Thursday, August 28, 2008

Try On the Jacket

When I got up this morning, I knew it was going to be "one of those days" where I have a bad attitude. I went to bed last night with a split little toenail (I barely have a toenail on that toe, anyway) that started to bleed and I had to bandage it, sticking it out from the covers because even the sheet hurt, and my feet were cold to boot, which put me in a bad state of mind going to sleep. (ha, "to boot.") It could be worse, but I'd like it better.

So I pray my usual short prayer to get started in the morning, all in bad attitude, step out of my bed, and limp to get dressed.

I take the dog out after putting my coffee on. It smells "funny" out. I live in the boonies, so I'm not used to "funny" smells. Almost a chemical smell. I can't figure it out, which gets me to thinking negative thoughts. It's not skunk, cows, horses or even my dog smelling.Not the usual organic smells that I have learned are the "norm." It's something else I don't recognize. I come back in the house. I forgot to put in the thing that holds the coffee filter, so my coffee pot is a mess and what did go through is weak and crummy, full of grounds. I drink it anyway, and read my paper, crunching my coffee. Maybe the smell outside will go away.

My youngest son is a senior in HS this year. He awakened with a sore throat this morning and barely was speaking. I made him some tea and honey and dosed him up with meds and sent the poor kid to school. I'll be thinking of him all day. He is taking an EMS course this year and will learn something else new to rescue someone. Who takes care of those who take care of the world? Now you know. A woman at home with a bad attitude( and a chemical smell outside) who is randomly writing in her blog as she crunches her coffee.

I have four boys who each have a great sense of humor. They can make me laugh when I'm standing on the cliff's edge. This morning in my bad attitude jacket I got to thinking about them and missing how they were always here to drop funny lines and jolt me out of bad attitudes. Now they are in the world talking others out of having bad days. I was just starting to think I had done nothing for the world in my lifetime and that I was wasting away in this "place" (which I have a bad attitude about this "place," too.) But as I watched my youngest slip out the door to make his classmates and teachers laugh another day, even though he felt not-so-good, I realized I'm not in the grave yet and I've got four guys out there brightening their own corners.

That's when I saw this photo. It's of my two youngest boys at my soon-to-be 93-year-old Grandmother's house in Tennessee back several years ago(when she lived at home, not in the nursing home.) Max thought it was funny when my Grandmother gave him this jacket. Instead of getting all out of whack about it, he was laughing. And he always had this attitude that he would "grow into it." So, I suppose I need to try on the jacket of good attitude, laugh that it's too big for me today, but I'll "grow into it." Just accept it.

And with that thought I'm ready to write some more today, me, in my too-big for-me Good Attitude Jacket, shrunk underneath in my Bad Attitude Underwear.

Seeing Through the Lies

Vonda Skelton is a funny person with deep truths revealed in a non-stressful way. She has a book out called, Seeing Through the Lies. Check it out here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The World Is a Puzzle

My friend, Dave Weiss, has amazing talents and profound thoughts, and he just did this You Tube about how you matter.

The World Is a Puzzle and You're a Piece of It!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Write On

What do you do with your time? Ok, you say,"I work, eat, sleep, clean,drive, talk, cook, shop,groom, feed the dog/cat/horse, eat (oh, wait, I said that,)" ....what else?

I write. I read. Sounds simple, hey? Yeah, simple as opening a vein. (Sometimes when I read, I cut out a person's heart, I'm sorry to say. Colleen Coble might do that when she writes...)

I've heard my fellow writers complain how the real world people don't understand that when they are writing, they don't have time to do other things. This usually gives a real world person an invitation to impose or request on your time. If you are a writer, have you heard any of these comments/questions?

"Oh, you're not doing anything. Could you pick up my child at school?"
"Oh, you're not doing anything important. Could you go let my dog out?"
"You keep writing all these articles. When are you going to write a book and be a real writer?"
"Oh, Crystal here writes articles. If she can do it, anyone can do it!" (This was spoken in church during a sermon by a former pastor...backhanded humble pie is my daily bread.)
"I see you have a romance book. When will they let you write a real book?"
"Since you're not doing anything, you can head up the chili supper."

And the beat goes on. Writers get no respect.

(You can add yours to the comments!)

Writers have to commit to a rigorous schedule and even when a writer is "doing nothing," he is writing--picking up a bit of dialogue, working out a plot point, building a hero. Time is all good to a writer and even the bad day isn't wasted on him.

When I was at my writers conference this past summer, we were reminded of how Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn wrote his story, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich published in 1962. He had lived the life of Ivan in the Gulag, a Soviet labor camp system. I read it in high school. It affected me the same way that Anne Frank's diary had. But it was Alesandr's own life that really touched me. He was born on December 11th, my birthday, too! (Different years...)

His mother was a widow by the time he was born. His dad was killed shortly after she became pregnant, and she and her sister raised him in meager circumstances. Aleksandr's father had been in the Imperial Army, so she kept that fact of Aleksandr's father a secret for reasons of safety. She also did something not looked upon with favor--she raised him in her faith of Russian Orthodoxy. She was educated and encouraged his literary leanings. (We all have someone at some point on our road to literary life. Who was your encourager?)

He was sent to hard labor in the Gulag because of something he wrote. He paid for that writing, but he never stopped "writing" even though he didn't have ideal conditions to write (it stayed in his head at this point.) When he was finally released, he had to write in the dark of the night, and bury his writing each and every day.

He said, "during all the years until 1961, not only was I convinced I should never see a single line of mine in print in my lifetime, but, also, I scarcely dared allow any of my close acquaintances to read anything I had written because I feared this would become known." (From his speech when he accepted the Nobel Prize.)

It is scary to write--whether you are writing a 600-word article, an 150-word book review, a 400-page novel, a letter to the editor. Writing requires you to reveal something about yourself. You are at risk somehow. In light of Aleksandr's road to being published, hearing someone say, "Oh,if Crystal can do it, anyone can!" doesn't sound so harsh. Maybe the hardest thing to do of all is show that writing to a reader. If you write it down, it begs to be read.

I always joke (half-seriously) that I would read my friend's, Paula from Alaska, grocery list. I would prefer to see her books and writing in print, but I will wait. I love to read and I have put off my own writing at times to read someone else's writing. Yesterday, however, I was struck by my time growing shorter, and for me to put down those stories I was afraid to tell. I made a new outline, wrote some things down, and am committed to finishing that particular story. I have another one I will finish first, because I said I would.

If you are a writer, you are brave. Go write.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas

This fall there will be new Christian romances coming off the presses at Summerside Press. As it gets closer, I may be telling about some of them. Here's the movie trailer for one of those, Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas by Sandra Bricker. Each book will be set in a town somewhere in the U.S. Sandie's interview on When I Was Just a Kid will go up at the end of September, so be sure to check in on that, too!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Ok, I still haven't figured out how to take photos with my new cell phone, called a "Chocolate." My kids roll their eyeballs straight to the ceiling. It holds a charge pretty well so now I keep it on all the time. I got a text message and was able to send one back----sl----o---w---l---yyyyyyyyyyyy. I type fast on my keyboard but not on that thing!

I have a phone like the one above but it no longer is hooked up. I'm not sure if it would work. Back in the day when phones like that were the norm, you were on a party line. You could secretly pick up the line and listen in on someone else's conversation, unless they heard you, or you could call a neighbor for help, unlike before you had a phone. Times sure have changed.

For example, while on 465 coming around Indy on Sunday afternoon, a woman was traveling speed limit in the Indy 500, er, I mean, the third passing lane. We were nearly beside her in the middle lane. Some guy comes up behind her, honks his horn, and acts mad, moving his lips rapidly. (I could watch him as I was in the back seat.)Finally, she moves ahead of us, so the guy swerved quickly into our lane, nearly causing an accident with us, and then he dove in front of her trying to cut her off. He then sped away--sort of.

The lady he was so angry with, nearly causing major accidents because of his road rage? Well, she had a cell phone and wasn't afraid to use it. She filmed the incident with her phone, and then you could see her punching in numbers and talking on the cell. I assume she reported his road rage and his speeding and reckless driving. I felt a sense of justice as I watched her.

Not exactly a party line, and not exactly great, I realized, because I could never do what she did (I mean, I couldn't do all that with my phone, even though I would wish that I could!)But it did get me to thinking how a story set today has completely different ways to be plotted out. I saved this incident I observed to my files.

I may have to get my phone out to figure it out. Do you remember that Clint Eastwood movie where he is a Gunny and he and his troop gets shipped to the conflict in Grenada? In one scene there they find a phone, use a credit card to make a call to fire on the enemy (giving the coordinates.) Now, they could whip out their cell phone to call,use the GPS,and then take a film of what happens and post it on You Tube, I guess. (Or email it to the CO?)

It's been a rough day. I think I'll turn off my cell phone. Chocolate should be something you eat. I think that is the kind of chocolate I could use right now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back to Writing

I thought you would like to see the house I was talking about in a previous blog of West 11th Street. I grew up here from age 6 to 11. I vividly remember this house and the neighborhood. It often haunts me in my dreams.

I have desperately been trying to connect to my own writing. Having worked on all kinds of things in the writing field, I left the original intent I had to write my own stories and life, and tried to fit "the market." I started this blog in an attempt to regain that voice that I originally had. I don't know that I've accomplished it. However, the last few days I've been going over my notes from the Midwest Writers Workshop, and found that some of that came back to me in this conference.

As it has happened so often, when I start to connect to my own voice, I end up on West 11th Street. It is a place just flooded with things that burst in my senses--tastes,sights, smells, feelings, sounds, emotions, curiosity, laughter, tears and the world. My street was a minature world of various cultures and religions and mores. Other places we lived weren't so invaded by other people as this place was. I think part of it is that there was so much conflict on this street, and I was able to observe it and sometimes be a part of it, whether I wanted to or not.

One of the tastes that I so loved was Tu-Your-Door Pizza. I can remember it like yesterday! A loaded supreme. And it came TO OUR DOOR. LOL. We never lived in another place where we could have pizza delivered. It would happen on Saturday night when my dad would be home from working as a long haul, owner-operator trucker. He usually came home on Friday night or Saturday morning and would be dispatched Sunday night. Occasionally he'd be home midweek, but only to catch some sleep and get another load. Mostly, he had enough of on the road food and so Mom cooked him something, but occasionally even he wanted that pizza. What a treat! And we'd watch HeeHaw or Midwestern Hayride while we ate. That was a good memory. I still love pizza(and I still love country music.)

So, somehow I know that when I write, I have to have something of West 11th Street in there. I don't know at this point how it will show up in my writing, but I finally accept that it must happen. I'm working on a cozy romantic mystery, but it's been tough going. I realized that I wasn't really being authentic to myself while at this conference. I can't pinpoint the precise moment, but maybe it was while listening to Brent Bill, Jeff Stone or Sally Wright or Lee Lofland or Shirley Jump. Or maybe it was while talking to Cathy Shouse or Charlotte Shepperd or Doc Hensley or Jude Urbanski or Dee--somewhere in that letter soup and many I've left out, is where I had an awakening--again.

With all that said, I still have this great desire to help other writers. I will continue to incorporate that into my own writing, or maybe try to keep that separate somehow. But my quest is to finish that manuscript that resides on West 11th Street.
Maybe not with this manuscript currently, but the next one. But soon. I'm old, you know!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Love Finds You

I've worked on a lot of love stories--from the other side of the desk. While my role was small with these love stories, it's still fun to see them when they finally come out.

Here's Andrea Boeshaar's latest video trailer for Love Finds You in Miracle, Kentucky coming out in October 2008:

New Kid Up at When I Was Just a Kid

To say that I've had technical difficulties this summer with my internet is an understatement. Finally, we have issues resolved and I was able to stay online long enough to post a full interview with kid photos. This is something I love writing and doing.

My latest interview is with funny woman, Vonda Skelton.

Check it out~

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Write. Anyway.

I hear so many voices in my head that sometimes I'm lost in the confusion. Shirley Jump says, "You can fix everything but a blank page." She's right. I fix other people's pages--their topic, their characters, the voice, the plot and I listen. I listen to the writer intently until his voice becomes my voice, his thoughts, my thoughts.

So, sometimes I write--nothing. I can ignore fear. I can even ignore the doubt. But I cannot seem to ignore the other voices who crowd out the voices clamoring to tell me the story that only I see. Someone very wise told me I need to choose what to put into my head and how to fill my day and sometimes I don't do that. I don't choose; someone else chooses for me. I don't know about you, but I cannot write like that.

In one of my favorite movies, "Finding Forrester," Forrester tells Jamal "to start with someone else's words until your own start coming."

Ok. Haven't I done that?Apparently not.

My biggest thing I ignore is listening to my own story. It's there. I remember it, but I push it into closets, boxes, under rugs and into corners. I threaten it if it peeks out.

"Don't talk to me. You don't matter. I need to hear these other important stories."

They are important stories, the ones out there asking for my time, but my time is ticking for me and never goes back to start. I need to finally listen to the stories that are mine.I listened to them once. When I was in high school and wrote in notebooks. One day, when I went off to college, I stood by our burn barrel and burned each one of them. I still am not sure why I did that.

I haven't listened to it in a long time, but every-once-in-a-while I hear a bit of it. Today I heard it again when I read a front page story about a man who was arrested for drugs on which the street I grew up. Yeah. So I listened to the things that happened back there, back then. I had in my brain that we were a nice family, on a nice street...right? Well, maybe not. My mom was the saint of the street, but maybe things weren't so simple and sweet. Not so idyllic.

We lived across the street from a truck dispatcher who drank too much and his second wife who also drank a lot and was addicted to narcotics. They lived next to a woman who had four little girls, and she worked as a cocktail waitress at night--and the girls stayed there alone. She slept during the day and the girls were always outside and the youngest always had a runny nose. She had never married and rumor had it that she made money other ways, too. Maybe so her girls would eat. The oldest, who was under 12 and near my age took my birthstone ring that my grandmother gave to me one day when we played in my room. She showed it to me, the band cut so she could wear it on her thick finger. When I said, "Hey, that's mine," she ran home. My mother chose to just let her have it.

Next to them were a family of five whose kids left all their toys outside, including clothes sometimes. We had a dog who used to bring it all and leave it on our doorstep each night. We had to go around the neighborhood asking, "Is this yours?"On the other side of us across the street from our corner was a really nice family of four who were Mormon. They kept to themselves. Their two teenage daughters babysat me when a kid from down the street hit my brother in the head with a hammer and mom took him to the hospital. They came over to play with me as I laid in our hammock when I had stepped on the sharp dog's bone and got blood poisoning. I had to leave my foot up high.

My brother and I often sat next to the fence between our house and the couple with no children who had an above ground swimming pool, but were hardly ever home. They never said hello to us and I think didn't like us watching them. I tried to imagine what the inside of their house must be like because they seemed glamorous, like movie stars.

Down the alley was the mean drunk who used to come down the alley and threaten my brother and me and our German Shepherd, Rin. One day he cussed us out (we never said anything, just watched him with alarm as our dog threatened to come over the fence to attack him) and he threatened to kill us. My dad was home that day and the man got a visit from my dad. Let's just say that my dad was a very scary guy and we never saw that man walking by ever again. I can only imagine what he said to the man.

In that same alley directly behind us was a two-story brick church--Pentecostal. The people never said hello to us, never invited us to join them, never even looked at us. I would listen to their Sunday morning singing and sometimes when the windows were open I'd hear their strange language that filled their ears with some sort of passion, but meant nothing to me.

We had a white picket fence, a grape arbor that my mother made grape jam and thick,sweet juice from, a vegetable and rhubarb patch, a sour cherry tree, apple trees,a peach tree and peony bushes. We had a swingset that I think I played on every day or so it seemed, and plenty of trees that my brother climbed in and "flew" out of, wearing nothing but my opaque tights, undershorts over that and a Superman cape. We had a wading pool in the side yard that was surrounded by a chain link fence where we kept Rin, who liked to climb on top of his doghouse like Snoopy. He was the wonder dog who tore up my brother's new winter coat when he wrestled with him and who we would sneak treats and petting to through the crank out windows in the dining room. My mom knew why he jumped with his muddy paws on the windows--he wanted us to come play.

My dad parked his semi truck in the front, but our car was in the carport along with our bikes, which someone stole my banana seat purple bike from there and I never had another cool bike like it again. I cried for days about it. My dog, Candy, the Pekinese, went outside from that door and often stayed out there. she was old and never went anywhere.

All these kinds of things demand my attention. I think about that little girl I was then and all that I saw and knew about this street, about the time. I went to a private church school and Sabbath school, which was like no one else I knew on this street. The story that sings in my brain and demands attention is on this street. But I ignore it. I think, "I should write this or that," but I don't know if I should write any of the story of West 11th Street.

There is no secret to writing. If you are looking for the magic or the secret, then you look in vain. Despite anything I've told you, no matter what, you must write anyway because if there is a secret, it's not really a secret, but in plain sight. Write and listen to the voices who demand to be heard right where you know. Write even if you do not know what to write. Write anyway.

I remember the day on West 11th Street when the African American woman stabbed someone and then went on a "rampage" all along the street, lashing out and running, avoiding the police who talked in monotone on the police scanner. I am not sure now if she was drunk, on drugs or had a mental instability--or maybe someone was hurting her and she just couldn't take it anymore. That could happen on West 11th Street.

These are all people I remember most vividly in my life, whom I have tried to forget, and tried to not think about any more. Then today one little line, "arrested on West 11th Street" brought it back like a flood.

You can't fix a blank page. Write. Anyway.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Stuck in the Middle with You

Do you ever feel stuck? Lately I've been stuck on several fronts. The worst part was my own writing. I was stuck and downright frozen in what direction to take. My characters were stuck. My plot was stuck. Even my genre was stuck. It was Mudlavia City here! And the more I thought about it, tried to get unstuck, the deeper I got into the mud. I was sinking fast. I was ready to quit! And I never give up. (That's my Rule #4 that I had for my P.E. students. I called them Miller's Six Rules to Live and Die By and they had to run or do pushups for not knowing them.)

So what do you do when you are stuck? When all you are writing gets into a rut and you have no idea 1. how to write out of it 2. which way to turn on the road 3. and you're out of chocolate ice cream!!!!! ? (or worse, you're on a diet?)

This is what I did--I went to a local writers conference. Yeah. Twenty minutes from my house. The conference was at my alma mater, Ball State University Alumni Center in Muncie, Indiana (Middle America--perfect.) I signed up Sunday night and showed up for the first intensive on Thursday. I didn't even know the speakers.(I hope to tell you some things about them.) I had never read my workshop instructor's fiction books.(I have three of them and look forward to them after I get my magazine reviews done.) It was an act of desperation, but I just knew I was supposed to go. So, for once I was totally obedient to God's nudging. (I have been known to be stubborn. An angel-wrestler from way back.)

And then the blessings flowed. Not all of the writers there were just like me. Some were way different than I was! But I cannot recall even one person whom I was sorry I met--in fact quite the contrary. Those people were wonderful. I had the best conversations. I loved the people I met. I got to reconnect with my mentor (and boy, did he ever help me,) Doc Hensley. I got something from each person I spoke to, whether raw beginner or seasoned pro. I was blessed by even some I didn't talk to at all, just listened to. And for once I opened myself up, sharing stuff I had long held inside. This, I believe, is what was most important for me--exposing that tender underbelly. Instead of being shredded to ribbons, I was embraced and urged to move forward.

One person who really blessed me was Dee. She asked me about my name--something I have long held in contempt because of many reasons--and suddenly I realized what my name cost my mother. She caused me to realize what a precious gift my name was.

I can't tell you how hard it is for someone who grew up like me to appear vulnerable and to trust people. It is the most difficult thing for me to do. And when I finally did trust people, many bad things happened to me, which caused me to retreat inside for years. I knew I could not move forward another step, though, if something didn't change soon. And this conference was the first step (or maybe I walked a whole mile) in this writer's journey. I came back refreshed. I had a plan on where I was going. I don't know where I'll end up, but I'm not stuck for now.

Now, if my internet ever gets back up to speed, I'll fill you in on some fabulous resources that I ran across at this conference.

Conferences are great places to go--not just to sell your writing, but to help you to move. If you get a chance, do look into the American Christian Fiction Writers conference to be held in Minneapolis (next to the Mall in America!) in September. If you write Christian fiction, you simply NEED to check this out. The only reason I went at the last minute to the Midwest Workshop was because it looks like I won't be able to go to the ACFW conference. The ACFW conference is one of the best fiction conferences in America. I was feeling so sorry for myself, but God blessed my socks off, just for being obedient. I almost passed up a truly wonderful bunch of people at the Midwest Writers Workshop.

If you can't get to a conference, there are so many online resources for you. Don't forget to stop by and tell me how you're doing in your journey.

So remember this:
Rule #4 of Miller's Six Rules to Live and Die By: Never Give Up.

I forgot my own rules. Sigh. (I guess I have 25 pushups to do now, but I'll be stronger when it's done.)

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Waiting Room Blues

Sometimes you just feel as if you are waiting forever for things to happen. I hate waiting.

Right now one of the things I'm waiting for is my internet. I'm on an alternative, slow connection until my internet is upgraded and our service resumes. It may be a couple weeks. So many things are piling up and I just have the blues for a variety of reasons contributing. I have all this stuff to do and it's just not coming easily.

One of my favorite things to say to friends in high school was "This too shall pass."

But it does seem that each time I make a commitment, then come the roadblocks, red lights and general chaos to my life.

I read in John 16:33 "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world." Jesus told this to his followers and I do get a comfort from those words. It is reassuring to me that despite all the troubles, prayer requests and unfulfilled dreams that I can still take heart and know that this isn't the last word.

Breathe in. Breathe out. I've been in worse places....

The good news is that there is no snow or ice on the roads.