Debora Dale

Until you can laugh

My 93-year-old grandmother often talks about old times. Some of those times weren’t so great but in retrospect humor can indeed be found in them. Sometimes, when she and her sister would chat, they’d shed a few tears and then suddenly burst into laughter.

“Finchè potete ridere,” she’d say. Or, “Until you can laugh.”

And how true is that? Cry if you must, wallow if you need to, but as long as you can laugh at some point, you’ll be just fine.

Which brings me to this – a man witnesses an accident. Now, it could have been truly awful. Elderly women were involved – I picture my spunky Sicilian grandmother and her just-as-spunky sister – and they could have been seriously injured. However, things get turned around and what started out as a shocking account turns into one hysterically funny, tear-inducing play by play of the incident.

Perhaps you’ve heard this before. Even if you have, you must hear it again. I listen to it whenever I need a laugh and it has not failed me once. Click the link, press ‘PLAY”, then listen…finchè potete ridere… until you can laugh.

A guy witnesses an accident

Misson Accomplished….?

I don’t like to discuss politics or religion because they are such hot-button issues. However… when I read articles like the one I read yesterday from FreeRepublic.com, I feel something has to be said.

The article is titled, “Bush Warns of Iraq Disaster“. My first thought when I saw that? Gee, Mr. President, I thought the Iraq war was already a disaster.

 

However, he sees it as a disaster not now but WHEN a democrat takes over his seat and changest the course of the war. You see, in Dubya’s eyes, a change to the war will be bad. As opposed to blindly staying the course and watching our dollar disappear into nothingness, and more ‘insurgents’, ‘terrorists’ and the like enter what was a stable – albeit torturous – country in the Middle East.

 

Saddam was evil, there’s no question. And the Iraqi people deserved to be liberated. But not on the pretense of a 9/11 or Al Qaeda link. Was Bush lied to? Of course not, he says it himself. He wasn’t misled. In the linguist contortionists own words – “’Misled’ is a strong word, it almost connotes some kind of intentional.” The statement begs the question… Intentional what, Mr. President?

 

Personally, I think the answer is clear. And no, I don’t think the president was misled, but rather the president DID the misleading.  

 

After all the horror, all the fear and bloodshed, I have to hand it to this president for doing his part. See… in case you weren’t aware… as a way to personally acknowledge the sacrifices of our soldiers who have given up their lives, and their families who have given up their loved ones to this war, he, the President of the United States of America has… well… given up golf.

 

It clearly states this in the article.

 

“I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf,” he (George Bush) said. “I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”

 

In solidarity as best he can with them? As if giving up a sport is a true sacrifice when compared to lost innocence, lost limbs and lost lives.

 

If this administration were not already an embarrassment and burden America must bear for generations, we now have this to add. It’s as if the president himself were trying to make a mockery of the very office he holds and the very country he represents. 

 

Congratulations, Mr. President. Mission accomplished.

Sunday Memories

Hubby worked on mother’s day. As a wedding photographer, he’s not available for the Sunday dinners I’m used to having. When I was a kid, Sunday was THE day. “Dinner” was a feast where my mother AND grandmother would cook. The meal would start at noon and last until maybe 2 or 3. Sunday evenings, well, food wasn’t on anyone’s mind so we’d have a ‘light snack’. The light Sunday evening snack I recall most is waffles and ice cream – though I couldn’t have the ice cream because I’m allergic to dairy fat. Still… I love that memory from youth.

I can’t recreate that memory for Daughter since our Sundays are nothing like my childhood Sundays. Instead, we’ve created our own memory. Movie night. Since she was a toddler, and since hubby would always be working the weekends, she and I would sit alone by candle light for a mommy and me dinner of baked ziti – her favorite. Then, we’d make popcorn, snuggle into my bed and watch a new movie of her choice. Sunday nights became OUR night.

This Sunday, Mother’s day, was the same.

During the day, we packed a lunch – grilled eggplant, fresh mozzarella, lettuce and tomato on panini bread – and rode our bikes to the park. I might live in the city, but when I’m in the park, I forget city life. It’s truly a beautiful place. We have a view of the marina and… my favorite… we have the sounds of song birds – nothing soothes me or makes me smile as quickly as songbirds.

I love this view of the park… 

For lunch, we sat by the gazebo overlooking the marina…

Then we rode around the park for about an hour. When we came home, we each took a couple of hours for ourselves – she IM’d friends and played on the computer, I added a page to my WIP. And then, we made dinner together and snuggled in for our movie.

It was a simple day, no balloons, flowers or fanfare, but it was a beautiful day, with no schedule to keep, stress or watching of hours.

My Sundays of today may be very different from my Sundays of yesterday, but I have a feeling it’s the idea of Sunday memories that will create new and exciting ones for Daughter and her family ‘tomorrow’.

What special family memories do you have from your youth? Do you try to create a special memory for your family now?

Summer vacation

We LOVE history. We don’t excel in it, but we love it. Especially living history. Our family vacations almost always include some kind of historical walking tour or immersion – like Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and Williamsburg, Virginia.

So… where to go this year? That is the question. Recently we watched all episodes of North and South, Book I and Book II. Daughter LOVED them. Soon after, we watched Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Daughter loved that as well. Her vacation suggestion, therefore, is to go to either Savanna, Georgia or Charleston, South Carolina.

Since vacation for us is in July, I’m thinking both will be heat-stroke havens. BUT… we survived Disney World in mid-July one year, so we can survive one of these locales, yes?

We’re leaning toward Charleston for this year. My limited research shows they offer a Civil War walking tour. Since we’ve already taken part in the Gettysburg walking tour, we figured this would give us a more rounded sense of that war. History lesson for a homeschooled child!! 😀

We also love the idea of the vast open space, the waterways and tours of plantation homes with all their original furnishing. Nature trails and the like are also a treasure for us. I think this will be a great trip – especially since we might skip the idea of flying there and drive down instead. Yay!!

Have you been to Charleston? Are there any non-touristy must-sees we should know about? Any inside scoop on proper attire? I ask that because I hear Historic Charleston is all about finery in the evenings. Is that true?

As you can see, I have a lot of research to do, but I’m getting excited just posting here about it. That’s always a good sign. 🙂

Raccoons in the roof update #2

time for my closeupWell…

As some of you might remember from my original raccoon post and my first update, we live in a row of attached homes here in the city and during the winter, a couple (maybe 3) raccoons went house-hopping, taking up residence each night in one of our attic crawlspaces. We would hear their footsteps crunching overhead and worry they might fall through our ceilings. Fortunately, that has not happened.

Here in the city, the law is that raccoons cannot be trapped and transported. Rabies is the concern. That means all licensed trappers MUST trap and kill these poor creatures. I know some people view them only as vermin, but I’m sorry, I just will not pay someone to climb on my roof and set a trap that will slowly strangle an animal to death.

I researched and found humane ways to rid attics and other areas of raccoons. Murder is not the only way.

For those interested, here are some proven methods of HUMANE animal evictions –

~~It is best to leave them alone until mom moves the babies out.

~~Scare them out. Use caution! Just making your presence known will usually do it. Go into the attic a few times a day with a flashlight. Shine the light on them and talk to them. But if touched or threatened, by being cornered or feeling boxed in, they will defend themselves and they are quite adept at doing so.

~~If there are babies, give the mother 1 or 2 nights to relocate the family.

~~Roll some rags into a tight ball and tie with twine to keep them tight. Soak the rag balls in ammonia. Toss them into the area of the attic where the raccoon is located.

~~If you can, sprinkle Cayenne pepper or Repel® granules, a commercial dog and cat repellent, around the entry hole, both inside and out, if this is possible.

~~During the day, place a radio in the attic tuned to an all talk station.

~~Use floodlights to keep the area where they are living well lit.

~~Once the raccoon has moved out, secure their entry point. Use hardware cloth or welded wire.

~~They usually won’t come back. If you want to use a repellent, then you can either Sprinkle Repel® granules or Cayenne pepper around the entrance area, if that is possible; or use a repellent, such as Ropel®, sprayed around the entrance area.

Check out the Urban Wildlife Rescue website for more HUMANE tips!

Havahart Live Animal Trap

In our case, one neighbor bought a Havahart trap and set it on his roof. He caught one – a VERY large one – then sealed up his roof and released the raccoon back into our attached yards. Poor creature ran off terrified – but at least s/he was alive.  Since then, not one of us has heard the pitter-patter of furry feet overhead. And ALL of us have, or are in the process of, sealing up our vents so neither we nor the raccoons will be in danger of experiencing this same situation next year.

Alls well that ends well. 🙂

*no animals were hurt in the making of this blog.

😉

Why do you blog?

BookEnds‘ agents Jessica Faust and Kim Lionetti blog daily. Their blog from Friday, May 2nd asked the question – Why do you blog?

I answered this way –

“I blog for a couple of reasons – getting my name out there is one, and actually it’s the reason I started blogging. But the more I do it, the more enjoyable it becomes. So reason number two for me with blogging is fun. I also like ‘talking’ to other people this way. And finally, it’s like any other workout, the more you do it, the stronger you become. I’m working my creative muscle by blogging. It’s my warmup for the day. I get feedback, which I love, and most of all, I get new words on a page. :-)”

I realize my original reason for blogging – or for wanting to learn how to blog – was to do it because everyone else seemed to be doing it. It was the ‘in’ thing. As a pre-published writer, I felt it was important to keep up and to participate – and to get my name out there for when I get “the call”.

As a writer, I’m used to my private little world. I like my space and don’t mind being called a loner. Of course, that’s not what I am. I do like people. It’s just that my characters are such fun to play with that I don’t always want to leave them behind. And so, blogging seemed to be a way to connect without having to push my writing to the side for any great length of time. And now that blogging has become such a fun (and addictive) thing to do, my characters benefit. I warm up here and then I’m primed and ready to run with the story they want me to write for them.

And so now I pose these questions to you – Why do you blog? And is your reason for blogging different now than it was when you started?

Runner-up! BookEnds Literary Agency – First 100-Words Contest

Well… I didn’t win BookEnds‘ First 100 word contest… but I did come in as runner-up!

Runner-up  does not come with an automatic crit or request to submit, but when I finish this story and query them with it – and I will because they are (and have been for a while) my “dream agency”, I can mention they chose it as a runner up in their Romantic Suspense category… and then cross my fingers.

What a rush it was to read the winner’s submission, the judge’s comments and then scroll down and see MY submission as one of the two runners-up! Very cool.

And in other news… I’ve been tagged by Barrie Summy. Thanks Barrie. 

Honestly, when I saw I’d been tagged for meme, I had no idea what that meant. I read it and thought, “Huh?” And then I read her blog and got it. It’s not so bad actually. Though I am not a ‘chain letter’ kinda girl.

Anyhoo… Are you sitting? Are you ready?

Six random things about myself.

1. I’m a lefty. 
2. Roller coasters or other rides that ‘free fall’ terrify me. Whenever I go on a ride I ALWAYS ask the attendant, “Are there any drops on this ride?”
3. I LOVE carnivals at night – the lights on all the rides and the sounds of people excitedly talking and laughing make me think all is right with the world.
4. I’m great at organizing other people’s things (throwing it all away) but suck at organizing my own.
5. I’m an animal lover through and through.
6. I break every chain letter that comes my way. 

See? Now I’m supposed to tag six people. I’m a nicey-nicey, so I won’t do that to anyone unless I think they want to be tagged. SO… if you’d like me to tag you, let me know and I will. Otherwise…

 

To help you decide if you’d like to be tagged, here are the Rules of Meme (sounds like a great Futuristic title, doesn’t it?):

a. Link to the person who tagged you.
b. Post the rules on your blog.
c. Write six random things about yourself.
d. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
e. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment at their blog.
f. Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

Thanks Barrie, this was easier than I’d thought it would be.

The Love Scene

“See it as PLAY!”

April Kilhstrom said that in our interview  and never could it be more appropriate to use, I think, then while writing the love scene. Maybe I’m trying to convince myself of that so I can shake some of the… shall we say… performance anxiety involved in writing that scene.

A love scene is not just about the act of making love. It’s about the issues each character brings to bed with them. It’s one of my favorite scenes to write because you can really break the character down and get inside their minds. They’re at their most vulnerable point. They’re guarded at certain moments, totally raw at others. And while in life we might give in to wild abandon, in fiction, we must make it seem so while maintaining or exaggerating the issues our characters will carry into the morning… and beyond.

The love scene, I’d always thought, was the ‘ahhhh’ moment. It’s not. It’s the ‘uh-oh!” moment. It’s the moment when the characters let down their guard and then regret it because this involvement has complicated their lives in more ways than they could have guessed.

My hero is concerned about kidnapped family members. He needs to save them. He can’t. Not yet. Not until he receives the next orders from the kidnappers. He’s frustrated, a hero unable to act heroic. My heroine is involved in his life by accident. She was minding her own business, clawing her way out of a hostile past to face a future somewhere new, without ties to bind or hurt. Hero can’t save his family just yet, but he knows he can save her from her frightening past. Heroine can’t afford to believe in the possibilities hero describes and knows while she needs his affection this night, tomorrow… tomorrow she will run since running keeps the past far behind.

That’s a lot to keep in mind while thinking of what touch makes her swoon and what position makes him shudder.

In romance, the love scene isn’t just about sex. It’s about emotions. It’s about fears. It’s about change. With all of that, we (I) sometimes forget, that most of all, it’s about giving the characters grief, causing them both pleasure and pain. Creating their hell, dangling rewards just out of their reach, then making them suffer until they work it all out and reach their happily ever after.

Playing has never been such fun.

How Writers Write – An interview with April Kihlstrom

“The Acknowledged Mistress of Book in a Week”

 

I have taken some amazing online workshops since I started writing. Each of them has helped me tread easier along the writing path. The most recent workshop I attended was one offered by April Kihlstrom, titled – Book in a Week.

 

I truly needed the class because I am a slow writer. In fact, a single chapter can take me a couple of months to complete. I tend to procrastinate, and I’m a perfectionist. So… unless I know precisely what I am going to write, I stall. Not on purpose, yet through my own sabotaging efforts.

 

After taking April’s class, I completed – COMPLETED – two solid 12 single-spaced paged chapters in one week. Completed. Two chapters. In one week.

 

I was so thrilled this enthusiasm and momentum did not let up after the class, that I asked April if she would answer a few questions about the process for me and other writers. She graciously agreed to an interview, and I now happily share that with all of you.

 

Enjoy… and WRITE ON! 

 

April, I want to first thank you for agreeing to talk with me. I was energized by your class and thought more people should know about what you offer.

Thank you.

 

I have to know straight off if it’s really possible to write an entire book – start to finish – in just one week.

Not start to polished final draft! But it IS possible to write the FIRST DRAFT of a book in one week. My last 10 or 12 books were written that way.

 

Have you always been a fast writer or was there something specific that triggered that desire for you?

Good heavens, no! I was dragged kicking and screaming into a challenge on GENIE (a bulletin board service in the old days). My previous first draft had taken 7 months! I was a slooooow writer–trying to get it perfect the first time around. But once I did the first draft in one week, I loved it. I realized my story was more consistent and more fun. So I kept writing my first drafts that way.

 

I feel if I haven’t fallen completely into the heart and mind of a character then I can’t write them the way I’d like – with deep POV. What do you recommend as a way of dealing with or overcoming the need for such details in a first draft?

Keep reminding yourself that it’s only a first draft. See what you naturally write. You may be someone who always needs to go back and layer in such things. One of the big lessons for me was realizing that whether I took 7 months or 7 days, my first drafts would essentially have the same weaknesses and strengths so…I could quit worrying about it. I knew that was how my brain worked and I could relax and use it to my advantage instead of fighting to try to make it work differently.

 

Quality writing time is an issue for many writers. Can you recommend ways to find that time?

First, make sure that writing is a priority in your own mind. If you don’t take it seriously, neither will those around you. Other strategies I’ve used over the years: go out somewhere to write, take a notebook with me everywhere so I can jot down ideas every time I think of them (and keep the story vivid in my subconscious when I can’t be actually writing), hire a babysitter even if I was going to be home so that I could close the door and write, experiment–discover WHEN you write best. Are you better off getting up early to write or is that worthless to you and you’re better off staying up late? Discover that even 5 to 15 minutes at a time can produce pages of material–IF writing is a true priority for you and you’ve got your notes and are ready to go.

 

How do you prepare for this writing marathon? Is there a certain process you go through to prepare yourself and your muse?

I set things up so I have everything I need handy and try to clear my schedule as much as I can. And I remind myself it’s only ONE WEEK. So what if it turns out to be trash? (It never does, of course.) I’ve wasted more than a week at a time putting off writing out of fear it won’t be good enough! When I sit down to write, I close my eyes and bring up memories of books I sold and how much fun writing has been. You’d be surprised how much power visualization has.

 

A chunk of writing often causes extreme issues with my wrists. Can you suggest ways in which we can enjoy this writing blitz without causing tingling in our extremities… and our butts. 🙂

Alternate writing methods–longhand, typing, maybe even a voice recorder or voice recognition software.

 

As a self-proclaimed perfectionist (when it comes to my writing), nothing I write sounds good unless I tweak it to death. What advice do you have for taming the ever-present inner editor?

IT’S ONLY ONE WEEK! Seriously, no one’s first draft is ever good enough.

 

What if a writer needs a specific detail, like say, how many miles or hours it would be from one location to another. Should s/he stop writing and research this information?

NO! Make a note (in colored font or highlighted) to look it up later and keep going.

 

Can you give us more information about your Book in a Week workshop, including how to register for it?

I expect to offer it again in late May or early June. I have information on my website and a button you can click to get added to my online class notification list. The class runs 5 weeks and it’s all handled by email so you can do it in your pj’s at 3 in the morning if you want! I take students through every phase of planning a book, a week of intensive writing, and a bit about publishing and revisions.

 

I have some questions from some fellow writers. Would you mind answering those as well?

Happy to answer.

 

This is from Barbara Atha

Would you have some “bullet point” type suggestions to keep in mind regarding point of view, first person versus third person or other common issues writers face while trying to write fast?

See it as play–writing that first draft. It’s a chance to experiment if you’re not sure which POV will work best. That depends on the material and the genre (readers have different preferences and expectations in different genres). When you go back and reread the material, odds are you’ll be able to see which works better and that’s when you can make it consistent all through the book. In other words, don’t stress out for the first draft.

 

From Chessie Welker –

How do you avoid burn out and exhaustion?

See it as PLAY! Celebrate at the end of each day, take frequent breaks while you’re writing to get up and move around, eat healthy foods, and do at least 3 things a day that make you smile.

 

From Louisa Edwards

How do you recommend structuring your day to get the most out of it? Is it personal choice? Or is it one of those things where it really is true across the board that the hours before noon are more productive than the hours after?

Every person is different. The key is to find out what works for you. And that’s part of the goal of Book in a Week–to discover when and where and how YOU write best. Put a 100 writers in a room and you’ll get 100 different answers about what’s best.

 

Also from Barbara Atha –

What can you tell us about showing rather than telling?

Think in terms of body language, facial expressions, voice timber and intonation and pace. Think in terms of what your characters do when they are in different emotional states and use those typical behaviors to cue the reader. These may be things you go back and layer in OR it may be one of your strengths and something you find yourself doing automatically.

 

From Linda Ford

How do you stay motivated and how do you find the fun in your writing?

I choose to focus my mind and energy on happy memories concerning my writing. I choose to focus on what could go RIGHT instead of what could go wrong. And I keep reminding myself as I write the first draft that IT’S ONLY ONE WEEK! Even if I threw it all out after that week I’d at least have learned what didn’t work. And because it’s only one week, I can let myself go–putting in the things I would have dared risk if I was going to have to invest close to a year before I knew if it would work. And every time I’ve done so, the risk paid off. Stuff I was sure my editor would insist I take out she didn’t. Because it worked. And the books were more fun for me to write because I wasn’t constantly self-censoring.

 

April, this is such wonderfully insightful information. Thank you so much for sharing your passion and wisdom with us.

You’re welcome!

 

 

 

My thanks to April for the interview and for the class. And to everyone else – Write on, write now!

 

 

Have a happy period. Always.

Yeah. Right. A happy period.

This is an actual letter from a woman in Texas to the Proctor and Gamble company, which makes “Always” feminine products. The letter won the Editor’s Choice for best Webmail Award Winning Letter from PC Magazine. Read it through, and you’ll see why… oh, and ladies, if you’re prone to laughing leaks… ahem… prepare yourself. 😉

Dear Mr. Thatcher,
I have been a loyal user of your ‘Always’ maxi pads for over 20 years and I appreciate many of their features. Why, without the LeakGuard Core or Dri-Weave absorbency, I’d probably never go horseback riding or salsa dancing, and I’d certainly steer clear of running up and down the beach in tight, white shorts. But my favorite feature has to be your revolutionary Flexi-Wings. Kudos on being the only company smart enough to realize how crucial it is that maxi pads be aerodynamic. I can’t tell you how safe and secure I feel each month knowing there’s a little F-16 in my pants.

Have you ever had a menstrual period, Mr. Thatcher? Ever suffered from the curse’? I’m guessing you haven’t. Well, my time of the month is starting right now. As I type, I can already feel hormonal forces violently surging through my body. Just a few minutes from now, my body will adjust and I’ll be transformed into what my husband likes to call ‘an inbred hillbilly with knife skills.’ Isn’t the human body amazing?

As Brand Manager in the Feminine-Hygiene Division, you’ve no doubt seen quite a bit of research on what exactly happens during your customer’s monthly visits from ‘Aunt Flo’. Therefore, you must know about the bloating, puffiness, and cramping we endure, and about our intense mood swings, crying jags, and out-of-control behavior. You surely realize it’s a tough time for most women. In fact, only last week, my friend Jennifer fought the violent urge to shove her boyfriend’s testicles into a George Foreman Grill just because he told her he thought Grey’s Anatomy was written by drunken chimps. Crazy!

The point is, sir, you of all people must realize that America is just crawling with homicidal maniacs in Capri pants… Which brings me to the reason for my letter. Last month, while in the throes of cramping so painful I wanted to reach inside my body and yank out my uterus, I opened an Always maxi-pad, and there, printed on the adhesive backing, were these words: ‘Have a Happy Period.’

Are you f—— kidding me? What I mean is, does any part of your tiny middle-manager brain really think happiness – actual smiling, laughing happiness, is possible during a menstrual period? Did anything mentioned above sound the least bit pleasurable? Well, did it, James? FYI, unless you’re some kind of sick S&M freak, there will never be anything ‘happy’ about a day in which you have to jack yourself up on Motrin and Kahlua and lock yourself in your house just so you don’t march down to the local Walgreen’s armed with a hunting rifle and a sketchy plan to end your life in a blaze of glory.

For the love of God, pull your head out, man! If you have to slap a moronic message on a maxi pad, wouldn’t it make more sense to say something that’s actually pertinent, like ‘Put down the Hammer’ or ‘Vehicular Manslaughter is Wrong’, or are you just picking on us?

Sir, please inform your Accounting Department that, effective immediately, there will be an $8 drop in monthly profits, for I have chosen to take my maxi-pad business elsewhere. And though I will certainly miss your Flex-Wings, I will not for one minute miss your brand of condescending bullshit. And that’s a promise I will keep.

 

Always. . .

Best,
Wendi Aarons

Austin , TX

==

So tell me, did you ever sit down to write a letter of complaint and have it take off like this? Did you ever feel that sense of smug – though deserving – satisfaction at having ‘told them!’ just what you think about their product or service? If so, details, details! Inquiring minds and all that!

 

 

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