Saturday, July 29, 2006

How to Eat a Book Review...

What kinds of information do you look for in a book review? First of all, a good book review won't reveal plot points or give away "spoilers." You know how it is when someone is talking to you during a movie and says, "Ok, here's where Indiana Jones just shoots the guy who just did the scary, fancy sword stuff!" You want to smack that guy. It's like blowing the punch line. Don't tell me. I want to experience it myself. Otherwise, why read it?

While it is fine for a reviewer to tell you he hated it/loved it, you also don't want to hear too much of "I hated that book and here's why." Back to the movie illustration, how many times did you read a bad review of a movie, and you went anyway and loved it? Or vice versa? It is a matter of what you like--bottom line. A good reviewer helps you to judge for yourself with just a few clues to help you to choose.

The reviewer should be hitting these kinds of points: characterization, a little bit of plot, message ( and the tone,) style, setting, genre--and finally, enjoyment. You should be able to categorize the book and make a judgment on whether you would enjoy the book or not.

Yesterday I mentioned my friend, Judy Gann, who is a librarian and an author. (By the way, if you are headed to the Oregon Christian Writers Conference, say hi to her from me! She's on faculty.) Judy told me that while librarians don't have all the answers, they have tricks up their sleeves to find out (a good librarian is worth far more than rubies. Judy is a gem.)

She said, "Librarians don't have all the answers. We just know (usually!) where to find them. ...libraries have online sources for finding fiction books--Novelist, Genreflecting, What Do I Read Next?. These are great for the question: 'I loved this book! Do you have another one like it?'"

These sources mentioned are expensive databases, says Judy.

She says, "At my library we can access them(the sources mentioned above) online (with our library card) through the library's Web site. If not available on your library's Web site, ask your librarian if they can access them for you."

(Back to me and what I say )One of the places I like to find reviews on Christian books is Faithful Reader. You can search through the books, reviews, news and find just what you want to read. By the way, if I am reviewing a book, I NEVER look at someone else's review of the same book before I write. What I say about a book is completely my own

Another place to look is at Look at the reviews there, but beware--like your crazed friend who loves e.e.cummings' poetry and that Steinbeck character (ok, I read Steinbeck and while I suffered, he did write well, I grant him that much...sigh,) remember that not all of these reviews are reliable. They will, however, give you some insight into whether it is a book you might like.

Looking is for free. Note the reviewer's comments with caution, but do note the emotion because a reviewer on Amazon will not usually post unless there were some strong feelings one way or another. Also, note the reviewers who post their real name. If they do this, they're putting their own reputation on the line. You can check the reviewer's profile by clicking on their name. Even people like editor/author Terry Whalin post reviews on

Now, get out there and find a good book. (Don't forget to tell me your current favorite book, too.)

Friday, July 28, 2006

How to Eat a Book Review--One Word at a Time

The title is a rip-off of a poem I vaguely remember from grade school by Eve Merriam called How to Eat a Poem. It starts off like this:

"Don't be polite. Bite in. Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that may run down your chin. ..."

So, Eve alluded that reading poems was like eating watermelon. Since I don't like watermelon much, this may be the reason why I'm not too keen on poetry, either. And while I'm not too keen on reading poetry, (except for Shel Silverstein's or the Psalms of the Bible,) I do love to a good book. I'm absolutely crazy for books. Devour them, if you want to continue this eating analogy. I want my last meal with a book (preferrably War and Peace, or some such volume many years long.)

Most people, when they pick a book to read, pick it because they like to read a certain genre, and maybe someone has told them,"Hey, I loved that book! Ya gotta read it!" (That's how they would say it here in Indiana. Just like that. And we read a lot more since they made the state championship basketball tournament a class tournament--boring--and switched to daylight savings time, thus confusing our cows, and we can't get to sleep either because of all that light still shining on our eyeballs at 10 p.m.)

When I read a book, it may not even be because I want to. Well, I want to read books,just not necessarily all the books I have to, or need to, read. Because I do reviews (less now that I gave up a column in a magazine,) sometimes I read a book in order to write a review of the book to help other people decide whether they would like to read a book. So, essentially, I rip the book apart, and then lace back together enough of the book so that others can make a decision to either buy or borrow a book.

I think that this is the best way to figure out if you want to buy/borrow a book to read--by reading a published review, other than asking a librarian for a recommendation. Your friend, who voraciously reads every book in the library and has all the bestsellers reserved from here to the end of the world, may be crazed, and actually likes Steinbeck. (I worked in a library for 3 years, so I have observed a lot of types of readers. If you tell me you actually like Steinbeck, and revel in his darkside revelations of the human condition, I'm gonna be looking for a side door of escape, just in case...)

That friend may know intimately what he likes to read until dawn,and then bleary-eyed and word-stricken-blind drives to work on the same roads you may be on (that's an "ACK!" you heard from me,) but he doesn't know you in your dark recesses of your brain where you actually think about things (unless your friend is a) a librarian b)an editor who knows his books c)God. )He just tells you what he perceives as his enjoyment (or edification--whatever.)

A librarian is a good source, but while she/he might like to, can't possibly read or know about all the books being published and in his/her library (I say his/her because my male cousin is a state librarian, writing a book about hangings in Indiana, and my good friend, Judy Gann is a librarian and has written a book called, The God of All Comfort: Devotions Of Hope For Those Who Chronically Suffer . Great book, by the way. I gave it 5 stars and two thumbs up and I'm not crazed--much.)

And there are tons of places online to read reviews, but what are the key things to look for in a review to know if it is a book right for you?

Continued tomorrow...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Trend Prophets

As a freelance book doctor, or manuscript critic, I’m often in the position to help fashion a manuscript into something that will catch the eye of an editor, and hopefully the imaginations of readers. Pretty good trick, if you can do it. I haven’t had the nerve yet to look at my percentages in doing this, but I did have an “Eureka!” moment in the last couple days. It has taken me 25 years to figure this one out.

This summer, I have been married to this hunk for 25 years. I’ve known him for 35 years. He is one of those kind of guys, who if he decides to do something, he figures it out, takes lessons, or reads a book on it, and then does it. His interests are varied—and he always takes me along for the ride to do this same thing. He also has this keen judgment and makes decisions quickly. I should’ve figured this out a long time ago, but it takes me awhile to process stuff sometimes.

When The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first hit the screen, my husband was watching it. I can remember him saying when I asked him what he was watching, “Some new kids’ cartoon. This stuff is classic. Mark my words, this is going to be a hit—I mean, c’mon! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Toooo funny.” And lo, and behold, it was a mega hit sometime after this prophecy. That’s not the first, or last time, either. If I thought about it long enough, or kept track of this sort of thing, I’d find that he has quite the prophetic tendencies when it comes to public interest and trends—especially for boys and men.

So, I got to thinking about my dear one’s TV-watching habits this week. He rarely watches the mainstream network shows—he watches stuff really off-beat, before it has caught on elsewhere. When I’ve listened to other men around the country, I realize that he has his finger on the pulse of what captivates the attention of men or boys. When I start to notice that the others are interested in the same thing, my guy has probably already moved on to something else with only passing interest in the now, hyped-up trend.

So, I don’t know if this is worth anything, but right now he flips between two shows that interest him--some horse behavior guy (working with horses and their behavior) on some remote rural network (we have satellite, of course,) and knife shows from the Smoky Mountains. Now, if I were wise, I’d tap into this knowledge, observe him and somehow, work this into manuscripts of my own. Maybe take notes on his comments. I’ve noticed, too, that a lot of our peers (age bracket) are buying horse farms. Not your amazingly wealthy people, either, but just every day, regular people. It’s one thing to capture a wealthy man’s eye—but when paycheck-to-paycheck people are going into debt to buy this thing, then you know this is serious stuff.

A few years ago, I read this book called, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company.) When my son entered college last year, his entire freshman class had to read this book, and then, discuss it in their small groups, so I was already familiar with the book. It talks about this “magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” If you have not read this, then I suggest you get it pronto if you are interested in marketing in any way. (Also, pick up his book, Blink.)

This is definitely something that interests editors, literary agents and writers (and thus, me.) The trick is to take your passions and use this knowledge of “tipping points” to set your timing to take it to market. I think, as with my husband, if you are not passionate about the thing, then following a trend is just that—following a trend.

Pursue your interests, and look for the tipping points. Sometimes that is just a "gut" feeling, but observe what people talk about—“Did you see that…? Did you hear about…?What did you say you were watching?” Notice this stuff before it has hit the mainstream media. If it has already hit there, then you've missed your window.

Sometimes that trend prophet is sitting right next to you, someone you know quite well. Observe him intently. (Try not to let him know you're watching him. He might take you in for evaluation.)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

What I Like About You

I have a friend who is writing fiction and lives not far from me. She started a blog Hijinks from the Heartland and she talks about things familiar to me. I check in on her by checking her blog. (Life is just way too busy. I remember when I used to call or go SEE someone to check in on them. Now you check their blog. HA!) She's also blogging a character with Brandilyn Collins' new book, Violet Dawn , which is kind of fun.

Anyway, on her June 23rd post, she did this thing that sometimes gets passed around among email friends (usually writers are annoyed by these things, but not me. She didn't pass it around, I took it from her site. )

Best personality trait: Loyalty and fidelity

Chores I hate: You, and I, do not have that much time or space.

Dad's name: Wilburn (with an 'n', thankewverrymuuch)

Essential make-up/skin care products: My Mary Kay lady reads this, so of course, it is anything Mary Kay (and she will attest to this.) I love make up and skin care products. Mostly, because I have transparent skin and albino tendencies. SPF 166 is my new best friend.

Favorite perfume/cologne: I love smelling people. My husband wears Obsession for Men and he has had old ladies ask him what he is wearing. The thing is, scent is a highly personal thing, meaning you usually have to get close. What smells great on one, is disasterous on, or for, another. But I love light, fresh scents on me. Sometimes I just like soap and I can go back to high school wearing Love's Baby Soft.

Gold or silver?: Yes. And diamonds and garnets and turquoise with both.And platinum.

Homestate: Indiana, but I lived with my grandparents and extended family as a baby in Tennessee because my mother was fighting for her life in a TB hospital in Indiana. I could live in Tennessee where my heart is.

Interesting fact: (I assume about me) I've competed in international trapshooting competitions and have hung out with world class champion shooters.

Job title: Book doctor, Mother, Wife, Dog Walker/former teacher and school board exec.

Kids: Four boys. Ages 21-15. I forget their names today. Sometimes I call them by their brothers' names just to keep them on their toes.

Mom's birthplace: Near the Lake of the Woods in Minnesota. Her father wasn't born in this country.

Number of apples eaten in the last week: Hmm. How many are in a slice of pie? (Thanks to diet saboteur Sue Barkdull, a great pie maker.)

Overnight hospital stays: Yes. (Hint: No one wants to hear this stuff.) But I've stayed in the hospital for other people, too. It's a bummer.

Phobia: I have two things that freak me out--someone holding my wrists and open closet doors. I don't think one has anything to do with the other.

Question you ask yourself a lot: What was I thinking about, again?

Religion: A follower of Jesus Christ and believer in the 3-in-1 Trinity--God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Siblings: One. Rick Warren (no, not HIM, the other one!The one with the faulty memory...)

Time I wake up: Is it time to wake up??

Unnatural hair color: I would like that, probably. But my husband makes me stay my natural blonde.

Vegetable I Refuse to Eat: I cannot remember a vegetable I have ever refused to eat.( Maybe rotten ones.) I don't like watermelon--does that count?

Worst habit: Buying lotions. I am on a quest to find the perfect moisturizer.

X-rays?: Yes, vision. Keep a steel plate in front of you.

Yummy food I make: I used to make these lemon muffins that a lady, who ran a bed and breakfast, asked for my recipe. I also don't do bad on cornbread and biscuits. So, my answer is quick breads. Don't ask someone who knows for sure. I do own over 100 cookbooks. (I did not make this up.)

Zingers: Wipe the blood off—and continue. (This applies to many things in my life, but mostly, golf.)

Now you know. You can't say I didn't warn you about me.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Do I Fit In?
At this point only my aunt, my sister-in-law and maybe my friend, Bev, are still reading, but hey, a reader is a reader! I’ll continue with my story of trying to fit in.

Most of the girls in my class had lived in this area their whole lives. In fact some of their families went back for several generations. Some of those girls still live here and are now raising their children and grandchildren here. (We returned to this area after being away for something like 15 years or so.)While immigration brought people to the “new world,” Indiana was the “new West” at one point in history. Some people to this day think that Indiana is the end of the world. (They are the ones who are town historians and "belong" here.)You can take that anyway you like. People continue coming to this area to visit from all over the world, but only because they think that Jimmy Dean’s ghost walks around here. (Or maybe little James Dean clones. But then, that would make this blog science fiction. )

But what made our class a little bit distinctive was that here we were in the bread basket of rural Indiana, and we blessed our bread with mostly Quaker prayers, a Baptist prayer or maybe the open-minded United Methodist prayers (only to be chastised by the Wesleyans’ prayers,) and our teacher was a Jewish man. I can’t remember anyone really mentioning this bit of background, except maybe like describing where something was located to someone from out of town. "Yup, yup, you go to the corner of First and Sycamore, and turn left at that Jewish teacher's house." It's not meant to be a judgment or a criticism. It's just some way to distinguish each person and that alone made him "different." Otherwise, we all looked the same. No one was staring or gawking or whispering about his worldview. And he really did bring a different perspective to our lives. We all liked him. He was tall. (Don't miss this--we were very basketball crazy back in those days in Indiana.) He had curly, kind of kinky black hair and now I could easily see him blending in on the streets of Israel.

I don’t recall exactly the moment when I realized he was Jewish. I’m not even sure if he was a religious Jew. I knew he smoked like a chimney because while our little rural school only had about 9 or 10 (small) rooms, the teacher’s lounge was always filled with blue smoke and he definitely was the culprit. (It was a very small school. We knew everything.)He was the only man teacher in our school, so that really made him stand out, and besides Mr. James, the janitor, who I think was a farmer from around here, he was the only male in the building most of the time. And he didn’t quite fit the profile of even the teachers. Our principal was a petite, older woman of obvious ultra-conservative Christian religious persuasion and whose mean streak included showing kindergarteners her iodine-soaked-to-look-like-blood paddle. (Kept us all in line, and she was the reason girls had to wear dresses.) But yet, he fit in perfectly.

And maybe because of this, I knew someday I would fit in out here in the sticks, somehow, someway. He knew all about me and apparently didn’t blink an eyeball about it. He didn’t teach us conventional stuff, either. He had this passion for Edgar Allen Poe and would turn off the lights and read a little every day. (That was my favorite thing. Beating hearts behind walls. Eueew, scary.) He made us write, and oh, he also had an art contest one time.

His sister was an artist and was visiting him, so he had this art contest and he had her judge them that evening at home. First prize went to my (now) good friend Linda Leckron. She was a straight-A student, who later was a cheerleader and graduated 2nd in our graduating class. She always did everything perfect (that’s why she picked me to be her roommate in college and why we were in each other’s weddings.) Who could beat someone like that? And frankly, you liked her so much, you were glad she won everything.

I can even remember that her picture was of a clown. It was very good. It later would remind me of the clowns Red Skelton used to paint. He was another Hoosier. Anyway, I cannot for the life of me remember who got 2nd place or what the picture was. But, I got 3rd place.

Now, you’d think everything would be hunky-dory, but for some reason, though I was quiet and never uttered much of anything, so I didn’t complain (teachers always said I spoke with my eyes. Pretty good trick, if you can do it,) Mr. Rosen felt like explaining to me how I got 3rd place. Here his sister was some artist and apparently quite good, according to her brother, but he and she (as siblings are wont to do) argued strongly over my picture and whether it should have a prize at all. It seems she thought I should get first place (yay! An artist thought I was good) and he thought anyone could go out and take a photograph of my picture, so it wasn’t really art. (I think he meant that he thought I should have last place, even though there wasn't such a place. At least this is how my 11-year-old-I'm-new-here mind took this info.) Well, at this point in his explanation, I sort of felt like an artist and wanted to slit my wrists. I didn't know his artist sister, would never see her, and all I cared about was whether I was going to get a "F" in art. But he gave into his sister a little bit and gave me a prize--third place. Only three places were given prizes.

I am not sure why he wanted to explain all this to my 11-year-old precarious ego new to a school and way of life. I just wanted to blend in and I could’ve lived the rest of my life without knowing that my picture had caused this major argument between adult siblings—one of them my teacher—or that said teacher hated my picture and thought anyone could do what I had done. I think I got a box of cough drops, so what was the big deal? (Linda got this big chocolate something—maybe one of those Russell Stover boxes. We all envied her with our stomachs.)

I took my picture home after it had been displayed appropriately as a prize winner, but I did not enjoy my status. I was thinking I never wanted to express my own personality again. Who wanted to be in a stupid art contest, anyway? I would’ve been perfectly happy to have just been one of the “losers” and gone happily and obliviously(I love adverbs) along, blending in. But my picture, as my life seems to always do, caused controversy among my classmates, who looked at my picture with new eyes--"is that really art??" (like a sixth grader cares,) and more importantly, between adults. And everyone in the class knew it. We were surrounded by cornfields, and though John F. Kennedy had one time driven by our school on the state highway while campaigning to be president (and I heard about it. Everyone went out and waved,) no one would notice us. I wasn't going to be the next Hoosier Picasso. And who cared if my picture could be taken by a camera? I made the whole thing up in my mind. I had never seen this place before. It was a mere longing in my heart (and it didn't look like Indiana.) Ol' Edgar could've showed up at that point, bricked me up behind a wall, and I would've yelled, "Thanks, Ed!"I didn't eat those cough drops. Let them melt in my bottom drawer.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Do I Fit In?
I have never felt like I fit into my environment in most places I have lived. I often have felt as if I'm out of place either by my coloring (genetic makeup,) my views/opinions, my religious outlook, my interests, my clothing, or other factors. I think people like me and respect me—I just don’t always feel as if I belong somehow.

The summer before I entered sixth grade, my family moved from the city to a rural home set on an acre of God’s Green Earth in Indiana. I was so excited to be in the country, and loved it from the first time I saw it. The little Indiana-mined-limestone house sat on a small tract of land between a creek (a ditch, actually, but it had every form of natural creek creatures you could find,) a rural road, a state road and surrounded by the crop of the summer (whatever Comers decided to plant that year—corn or soybeans.) I felt I was truly “home.” In the city I had spent five years in a denominational Christian school—2 rooms housing 8 grades, and I can tell you dozens of reasons I didn’t fit in there. But that means going back to that time.

Across the road from us in our new domicile was a country church, a brick house with four kids—two older ones, one girl was my age, and the youngest boy at the time was my only sibling brother’s age (they ended up having one more boy a few years later—the mom didn’t jump off the bridge, like she felt like doing, as she had one son in college when this happened.) Their dad was funny, had a few missing teeth, was a brick mason, and kept a meticulously groomed yard. He whistled while he worked. Not just any whistling, but mostly school fight songs and “Charge!” He was a huge Argyll fan (our school mascot was a Scottish warrior and we were called the Argylls. Yes. In Indiana. In the middle of a cornfield. It can happen. ) He built a tree house, a baseball diamond and a chicken-wire backstop in the church yard next door and gave us all the boards we could carry to build rafts and bridges on the crick. (Remember, we call it a “crick,” not a creek.)

There were other houses around with friendly, but reserved-we’ll-mind-our-own-business Quaker-rooted people. Good, solid people, for the most part. Huge work ethic, like us. Just up the road, within half-a-mile, was my new public school with the prophetic name of Liberty. I didn’t fit in the first day. I was wearing the wrong kind of socks. Now, you would think these kinds of fashion faux pas were nonexistent amongst a handful of 11-12-year-old country girls, but I was immediately pulled aside by a very outgoing and popular girl named Lorrie (who later was my best friend and we were in each other's weddings) and told, “We don’t wear white bobby socks here. Get yourself some knee socks.” Man, did I ever feel like I’d dropped into a Dr. Seuss book without a star on my belly.

So, I went home, cried a lot (I was, after all, an 11-year-old girl) and my mom loaded me up for the long trek to the city.and we bought me a pack of knee socks. It was an easy fix. That simple pair of knee socks let me blend in enough to not be "too weird." I was kind and friendly to everyone in the class and I changed my name. “Call me Chris.” I always hated my real name--I didn't know any other Crystals, just Lindas and Debbies and Carolyns--and my family called me Cris or Crissy (the neighbor boy who treated me like one of his sisters called me “Cristy!!!” said this hissed out between clenched teeth about 10 times a day.) I did not want to be called “Crystal,” like at my old school, but going by the spelling C-R-I-S like my family used, seemed too intimate. Plus, I thought Chris sounded and looked “cool.” I easily adjusted into my name.

I could play with anyone I chose to at recess, and even though we girls had to wear dresses, I knew I fit in on a baseball diamond. I lived and breathed baseball everyday. When they saw I could hit, they let me play whenever I wanted. Maybe it was the way I was brought up, but I was never afraid of anyone, so I went up to the boys and said, "Can I play?" and since no one verbally objected, I just took my place in the line up. The girls stood around in groups. My teacher referred to these groups as cliques. The boys, even boys from other grades, could play together, but not the girls. I never asked if I could stand there with the girls. You don't ask girls this or you are dead. I at least knew this much. I let them get used to me, but I also let them know I was one of them. (I had the knee socks now.)

So, I had my knee socks, I was playing baseball whenever I wanted to, and I talked to a different group of girls each recess. Plus, when I’d go home, I had a crick to catch crawdads, swing a rope over or build a bridge over, and a real baseball diamond to play on. Over the state road on the fly was a homerun. Over the road on a roll was a ground-rule double. For the first time in my life I felt like I was “home,” even if I didn’t quite fit any one group at school.

More tomorrow…

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I work with authors all the time. One of my jobs is to "fix" manuscripts and to help the author find his way with what he's saying. I'm sort of the "stepping stone" between an author and an editor, if needed. Mostly, I've done fiction. This leaves me with little time for my own writing, but I'm working on that, because if you are a writer, you find the time. This week in a favorite comic strip (I used to have a comic strip in HS, so that's another thing I love,) "For Better or Worse" by Lynn Johnston, character Michael is writing a book. Go to and go back to Saturday to catch up on it. I laugh with the familiarity of it. Everything in this comic on writing a book is something I've either heard firsthand or overheard other people ask/say to a writer.

I always wonder how someone could write in coffee shops or restaurant (or cafes, for that matter) and get anything done. Complete strangers will come up to someone writing and feel free to ask all kinds of questions about it. Usually the verbal exchange will end with, "Oh, you know, I could write a book. But I don't have as much time as you." In other words, the writer MAKING time to write is obviously a layabout and lazy person who gets scads of money and probably smokes and drinks (or at least drinks coffee) and eats DeBrand's chocolate all day (well, maybe he does, but I've found that most don't.) The words go on the page like pouring melted butter on hot bread with an ending to leave the reader full and satisfied.

As one writer said, "Writing's easy. Just open a vein." My friend, W. Terry Whalin, a writer and an editor at Howard Books, has written a very helpful book, Book Proposals That $ell: 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success. He says in this book, "Jerrold Jenkins, CEO of this group [Jenkins Group,] estimates that more than 6 million Americans have actually written a manuscript--just over 2 percent of the population. Publishers Weekly recently said that more than 1,000 books were published each week during 2003."

That sounds like a lot, but it really isn't. Writing the book is the first battle, but getting it published is a whole new battle. If you have a desire to write a book, then the only thing to do is FIND THE TIME to write first. But more importantly, you must find out all you can about writing craft, professionalism and the proper channels to take in order to sell your book. This takes time, too, as any published author will tell you. But again, the first thing to do is put your behind in the chair and crank out the story. It helps if you have an ending, but most authors will tell you that they did not just sit there and it was instantly published. There is a lot of stuff in between all those lines.

How do you find the time? Well, you cut something out in order to become proficient at that thing you desire. A doctor doesn't just decide to be a doctor and walk into a hospital and say, "I'm going to doctor on you." So, a wannabe writer doesn't just call up an editor and say, "Hey, I've got this idea for a book, I know you're going to love." Or worse, you don't approach a writer and say, "I have a great idea for you to write for me." (Believe me, most authors have enough of their own ideas. That's another business relationship entirely--one YOU pay for.) One prolific author I know was a full-time wife, full-time mom/then grandmother and a court reporter. She typed all day long. But when she decided to start writing fiction and "live her dream," she took a night class with author/professor, Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, at the university where he started a professional writing major in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Taylor University. She got up extra early every morning to write, never knowing if she’d ever publish. She is not a morning person. And she still had to work all day—typing more! Then, she’d go to her night class once a week.

Today she is doing what she loves—an "overnight success"--Diann Hunt took many years to become that overnight success, and a lot of behind in her chair. You can check out her blog with her writing buddies at She’s the one with the temporary RV, but every one of the others started (and still do) by making the decision to WRITE and to give up something in their lives in order to do what they love. Where you spend your time says a lot about what you are passionate about--but you have to make choices.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Water, water, everywhere—and everywhere else

Water is probably the most taken for granted, the most desired and the most overpriced commodity in America. There! I said it. Do you want water with your meal? Would like a slice of lemon? Would you prefer bottled water? The waitress asks this as she takes your order. Or better yet, she just brings a glass of pure, clear water without asking. A friend, recently returning from Europe said she didn't make the mistake twice of asking for water. She was brought a bottle of water and a side of sneer.

I would love to shake the hand of the first guy who said, “Hey, you know what we ought to bottle and sell? Water! Every person in America can get this in abundance, right from their tap, but hey, I bet they’d pay two bucks to buy it! Yeah, and in Las Vegas, where they run bathtubs and jacuzzis full of it? We can sell it for 4 dollars a bottle!”

I mean, that is salesmanship. It’s easy to sell rights to water in the desert, but what about selling water when you have it everywhere?

I live on a river, next to a creek (we call it a “crick,”) next to a pond. Some are saying the water levels are down right now, and while, yes, especially in our sudden heat wave, they are, we still have plenty of water. I am not worried that our well is going to run dry, or even be contaminated. I don't think about this at 2 a.m. when I'm praying through lists.

Since we live in the rural area, we have our own well and we pay to have it “softened.” It tastes like pure rust without the softener. We can always tell when the softener is low on salt. Now, with so many people anemic or with low iron, you’d think this would be a good thing, to have natural iron in the water. But unless you have ever tasted “iron water,” you probably don’t know what you’re talking about. Yeeck. (But it is possible to get used to it.)

On the other hand, I think the softened water is kind of tasteless, and it takes forever to wash shampoo and conditioner out of my hair. Back before we softened our water, I thought I had strawberry RED blonde hair, but now I’m discovering maybe I don’t! Weird, but true (and it throws my whole clothes' colors off—wow!) I may actually be a “cool” blonde like my Scandinavian mother, after all. Instead of wearing spring or autumn colors, maybe I should wear summer or winter colors?? Wow. Another topic entirely (I'm master of the rabbit trails. Understand, I'm a born Warren--and they, the rabbits, live in warrens...)

I’ve had people actually turn down our offers of water and ice (we have an icemaker) because “it tastes funny.” I thought water was water, and if you are thirsty, you don’t turn it down. So, what did I do? Being hospitable (though much more Mary than Martha, I'm afraid,) I went out and bought-BOUGHT-a case of WATER to offer to guests. I’m not kidding you. Around here, except for our electricity bill (for the electric pump,) we get our water FOR FREE—and lots of it. I have beautiful faucets that just pour (with good pressure) lovely, abundant water every single time it is turned on. And I’m paying for bottled water and ice because a guest or two doesn’t like our water? Irony is what that is. (Not to mention I pay for the water softener. Sheesh. But that is because it discolors the porcelain.)

Which brings me to a point(there really is some sort of point here)—do we water down our messages just to please our readers (guests?) That is what I’m thinking about as I write. I’m thinking, do I buy into the tasteless popularity of a message just to satisfy an audience? (I want everyone to agree with me or give me an "Amen!")Or do I say, “Take this iron water, or leave it—and leave here?Whatever~!”

It is a dilemma (or how I say it—a de-lemon, dropping the “a.”) Oh, and I like my water with lime—straight from the tap. Hold the rust--but a little rust never hurt anything and riches up the blood.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

How Many Pounds to Go?

How Many Pounds to Go?

Back in January I had to go to the doctor. Now, I can face major surgery, or minor surgery, or even needles with barely a blink of an eyeball. The doctor can be named Frankenstein, and I probably would ask how his grandpa is doing. But take me down that long, dark corridor to the scales, and you might as well just cut an artery for me.

"9-1-1? We got an emergency here at Dr. Darkkillme's office. Yeah, bring your heavy duty gurney and the ambulance with heavy shocks. She's out cold. On the floor. Bleeding and stuff. Fat."

I have had four kids, fer crying out loud. Don't weigh me! What for?? I avoided the doctor's office for five years merely because I didn't want to get on the scales.
Anyway, in January I had to go to the doctor. It wasn't any big deal. In a month I was over the surgery and back to whatever setting of normal I can manage. On the way home from my follow up check, I pulled into a local gym and walked in. I think I was crying and mumbling, because immediately this kid, who looked to be the age of one of my boys, walked up and asked if he could help me. (Yeah, buddy. Help me pull the plug.) His name is Josh.

I mumbled some more about weighing on scales and about weighing the most I had ever weighed in my life, and something about how I used to be a P.E. teacher, and could run circles around Mary Lou Retton. He smiled and bobbed his curly head and pulled out contracts, saying something about,"I've seen worse. You're not so bad."

Soon I was figuring out what a transporter was and flirting with the old guys who worked out on the weight machines ahead of me. Josh would smile big and bright and ask me how I was doing.

"How do ya think I'm doing? I hate working out!"

And he would smile and say, "Hey, you're looking great! (for an old lady.)"

I counted out popcorn for my snack. I ate one square of chocolate and ate salad until I had nightmares of being chased by a Giant Spinach Leaf with Tomato. (And I used to like tomatoes.) Doing a low glycemic diet, I was told my cravings would go away. Yeah, they go away. When you finally are so thin, you don't need a coffin for your funeral. Just put me in an envelope and mail me to God.

(Potato chips call me every night at 10 p.m. just in case I have forgotten them.)

Well, believe it or not, I lost 20 lbs. I look at myself in that mirror that lies to me and think I need to lose 20 more. My boys tell me maybe 5 more. I'm not sure what motivates them to suggest that number. Probably they are as tired of my diet and exercise routine as I am. They whisper to each other about white bread and chips and real Coke, casting me sidelong looks.

As far as I can tell, being thinner, like I used to be, just makes me more easily depressed. And what is more important than losing the weight, is keeping it off until I go back to the doctor in January of 2007,so I can show a nurse ,who probably wasn't even there before, that I'm lighter on that scale.

One thing dieting and exercise has taught me: I hate it. Forever. Stick a carrot in your ear, because I'm really grumpy now.