friends.

We discovered that during the period we were out of touch we’d independently begun to write. I’d written mostly short stories, she’d written short stories and had begun a novel set in Latvia. We read each other’s work and gave honest yet loving feedback.  We encouraged each other and shared our frustrations.

Her husband got transferred out-of-state and again she moved. But this time, we didn’t lose touch. I spent several holidays with their family, and we continued to share our writing. When her husband retired, they decided to come back to Tennessee and purchased the The Mont Eagle Inn, a beautiful bed and breakfast inn near Swanee, TN. I was elated. She’d be back within a ninety minute drive–and would have plenty of guest rooms.

After the move she didn’t feel well but attributed it to the hard work of renovating and restoring the Inn. She went to doctors who couldn’t find anything wrong, but she insisted they keep looking. On her twentieth wedding anniversary, also the one-year anniversary of opening the Inn, Donna was diagnosed with cancer. It was in August. It was bad. She was told without treatment she wouldn’t see Christmas; with treatment she might have a couple of years.

She got treatment and began her valiant fight against the disease. I got married two months after her diagnosis and she was there, seated by my elderly next-door-neighbor who coincidentally grew up in Latvia. When Donna felt a little better she and her husband actually traveled to rural Latvia to do research for her book.

A lot happened during the last two and a half years of her life. Her son and her oldest step-son both got married. The makeover of  the B&B frequently held a full house. They started community events like wine tastings.

Donna tried traditional medicine and alternative medicine. There were times when we thought she’d make it and other times when we weren’t sure she’d go another day (and she lived another year).

We had a tradition of spending New Year’s Eve together and we had three more before she died. On New Year’s Eve, 2004, she said, “You know this is our last one, don’t you.” I couldn’t speak, only nod. Hospice was called in and she died less than two months later.

Sadly she died before her three grandchildren were born and before she finished her novel.

So during Cancer Awareness Month I am reminded we have a finite amount of time to accomplish our goals. Let’s get out there and write some novels.

Until Wednesday,

~Kay

Friday Favorites: Character Chat—Amy

Guest blogger: Amy Soleman, character from Murder on Music Row

Hi,

I’m Amy Soleman, the grieving widow—grieving all the way to the bank. Wait. That’s too callus and makes me sound greedy, which I guess I am, but I’m not mean. It’s just that I was raised with nothing and I’m damned sure not going to live the rest of my life with nothing. For the record, I loved Randy but I didn’t like him much and I sure didn’t respect him.

You’re probably wondering where the other characters are. They’re like the three stooges with all the stuff they get into. I decided if they could blog, so could I— though they’ll probably raise holy Cain when they find out. Especially Loralee. She’s a blog hog and would do it every week if they’d let her.

I couldn’t join their little click, even if I wanted to, which of course I don’t, because Nan, the ring leader, was my husband’s latest mistress. It didn’t bother me (too much) because he’d had at least a dozen other affairs (that I know of) in the thirteen years we were married. At first I ranted and raved about his cheating on me but it didn’t do the least bit of good. So I just I decided what’s fair for the goose was fair for the gander, if you know what I mean. It didn’t make me like his affairs any more, but it sure made them easier to accept. Irony of all ironies—he never knew—and probably wouldn’t of cared.

But this one with Nan was different and I could see the handwriting on the wall. It was only a matter of time before he’d of been out the door for good. I’m pretty sure I’d of made out OK financially, but certainly not as good as I did with him dying—not that I’d wish death on anyone, even my lying, cheating, SOB husband.

Another thing … I don’t really consider Kat a stooge—she’s way too classy. I just don’t understand what she sees in those other two. I’m mad at her and not because she slept with my husband either. She didn’t, for the record. It’s even worse than that. She pretended to like me when she was really spying for her best friend, Nan. To tell the truth, I don’t know how I’d of survived the funeral without her though. She helped me pick out what to wear, held my hand when I cried and ran interference with all the stuff that come up at a time like this. When she finally told me what she and Nan and Loralee were up to—on the day of my husband’s funeral, no less—I felt like I’d been cheated on all over again, maybe worse. For the record, she never told me she wasn’t Nan’s friend. She just neglected to tell me she was, even when I talked about the bitch, and I just don’t know if I can get over that omission even though I really like her.

I don’t know if I’ll even stay in Nashville, but I sure as hell am not going back to West Virginia where all my family lives. I got out of that hick-town once. It’s a battle I don’t plan to fight again even though my family thinks I should move home. But it’s their home, not mine. Home, for now, is right here. Randy’s parents are nearby, but they hate me—always have. They think I’m just small-town, back-road, trailer-park trash. But I was smart enough to get out of there and I was smart enough to marry their son. I think that’s what chaps them the most.

I don’t have a college education (yet) so I’m not as wordy as the stooges are when they guest blog. Mainly I just wanted to get my two cents worth in and hopefully piss them off in the process. I hope you don’t think I’m a mean person. I’m really not, I’m just a little vengeful. Maybe I’ll blog again—especially if they have a cow when they see this. I wish I could see the looks on their faces, but just knowing it’ll be there is satisfaction enough.

TTFN,

~Amy