Writing those characters to the finish line…

Hello out there! Here’s hoping that all is well wherever you may be on this October autumn morn that feels more like an early summer one. But it’s a good one all the same. Some rain the past few days and overnight have given the plants, grasses, and trees a good drink. There is a kind of sparkle on the street and the walks and driveways from it all as the world comes alive once more. The yards have a spring-like green again, as though a long, hot dry spell never set in a few short weeks ago. It’s refreshing, to say the least.

For my personal update…I’m actually writing again, although it has been a struggle to find the enthusiasm and motivation to sit myself down at my little desk here and regularly get the Scrivener opened and get the dust blown off that neglected (not forgotten!) story I’ve promised to get back to sometime. If for no other reason than I really want to be done, once and for all, with the thing, I’m finding that to be motivation enough. However, I’m still eager to learn where my characters will take the story to its end and how they do so in a good and interesting way.

I’m back, it seems, in the early mornings when I don’t have my Jump Start Your Heart exercise class, having a cup of coffee here at the desk, Beautiful Instrumentals tuned in on Internet Radio, and my Scrivener program opened up, and all of the characters waiting for me to take them somewhere—anywhere. Just get them moving!

I must admit, it does feel good to have finally re-discovered some purpose once more—for better or worse—and to be spending the time here in my library/office/writing room and actually attempting to get those stalled characters to where they need to be. As the old tortoise learned, slow and steady wins the race. This “old tortoise,” however, has been way too slow and steady. Without a doubt, I’m long overdue to assist those people in my story, so I’ll quit this now and go see what I can do to get them to that finish line.

Until next time…

Morning thoughts from JollyYet…

Oh, what a beautiful morning…

100_4645.jpgWriting this from the cottage (JollyYet) porch this morning, I’m visited by my friends the hummingbirds, who can’t decide which of the two feeders to patronize, and so keep zooming back and forth betwixt the two. IMG_1812.jpg

Off to my right, about thirty feet away, are the two “regular” bird feeders (which are going to need refilling today), where a hungry rose-breasted grosbeak picks and pecks away at the remaining grains and seeds. A couple of hopeful chipmunks are on point below, awaiting the sloppy habits of the birds above, knowing that they’ll be IMG_1797.jpgrewarded soon.

The lake, for a mid-week Wednesday morning, is unusually noisy and busy. Already a fast ski boat has passed by below, a talented skier in tow shouting instructions over the din of the motor. Another large and loud one slowly made its way into my atmosphere a short while ago, blasting some equally loud and annoying hip-hop/rap “tune” through its massive speakers mounted on the overhead tow bar. Please…

But, nothing is forever. Like the boats and skiers and noise that show up but eventually go away, so is our summer life at this wonderful, old resort tucked away under the giant oaks and maples and dogwoods.

On such a morning as this (and there have been quite a few this summer), I realize how much this place has meant to me the seventeen summers we’ve been coming up here. And I’m finally realizing that there are but a few weeks remaining in our role as summer “lakers.”

As I wrote in an earlier post, this is to be our last summer taking a cottage. We began discussing this about a year ago and agreed that we’d do it one more summer, especially since Carolyn would be retired from a long career in the hair dressing business and could spend more time here during the summer weeks. And now those weeks are winding down to when we have to close up and be out of here: September 17. Our reasons for giving it up are many, and I will share those in a future post very soon.

We’re having some company over the Labor Day weekend, which is always a very busy time here, and it should be lots of fun, although we’ll be pulling the pier out then (for the last time!) and we’ll be seriously getting things packed up and taken home or into the dumpster. We’re hoping that whoever will be occupying this place after us would like to have the various futons and other items we are happy to leave here for them. We shall see.

IMG_1201.jpgAnd so, the morning edges along with wonderful breezes and pleasant temperatures. I am here until early Saturday morning, when I’m heading home for a few days to attend our grandson’s first football game and, of course, take care of mowing, etc.

Carolyn left for home yesterday, allowing me to be here by myself to work on my writing for the remainder of the week. And that’s how I’ll be spending the rest of my morning here on the porch of JollyYet, my fine, feathered friends close by, and the waters calm and quiet out in front once more.

Lucky me!

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That morning I’ve been awaiting…

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The “lane” through the cherry orchard to the cottage

It rained sometime in the pre-dawn hours. I heard its pleasant patter on the roof above my head upstairs as I was about to get up to put the coffee on. I pulled the covers back over me and lay there and enjoyed the sound.

Now, a couple of hours later, it’s gray, a slight breeze ruffles the wind chimes out here on the screened porch, and all is quiet on the lake and surrounding land. No wave runners or zealous ski boats are churning things up this morning as the “reality” of mid-week settles in.

Coffee cup filled now, it’s time for me to get to “work.” My trusty MacBook has waited patiently these past few days for me to be inspired enough to fire it up and catch up on my writing. Instead, my mornings have been given over to reading rather than the creation of my own words, and all of the noise and excitement of the 4th of July weekend wasn’t too conducive for getting any kind of writing going, either.

This morning is different, though. My current “read”–The Aviators–rests inside and will stay inside until I’m finished with this post and some work on the novel.  Later, we’re heading away from the lake for lunch and a visit to an Outlet Mall in Michigan City. With the change in the weather, I suppose it’s a good day for that, too.

With some company arriving this coming weekend, I guess getting this sort of weather out of the way now is a good thing, and, besides, it is that inspiration for me to start up the MacBook and get back to writing! Let’s hope so…

In my next post, I will share my thoughts about all of those books I’ve read rather than spend time writing. Which causes me to wonder: When did/do all of the good and famous authors find time to read and get their writing done?

Have a good week, everyone. 🙂IMG_0866.jpg

 

 

 

When did everything seem to speed up?

images.jpegAnother week rolls in, like the tide, and I’m wondering where last week ran off to! Seems as though the days and weeks grind along much more quickly than when I was young and foolish—when I couldn’t wait for things to speed up. Conversely, now that I’m old and foolisher (thanks, Mr. Twain!), I’m rather eager for them to slow down!

But since that’s not likely to happen, I’ll do the best that I can to keep up with the fleeting minutes each day and attempt to “get it all in” before another new day is staring me in the face.

Normally, I wake up each morning with a general plan of what I need/want to accomplish that day. I’ve become quite proficient at list making. Jotting things down has become a strict way of life for me, keeping me on track of the many things I need to get done: appointments, groceries, grandsons’ ballgames, potassium chloride (for the water treatment unit), yard work, etc.

I’m beginning to realize that going through life, basically, as a “pantser” no longer seems to work in the big picture. As such, I find myself more and more turning into that dreaded “plotter” as soon as I’m up and somewhat alert each morning. I have always prided myself on being able to get along very well in life–and in my writing–by flying by the seat of my pants for the most part.

Not so much these days. I’m finding a better comfort level if I take the necessary time and think things out a bit more and make those lists and actually write things down in my calendar. Is this a sign that I’m heading over the hill and the halcyon days are finished? I don’t think it’s as dire as all that, but the thought gives me pause all the same. As in a Dickens’ work, perhaps these are the shadows of things to come.

For now, though, I’ll savor the days however quickly they seem to come and go, and ride that great wave onward. Now, it’s time to check today’s list and ignore any “shadows” lurking about, telling me things I don’t want to hear! Besides, I have an appointment soon…I think…

Hey, thanks for everything!

One Good Thing…
It’s time for the weekly  post of a feature I’ve chosen to title “One Good Thing.” Each weekend, I’ll post something about what has been good to—or for—me during the week.
This week…

I didn’t post last weekend due to being away from the old “writing machine” for IMG_1118.jpglonger than I had expected. It has been a stretch of days where the weather has been such that the duties outside took precedence. Besides, when it’s finally in the 70s and absolutely gorgeous out there, I find it very difficult to be inside at my desk trying to concentrate on writing!

At any rate, there are many good things of which to write, and they all rank very high on my personal scale: Weather; grandkids; Carolyn’s job.

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Late-afternoon fire on the patio
As I’ve written recently, the weather has finally come around to provide us the opportunity to get outside, to breathe the good air, to soak up the warmth of the sun, and to watch the grass, plants, and trees come alive.

The farmers have begun getting their fields ready for planting (corn or soybeans) and it’s always a good feeling to know that soon new life will be sprouting all over this part of northern Illinois.

The writing front…

Having been a bit lax and negligent of seriously getting work done on my current work in progress, a novel titled Birchwood’s Secret, I chiseled out time this past week to actually make some progress with it. It was a good time to look with a fresh vision at what had been sitting for a while. I was glad to be back among my characters at the resort where I left them. I think I’m ready to move the whole thing along to a conclusion. Stay tuned!

Soccer & retirement…

Saturday morning—a perfect one it was—found us at our grandson’s first soccer game of the season. The event was even more special for my wife, Carolyn, since it was the first time she’d had an opportunity to see the boys play soccer–or anything else, really–on a Saturday because she’s always been at work during those times.

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After 46 years, a celebratory beverage is in order!
After 46 years of working as a hair dresser, she’s finally calling it quits on May 25th. Recently she began the process by “phasing out” the Saturdays and is now down to just two days a week. She’s excited, yet will miss her many clients and co-workers.

The road ahead…

We will be able to plan more things to do together and enjoy both of our retirements more fully. Her retirement will also mean that this summer will be the first one she will actually be able to spend more time at the lake cottage.

Plans for a trip to Alaska in 2017 are in the planning stages as well as fall and winter road trips and little excursions to see things in our own backyard.

When I sat down to write this post, I wasn’t entirely certain which direction it would take. But after a couple of minutes, I realized that I didn’t have to sweat it at all. It’s quite clear that I have so much for which to be thankful, and that’s always easy to write  about.

Until next time, that’s one good thing…IMG_1226.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

My vault of forgotten short stories

One Good Thing…

It’s time for the weekly  post of a feature I’ve chosen to title “One Good Thing.” Each weekend, I’ll post something about what has been good to—or for—me during the week. 

Earlier this week, as I was delving into various cabinets, file boxes, and folders (with the intention of “cleaning house”) I happened upon a thick and worn notebook that I hadn’t seen for years. Inside were bits and pieces of things I had written a long time ago.

Looking through them squelched any thought of “cleaning house,” and, instead, I spent a good portion of the morning reading—and remembering—the time of my life when I first wondered what all it would take to become a writer.

Once in a while we come upon unexpected remnants of our past, and they often serve as reminders of dreams and goals we’d once had. For this weekly feature of One Good Thing, I thought it might be a fun thing to share one of those “first efforts” from my “forgotten archives.”

One such lost “treasure” was written sometime in the early 80s for a short story writing class I was taking. Because it is a bit lengthy, I’ll break it into two parts. Part two will be posted tomorrow.

The story, based on a prompt we were given, was lots of fun and whetted my appetite to write some more. I’d like to think I’ve grown as a writer since those “early days” when I thought seriously of being a writer. Regardless, I had an extremely good time writing this one.

The prompt: Write about a day that begins in typical fashion but for some reason takes a very different direction.

Without further ado, from my vault of forgotten short stories, never before seen by anyone else, here is…

THE DAY THE HEAT CAME

July 23—The day the heat came…

Tommy Edgeworth and his sister Eve sat rocking gently back and forth on the weathered swing that hung on the wide front porch of the old white clapboard house, where they lived with their Aunt Gert, when it came.

Tommy, reading Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” and Eve, carrying on a conversation with her Barbie doll, never saw it coming. Until that very moment, nothing was unusual about this typical summer day.

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photo courtesy of weather examiner

It was exactly 11:53 a.m. when the mild, gentle morning breeze ceased completely, replaced by an oven-like atmosphere. Exactly one minute later, the neighbors’ chimney melted.

The orange-red bricks all ran together and oozed down the steep pitch of the eighty-year-old house and plopped over the edge to the ground far below, as though some careless kid had spilled a super-sized ice cream sundae all over the driveway.

Tommy and his ten-year-old sister were spellbound! She began to whimper a little but stopped because that caused too much discomfort in the increasing heat. Tommy took off his shirt and used it to wipe the sweat from his body, which by now was beginning to look like he had just stepped out of the shower.

“I think we better go inside and crank up the air conditioner,” he said, his voice weak and drained from the rising heat that was  now radiating all around them.

In they went, just as the Wupperman’s TV tower across the street suddenly bent limp like some wilted iris in the garden out back. There wasn’t any crashing or rending of metal, merely a quick squishy sound—like molding clay would make…or silly putty…in a kid’s clenched fist.

Tommy and Eve raced through the house, slamming windows shut and drawing shades and curtains closed for added “protection.”

Precisely two minutes later, Tommy clicked the thermostat on the living room wall to start the air conditioning unit that had reposed quietly out behind the lilacs alongside the house for most of the pleasant summer—until now. The old A/C compressor seemed to awaken with a startled, wrenching groan.

“Eve, run quick, up to Aunt Gert’s room and bring her little fan down!” 

Beginning to worry just a bit more, but without saying anything, the young freckle-faced girl dropped her doll and chuffed up the eighteen steps to the second floor.

By the time his sister had come back down with the small General Electric table fan, its cord trailing off behind, Tommy had established his lookout post at the front window directly above a floor vent, which was trying mightily to crank out cool air.

He grabbed the small fan from his sister and set it on the highboy chest next to the window and plugged it in and turned it on. The little fan whirred gently but didn’t do much to provide any real relief, other than moving the air about.

Looking out and down the street, beyond the melted burnt orange steaming pile that had been the chimney of the house next door, Tommy could see Mr. Cloon’s Buick crumble into mega zillions of dust particles on the street in front of his house.

No one was in the car, thank goodness, but what startled Tommy most of all was that there wasn’t a trace of oil, gas, or any other motor fluid of any kind—anywhere! A once healthy automobile had now heated to the extent that it had simply turned to dust.

A split second later, old Mrs. Clechmeyer, who was out for her late-morning stroll, suddenly became a boiling mass of goop and glop. For one brief, desperate moment, she tried to shout, but no sooner had she opened her mouth when her face completely melted away. One second she had been walking upright; the next she was diminishing into a non-human puddle of muck and mire!

In a most bizarre sort of way, this wretched scene reminded Tommy of his favorite moment from The Wizard of Oz. He could almost imagine Mrs. Clechmeyer’s words—had they been able to be vocalized just before she melted away—to be, “I’m melting, my little pretty!”

“Tommy, do you think we’ll be ok?” The fright in his sister’s voice drew Tommy’s attention away from the morbid scene outside.

“I don’t know, Eve, but it sure is weird. Nothing this strange has happened since the time it rained bowling balls for three days. Remember?”

Eve thought for a moment, continuing to stare at the wicked tableau outside.  “Yeah, I remember that. Uncle Mavis really got nailed when that happened.”

Tommy said, “And we would’ve gotten nailed, too, if we hadn’t ‘ve been down in the root cellar with Aunt Gert, helping put up canned tomatoes and pickles.”

Eve shook her head and said, “At least this time it isn’t so loud—just way too hot!” She had moved over beside her older brother at the window. The air conditioner and the whirring of the little fan were the only sounds they could hear, and, fortunately, the house seemed to be holding its own against the inferno outside. 

Neither spoke for a long time, each wondering when their house would meet a furious, fiery fate. Nothing much happened for the next few minutes, until a loud, gurgling sound out in the street erupted, sounding like a giant drain being unclogged. What they saw, as they peered once more out the window, was that the gurgling from the street was the street itself!

To be continued…

Until next time, that’s one good thing!

 

When an old friend asks…

One Good Thing…

It’s time for the weekly  post of a feature I’ve chosen to title “One Good Thing.” Each weekend, I’ll post something about what has been good to—or for—me during the week. 
Scrivener talk

Earlier this week, a writer friend asked me what I thought about the writing program Scrivener and if I thought she should try it out or not. And since I enjoy sharing things about Scrivener, I realized that I had my One Good Thing to share with everyone.

Yes, I have written about Scrivener in the past, and about how much I really feel comfortable using it to do all of my writing (blog posts, short stories, novels). Although in the beginning I wasn’t too sure about it due to my comfort level in using Word for all things writing.

Plus, like anything else that is vast and complex, there is a pretty fair amount of time required to invest in understanding Scrivener. Like so many others who became frustrated and overwhelmed by it, I thought I had to know everything about it in order to make it work for me.

Consequently, because I was unsure about most things about it, my grasp of the powerful writing program was nearly nonexistent, even though there’s a pretty good tutorial built into the program. In short, I was ready to forget the whole idea and scurry back to the familiar world of Word.

Fortunately, before giving up completely, I found Gwen Hernandez’s Scrivener for Dummies, followed by her online courses in Scrivener “basics,” and things began to look less daunting and frightening! A simple truth revealed itself, finally: One need not use every feature of the program to accomplish one’s writing goals! 

After using Scrivener for four years now, I still use very few of the wide array of wonderful features or parts of it. What’s good for me, may not be good for another. And various things others find useful in their writing may not be good for my needs.

And that’s one of the real strengths of Literature & Latte’s Scrivener: One can pick and choose and put to use any parts that make writing work for him or her.

Here are some of the Scrivener features I like and use most often:

  • “Compose mode”-Allows me to write without distractions.
  • Binder organization-I can move scenes or chapters around as I see fit.Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 12.50.39 PM.png
  • Writing Progress Targets-I can set a desired word count “target” and will be notified whenever the word count is reached.
  • Compiling-Although it’s a bit tricky to understand and fully use without some really good guidance from folks like Gwen Hernandez, it’s a very powerful way to get my work formatted and “out there” in the form I want to publish. (E-book, paperback, etc.)

I learned a long time ago that whatever makes one comfortable in the creative process is the best regimen to follow. Some like to write things out longhand or use an old typewriter or voice their words or type away using one of the zillions of writing programs available.

Whatever mode best helps one get to the finish line of a piece of writing is the best mode for that person. As for me, I’m most comfortable with Scrivener, and I’m always happy to have the opportunity to talk about things I like. Glad my old friend asked me about it this week!

Until next time, that’s one good thing!

 

Blog on!

IMG_1392.jpgMonday.

The week begins anew. Coffee is hot (and good!).

The birds have emptied the feeders that I just re-filled on Saturday, yet they still hunt and peck about on the ground below in search of overlooked seeds.

Sipping the hot coffee, I read blog posts of those new friends from the Blogging 101 class that wrapped up at the end of last week.

I realize how much good information I took in during the fifteen-day run of the course. Thanks to the tasks and various activities therein, I am wiser and more comfortable in trying new and advanced things on this blog of mine.

To anyone beginning a blog of his or her own, I would offer the following suggestions:

  1. Set a limit to your word count. Brief is usually better!
  2. Pay attention to spelling, usage, and grammar. Personally, I dump out of reading posts full of errors. (No excuses if one is serious about sharing his or her writing with the world!)
  3. Find a theme that fits your style and personality. It will take some time, but there are many from which to choose.
  4. Read other blogs and comment on the posts you read, respectfully and sincerely.
  5. Make your blog pages easy to navigate.
  6. Have an ABOUT page that tells the reader about YOU and why you’re blogging and any other interesting stuff that might entice a reader to want to read more of what you write. (I always look for the location from where the writer is situated and am disappointed when that info is missing.)
  7. Make blogging a fun thing.

OK. Monday crawls onward. The coffee cup is empty (like the bird feeders). Blogging 101 still fresh in my mind, I plan my week and will now spend time scheduling my posts for the week ahead.

Enjoy the journey. Blog onward and upward!

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/key-takeaway/”>Key Takeaway</a>

Blogging 101-Day 6

IMG_0140Today’s lesson involved creating an “Irresistible” ABOUT page, and though I had made one a few years ago, I felt a revision was called for. I’ve just finished doing so, and I think the thing reads much better, conveys the overall purpose of this blog, and cuts a lot of “deadwood” from the page. (At least I’m hoping that’s the case!)

This course has come at a very good time for me. The onset of the new year is a wonderful time to assess our priorities and make changes–subtle or otherwise–in all facets of our lives. And so some of those changes will be appearing in my blog over the next several days.

I appreciate any feedback. As always, I welcome all smiling folks to this journey. It’s cold here in northern Illinois, and I hope you’re keeping warm wherever you are! 🙂

 

“I’ll be back!”

One of the best things about working in this thing called the “blogosphere” is the ability to respond and comment on other’s posts. And I enjoy doing so frequently, as well as having others post their comments on my own offerings here at Down Many Roads.

English: Mid Devon : Country Roads Countryside...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something strange, however, occurred a few weeks ago when I noticed that the comments I was leaving on those blogs I enjoy and follow were not showing up, even though all appeared to be working correctly. My first thought was that my comments were being blocked—for whatever reason—but that seemed strange since it was happening on ALL blogs.

After Googling to see if others were having the same issues, I realized that I wasn’t alone with this glitch. At first, I thought it might have been some setting that I had inadvertently triggered, causing comments not to go through. But I couldn’t find any such setting that would do that. I finally contacted support at something called Akismet, some part of Word Press. I had some timely responses and directions to try some things that might resolve the problem. I was impressed with the quickness and sincerity of their responses, even when the first several suggestions didn’t work.

With frustration mounting (I hate it when things don’t work and my not knowing why!), I sent another email indicating that I appreciated their efforts thus far, but that I was growing more and more concerned as to what the problem was—and if it could be fixed! I’m happy to say that within a day of that E-mail, I received a reply that I should once again try posting some comments as “it should all work now!”

I cynically mumbled, “Yeah, right,” but figured I had nothing to lose so tried it once again. To my amazement, he was right! Comments I wrote popped into view immediately, and they’ve been functioning correctly ever since. I’m not sure what the deal was, or why it occurred, but I’m happy that the good folks at Akismet got it right! Thanks.

So if any bloggers who have seen me offering my two-cents worth from time to time these last few years and perhaps wondered where I had been, it was one of those things over which I had no control. But, in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger: “I’ll be back!”

Terminator (character)
Terminator (character) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m looking forward, eagerly, to catching up on reading those wonderful blog posts and sharing my thoughts once again.

Have a good week, all…