Friday, November 17, 2017

They Are Our Son-Shines

Thought for the day:  Here's what I've learned about raising boys— if you keep 'em busy, they're fine. You let 'em get bored, they'll dismantle your house board by board. [Kenny Rogers]

[image courtesy of Morguefile]
Have you ever noticed how puppies... and little boys... play? Lots of similarities there. The exuberance... the horseplay... the unending energy... the smell. For sure, our sons loved to horse around like a couple of over-sized puppies when they were growing up. Matter of fact, even when they were well into their twenties, if the two of them were visiting at the same time, it was a pretty sure bet that they'd eventually end up rough-housing, which usually involved some loud bumping into and bouncing off the walls. Then when they got older, they traded in the rough-housing for arm-wrestling and competitive weight lifting, which even drew Smarticus into the fray. Must be a guy thing. My daughter and I would never compete like that... unless you count board games.

We've come a long way since I took this picture of Smarticus and the kids back in about 1980 or so. Now the boys have kids of their own, who undoubtedly do their fair share of bouncing off the walls. Especially the boys.

Because, as anyone can tell you who has raised both boys and girls, boys and girls behave very differently. (As if they really are from two different planets at times.) All blessings in their own right, but let's just say that boys can also be rip-roaring odoriferous rambunctious challenges. (And I wouldn't have it any other way!)

[image courtesy of Morguefile]

At some point, one of our sons went from enjoying bath time to expending entirely too much energy trying to weasel out of it. Once, he even went to the trouble of filling the tub without actually bothering to put so much as a toe into the water. He just hung out in the bathroom for a while... reading a book. Then after what he deemed to be an appropriate amount of time, he let the water out and emerged in his clean pajamas. If he hadn't been so darned dirty, he might've gotten away with it.

Why is it with boys, when you tell them to wash their hands, you have to specify that they should use soap? Never mind. Silly question. Our son didn't even think he needed water...

Anyhow, raising children can teach parents all kinds of lessons. Not always things we want to know, mind you, but lessons nonetheless. I'm pleased to say we didn't personally experience all of the things on the following list of things parents learn by raising boys:
  • A king-sized waterbed holds enough water to create a 4-inch deep flood in a 2000 square foot home.
  • If you spray hairspray on dust bunnies and then run over them with roller blades, they can ignite.
  • A 3-year-old's voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.
  • If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor isn't strong enough to rotate a 42-pound boy wearing batman underoos and a superman cape.
  • However, it  is strong enough, if tied to a paint can, to spread paint on all four walls of a 20 x 20 room.
  • You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on.
  • When using a ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit.
  • A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way.
  • The glass in windows (even double-paned) doesn't stop a baseball that's been hit by a ceiling fan.
  • When you hear a toilet flush and "uh-oh", it's already too late.
  • Brake fluid mixed with Chlorox makes smoke. A LOT of smoke.
  • A 6-year-old boy can start a fire with a flint rock, even though a 36-year-old man says it can only be done in the movies.
  • Certain Legos will pass through the digestive tract of a 4-year-old boy.
  • Play dough and microwave should never be used in the same sentence.
  • Super glue is forever.
  • No matter how much Jello you put into a swimming pool, you still can't walk on water.
  • Pool filters do not like Jello.
  • VCRs do not eject PB&J sandwiches, even though TV commercials show that they do.
  • Garbage bags do not make good parachutes.
  • Marbles in gas tanks make a lot of noise when driving.
  • You probably don't want to know what that smell is.
  • Always check the oven before turning it on; ovens do NOT like plastic toys.
  • The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy.
  • It will, however, make cats dizzy.
  • Cats throw up twice their weight when dizzy.

[image courtesy of Morgefile]
                             Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, November 10, 2017

What Goes Around

Thought for the Day:  I saw that. [Karma]

We're all works in progress, which means even though we may strive to be kinder and more forgiving, there's a slim possibility we might also possibly smirk a teensy bit when we see the jackass who's been honking his horn and flipping off everyone as he weaves through traffic at a rate just under the speed of light sitting at the side of the road in front of the flashing blue lights of a police car. Not that we wish any real harm to the guy, mind you. But he DID have it coming...

While it isn't a good idea or very nice to exact revenge on other people, I think most of us derive a certain amount of satisfaction when the bad guys get caught, the cheaters get dumped, and the one who broke your heart gets his broken into pieces. (♪♫ and that's when you'll discover that revenge is sweet, when I sit there applauding from a front row seat...♫ ♪)

Today's post is loosely based on a story someone told me years ago...

After gal pals Martha and Mary spent hours on end shopping, they decided to go to a nearby cafeteria for a much-needed rest and a bite to eat.

In the parking lot outside the restaurant, they spotted a dead rat lying on the ground.

"Poor thing," Martha said. "We can't just leave him there. What should we do?"

"I know!" Mary said. She pulled one of her bags from the trunk and emptied its contents into another bag. Then she carefully wrapped the rat in tissue paper and lowered him gently into the empty bag. "I'll bury him when I get home."

It was a very hot day, and the ladies didn't want to stink up the car by putting the burial bag into the trunk, so they decided to let it air out on top of the car while they went into the restaurant.

From their window-side table, they watched a well-dressed woman stroll nonchalantly past the car while obviously checking out the bag. Then she doubled back, snatched the bag and kept on walking.

"Did you SEE that? What nerve!" Martha said, shaking her head.

Mary laughed. "Yeah, but just wait until she opens that bag!"

The ladies were still laughing (Wouldn't YOU?) when our self-satisfied thief ambled into the restaurant with the bag still firmly gripped in her hand. After she went through the line, she settled at a nearby table, put the bag on an empty chair and began to eat. She took a few bites of her food and then casually lifted the bag into her lap to check out her treasure. From a few tables away, Martha and Mary could barely contain themselves as she pulled out the tissue paper and happily peered into the bag with a look of great anticipation on her face.

Her eyebrows raised, her eyes opened wide, and she made a sound somewhere between a blood-curdling scream and a fish-out-of-water gasp. The bag slid from her lap and she sank to the floor, wheezing and clutching her chest. A cafeteria worker sent the busboy to call 911, while she helpfully administered an unneeded, but highly energetic, Heimlich maneuver on the horrified woman.

The ambulance arrived, and despite her protests, the hapless rat burglar was strapped to a gurney and rolled out the door.... with the bag, which one of the EMTs so kindly picked up when he gathered her belongings, perched on her stomach.

                                    Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Setting the Pace

Thought for the dayA yawn is an honest opinion openly expressed. [unknown]

Yawns are a natural (and contagious) part of life, and they're fine... as long as they aren't happening when someone is supposed to be reading my book. [me]

Yep. It's that time again.Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

Before tackling this month's question, how about a little change of pace? The pace in our writing, that is...

Ever hear of a gearhead? That's what my husband Smarticus is. Simply put, that means he has a passion (and talent) for building cars. At one of the car meets we attended, he pointed at one of the cars and told me, All go and no whoa.  (Yeah, he has a way with words.) Anyway, a couple weeks after that, I found out he wasn't just being funny.

Stan, one of our amateur radio buddies, has a '56 Chevy. She's a beauty, and has been lovingly and meticulously restored, inside and out. One weekend, when we were attending a hamfest in his part of the state, he offered to take us for a spin in his baby. Oh yeah!

So he got behind the wheel, we climbed in, and off we went. It was glorious!

Until it wasn't.

We were barreling down a hill at a pretty hefty pace, and rapidly approaching the bottom, where the road abruptly ended in a T... and a stop sign. Stan pressed his foot on the brake, but that old Chevy barely even slowed down. We kept on a-rolling, right through the stop sign and around the corner. All go, no whoa.

Maybe we should be more aware of the potential all go and no whoa pitfalls in our writing, too.

I'm not suggesting the action in our books should move at a snail's pace. That may be "safe", but it's boring. If we were only creeping along at 5 MPH, the ride in that Chevy would've been much safer, but it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. Who wants to creep down the road, or watch grass grow, or read a book where nothing ever happens? And if you're barely moving, who notices or worries about a stop?

                         On the other hand, we can't be flying at 100 MPH all the time, either.

Adrenaline-pumping, high speed action is thrilling, but it can also be exhausting for a reader, and the longer it goes on, the less effective it becomes. If you give your readers nothing but superlatives, they quickly lose their meaning and punch.

Like so many other things in life, what we need in our writing is balance. Lull the reader with the slow parts, and then smack the crap out of him with a surprising burst of speed.

Sound familiar?

                                                     Oh, yeah. Like a roller coaster ride.

As an ideal, I think a book should vary its pace and carry its readers through a lot of ups, downs, and surprising turns. I'm not a huge fan of roller coasters, but I do love to be surprised when I'm reading, don't you?.

That's the ideal. Does my first novel measure up to that? Honestly, no. Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade is more like a pleasant Sunday drive with a few hairpin turns and dips in the road. (But my brakes eventually work!)

How about you? How would you describe the pace in the books you most enjoy? How about in the books you write? Is it the same, or different?

Oh, and by the way, if you're restoring an old car, please update the brakes. Safety trumps authenticity when you're barreling down the street.

And now (ta DA!) the Question of the Month: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

Okay, how can I put this? I'm afraid when it comes to NaNo, my reaction has been strictly... NoNo. Not because I don't think it's a totally cool concept, and I have a lot of respect for the people who are disciplined enough to essentially write an entire book in a single month, but when it comes to writing, I'm content to crawl along in the slow lane. I mean, compared to those writers, I'm like a turtle waddling down the runway with airplanes taking off all around me. So a book in a month isn't likely to ever happen for me. To all you guys who are giving it a go this month, good luck to you! I'll stay in the right hand lane so y'all can fly on past.

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Building Bridges

Thought for the day:  Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.  [C.S. Lewis]

Most of us encounter countless little grievances every day, whether it's someone cutting us off in traffic, stepping on our toes, or hurting our feelings in some way, and for most of us, those things are fairly easy to forgive.

But how about the REALLY BIG things? How well do you handle that kind of forgiveness? How well can anybody handle it?

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. [Mahatma Gandhi]

The first time I personally witnessed genuine forgiveness in the face of something seemingly unforgivable occurred some years ago, when the widowed mother of one of Smarticus' coworkers opened her home and heart to a troubled teenager in need. The girl robbed, brutally attacked and killed that loving lady, but our friend forgave that girl, completely and absolutely. By Mahatma Gandhi's definition, she was (and remains) a very strong woman. She forgave... even when forgiveness wasn't asked of her.

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless. [C.K. Chesterton]

[image courtesy of wikipedia]
Then there's another case of forgiveness, in which the evil-doer did ask for forgiveness. For many years, Elwin Wilson, filled with hatred, supported numerous KKK activities, including the brutal 1961 beating of iconic freedom fighter John Lewis, who later became (and still is) a member of Congress. Like most civil rights pioneers, Lewis did not resist.

... do to us what you will, and we will still love you. [Martin Luther King, Jr.]

... we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. And one day, we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves. We will so appeal to your heart and your conscience that we will win you in the process. [Martin Luther King, Jr.]

It took a while, but Mr. Wilson had a change of heart and came to regret the things he'd done as a young man. Hounded by his conscience, he went to Washington, D.C. in 2009 and offered a face-to-face heartfelt apology to Rep. Lewis. Not only was forgiveness granted, but the men embraced... and together, they wept.

                                                 Love can... and did... overcome evil.

[image courtesy of Morguefile]

On October 2, 2006, 32-year old Charles Roberts, a husband and father of three, entered the one-room West Nickels Mine Amish School in Pennsylvania, ordered the boys and adults to leave, and then he tied up ten little girls between the ages of six and thirteen. He shot all ten girls, killing five, and then he killed himself.

In the hours after the killings, an Amish man named Henry visited the shooter's parents to give them a message. He put his hand on the father's shoulder and called him... friend. Not only did the entire Amish community forgive the killer's parents; the couple was embraced as part of their community. Men and women, some of whom had lost daughters at the hand of Charles Roberts, approached his parents to offer condolences over the loss of their son. Thirty of them attended Roberts' funeral... so they could form a wall to block out media cameras. In the years since the attack, the relationship between the Amish community and the Roberts family flourished, demonstrating over and over again the unstoppable powers of love, compassion, and forgiveness. Mrs. Roberts died this summer, but during her 13-year battle with cancer, members of the Amish community provided endless support, love, and assistance to her and her family.

In this photo, Terri Roberts holds a photo of her son, and over her shoulder is a hand-carved gift... Forgiven... which was presented to her by the Amish community shortly after the shooting. But the community didn't just give her and her husband a lovely wall-hanging... they gave them the immeasurably priceless gift of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the final form of love. [Reinhold Niebuhr]

Hopefully, none of you have anything so horrific to forgive, but here's the thing. Holding a grudge about something, big or small, whether it occurred years and years ago or as recently as today, only serves to strengthen the venom of hatred. So if you think about it, withholding forgiveness is like trying to poison someone else by swallowing the poison yourself.

Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner. [Max Lucado]

So why a post about forgiveness? Because there's an enormous amount of vitriol in today's world, threatening to tear us apart by building walls between us and dividing us by our perceived differences. But we are far more alike than different, and we don't need more walls. We need bridges of love, compassion, and forgiveness to bring us together. In the face of insane happenings in the world, I must believe that love can... and will... overcome evil. And it begins with each one of us.

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. [St. Francis]

Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace. [Mother Theresa]

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Grace-ful Tale

Thought for the day:  Finishing a good book is like leaving good friends. [William Feather]

That Feather dude knew what he was talking about, didn't he? That's exactly how I feel after I finish reading a good book, and exactly how I felt after finishing the book I'm gonna tell you about today.

The lovely Carol Kilgore launched her latest book earlier this week. Okay, so maybe it's a little late to announce the lift-off.  By now, her book is waaaay up there in the stratosphere somewhere, but at least by waiting until today to post about her book, I can honestly say I've already read it... and I LOVE it.

There are many terrific characters in this book, but Gracie is the good friend I'm most looking forward to reconnecting with in the next book. She's klutzy, lovable, brave, super observant, and smart, smart, smart. I can't wait until Book Two launches!

Wanta hear more? Read on.

A Hot and Spicy Taste of Murder – and Beyond

Law enforcement consultant Gracie Hofner is assigned to a trendy San Antonio pastry shop to watch for a delivery. In addition to the intoxicating aromas of sugar and chocolate, she also has to fight her own attraction to the man working beside her, Donovan Beck. He’s a hunk and a half and perfect for a spring fling.

If she had more time, Donovan would rank higher on her to-do list. But the number one spot is occupied by her search for a missing little girl, the target of a killer. Gracie needs to find her pronto, and the odd super-instinct quirk that’s started plaguing her may help. If not, she can always see what happens if it tells her to buy a lottery ticket.

Jalapeno Cupcake Wench is the first book in The Amazing Gracie Trilogy, a story so big, it takes three books to tell it.

Brief Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Cold! Cold! Gracie Hofner looked down. I can’t believe I did that. While reaching for her buzzing phone, she’d poured the remains of her water bottle, intended for her impatiens, over her bare feet. She pressed the button. “Hi, Nicky.”
“Morning. I’ve got something you may want to see.” The voice on Gracie’s phone belonged to Nick Rivera, her partner.
Former partner. Their paths had been the same—patrol, homicide detectives, and then detectives in the San Antonio Regional Intelligence Center—SARIC. San Antonio Police Department all the way. Except unlike her, Nick had found his niche there.
In addition, they were friends. “Fun or work?”
“Nothing fun about murder, Gracie.”
She went inside for a pad and pencil, greeted by the aroma of the coffee that had brewed while she jogged. “Are we cleared?”
“Negative. Double homicide. Missing family.”
“If the family’s missing, who’s dead?”
“Hector and Therese Cantu. You ever heard of Cantu Electric?” 
“Don’t think so.”
“Good reputation on the West Side. They’ve been around since my dad was a kid—started by Hector Cantu’s father back in the fifties. The old commercial was like Cantu can do. Hector’s son runs the business now. Mr. Cantu’s retired. Rephrase—now he’s good and retired. He and his wife are the deceased.”
She moved to the table and put her phone on speaker so she could take notes. “Who’s missing?”
 “The Cantus have three kids, two daughters and the son, all grown. Besides the electrician business, the son owns an upscale retail lighting store. High end only. Kim and I went in there after we bought our house. I couldn’t afford a switchplate, much less a lamp or fixture. The son and his family are missing.”
“How many?”
“Three. Husband, wife, daughter.”

Visit the “Look Inside” feature here to read more:

About the Author:

In addition to Jalapeno Cupcake Wench, Carol Kilgore is the author of three romantic suspense novels: In Name Only, Solomon’s Compass, and Secrets of Honor. She’s married, guardian to two quirky dogs, and lives in San Antonio, the setting for the trilogy.


                                       Doesn't it sound terrific? (That's because it IS!!!)

                               Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

This 'n' That

Thought for the day:  Compassion is language the deaf can hear and the blind can see. [Mark Twain]

[image courtesy of morguefile]
Yes, I agree with Mr. Twain, because compassion is communicated heart-to-heart. I'm all in favor of compassion and understanding, and I wholeheartedly applaud the laws which were (finally) enacted to level the playing field a bit for people with certain disabilities. A caring society should do no less than to provide equal access to all citizens whenever possible.

And yet... there's THIS...

I honestly don't know what to think about a newspaper article I read earlier this week, so I'm gonna throw it out to you guys, and see what you think.

Movie enthusiast Paul McGann asked a Cinemark theater in Pittsburgh to provide a tactile interpreter so he could see the movie Gone Girl. [FYI: Tactile interpretation involves placing one's hands over the hands of an interpreter, who then uses sign language to describe the movie's actions, etc.] The movie theater denied Mr. McGann's request, and the gentleman took them to court. As of now, an appeals court has ruled that according to federal disability law, theaters are required to provide specialized interpreters for blind and deaf patrons. This case will likely go through more appeals before a final decision is made, but what do YOU think?

[image courtesy of morguefile]

Is it reasonable, or even possible, for every movie theater to hire interpreters? How would they even do that? Have a number of them on call and summon one to the movie when needed, or would they have to pay a flat rate to keep interpreters available, whether or not a patron ever requests their services?  Mr. McCann uses American Sign Language, but would it be sufficient for theaters to hire ASL interpreters? How about the patrons who use a different sign language...? How cost-prohibitive would this all be? Could this signal the end of movie theaters altogether?

Seriously, I'd love to know what you think about this matter.

And now... on to THAT...

[Dot and Dash]
It's no secret that Smarticus and I have two very spoiled and most-loving-in-the-whole-world cats. Lots of you guys have much-loved kitties... and dogs... too, and I know you're every bit as attached to your critters as we are.

Another newspaper article highlighted a different sort of furry companion that's expected to hit the markets next summer. An invention of Japanese company Yukai Engineering, Qoobo has fur, a twitchy tail, and even vibrates like a purring kitty, but it doesn't eat, or ralph up hairballs all over the house, or gnaw on your plants, or need a litter box... because it, um, has no head. It's essentially a round 2-pound pillow with a tail.

Some outraged pet owners say it's ridiculous to think anyone could ever love one of these things, and it's insulting to think it could ever replace sweet little Fluffy or Fido.

And YET... I believe this gizmo will find a niche. Not for those of us who are able to love and care for our pets, but how about for certain nursing home patients (or others) who may not be of sound mind or body? Wouldn't it maybe provide them some of the valuable serenity and calmness ordinarily found by holding and petting a real living, breathing purring kitty? What do YOU think?

Now that I've covered THIS and THAT, it's time for me to scat. (ahem) Dot and Dash are seeking my services...

                                       Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Writing with Sense

Thought for the day:  You can't blame a writer for what the characters say. [Truman Capote]

Mr. Capote was right. I would NEVER use some of the language (tsk!tsk!) my characters use... but some of the people I know might...

Hi-ya. It's that time again, folks. Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

Okay, before I answer this month's question, let's take a minute to consider how we can incorporate sensory perceptions into our writing, shall we?

Studies indicate that the male brain, not to mention certain other sundry body parts, responds more enthusiastically to visual stimuli than the female brain. That is, the sight of bare flesh has the tendency to rev up a man's juices faster than it will a woman's. That doesn't mean men are more responsive to non-sexual visual stimuli, however. Smarticus considers traipsing around behind me in an art museum to be a scant step above having a root canal. Nor does it mean women are immune to the visual appeal of certain male physiques, either. I've heard some women say the only reason they watch football is for the sheer pleasure of ogling all those tight bottoms clad in tight breeches. (Not that I've ever noticed, mind you. I watch it purely for the game.)

An excellent athlete, I'm sure.

To varying degrees, we all react to visual images. Females respond viscerally to the sight of babies, both human and animal. Men are more apt to notice an anomaly in their surroundings. Or in a movie. This, however, may be due to the fact that while a teary-eyed woman is absorbed in the story, her man may be bored out of his gourd and is therefore itching to poke holes in the movie for his own perverse entertainment. (I mean, really, who CARES if a Roman gladiator is wearing Reeboks, right?)


The point is, yes, men react, women react, we all react to what we see. But why do some writers work so hard to reproduce a specific visual image in the minds of their readers while completely ignoring the value of our other senses?

Like hearing. It would be totally cool if life were accompanied by a soundtrack, wouldn't it? If music could warn us when danger's coming, or if maybe a goofy-sounding ditty could've let my son-in-law's Uncle Mike know I was just joking when I told him we'd already met our quota for Mikes at the wedding, so he'd have to leave. (Thankfully, after a brief awkward moment, he DID laugh ...)

If your entrance were marked with music, what do you think it would be?

I'd like to think mine would be some really cool, sexy down and dirty sloooow sax music with a nice bass backbeat, but unfortunately, I'm more of a bouncy Mancini's Baby Elephant Walk kinda person. (sigh)

Some writers listen to music when they write. It helps them tap into the proper mood they're attempting to recreate with their words. Kinda like adding a soundtrack to their writing. Do you think it's possible for a writer to provide some semblance of auditory stimulation for his readers, as well?

Yeah, I think it is. Can't provide a full-blown soundtrack, of course, but word choice makes all the difference. Take the statement: The dog barked. Sure, it provides us with the basic information, and we understand what the words are saying, but how about this statement: The chihuahua yapped like a pit bull on helium. It provides the same information but in a manner such that we can almost hear the little mutt.

Certain sounds leave indelible marks on our psyches, like fingernails scraping across a blackboard, a bugler playing the haunting notes of Taps, coyotes howling, and bombs exploding. When a writer successfully taps into the sounds existing in our collective psyches, he may indeed make it possible for a reader to clearly hear the action in his mind. (And let's not forget the potential power of POW-BOOM-SPLAT onomatopoeia, either.)

Incorporating taste and touch into our writings is also possible if we take advantage of common sensory experiences. Most of us are familiar with the taste of blood, salt, and vinegar, and the feel of silk, satin, and sand paper.

But I'm more interested in the sense of smell.

Smells have the uncanny ability to evoke very strong deep-rooted reactions and emotions. Don't believe me? Have you ever experienced the phenomenon of catching a whiff of baking bread, a dank musty cellar, a certain brand of perfume or aftershave, or even the scent of sulfur, and been immediately gut-punched by an unexpected memory?

Does the smell of sulfur elicit any memories for you?

Psychologists say our brains are hardwired to associate smells with memories. It's only natural that whenever I smell a dank dusty smell, I am immediately transported to my maternal grandmother's scary cellar. There's a certain expensive brand of make-up ... I don't know what it IS, because I'm ... er ... thrifty ... but whenever I catch a faint whiff of it, I'm cuddled up next to my paternal grandmother again. Old Spice? Can't smell the stuff without thinking of my father.

So, the wise writer will make an effort to incorporate smells into his work. Take advantage of your capacity to stimulate associative memories with your smelly words. Because the bottom line is, evoking a reader's reaction to the smells you describe in your writing will also evoke a strong reaction to your writing itself.

Ya know? Kinda makes me wonder if when I'm long gone, my children and grandchildren will associate any particular scent with me. 

                                         Hmmmm, maybe I'd better lay off the baked beans...

Question of the Month: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose? 

Hey, I'm no Hemingway, but I think he was right. To create realistic characters, I think it's only natural for writers to draw from some of the real people they know in real life. Kinda like making a witch's brew: a little bit from this one, a little bit from that one... such that characteristics we admire in certain people we know will logically find their way into characters we want readers to like, and traits we dislike may influence the portrayal of our villains. 

One could say that certain traits of my husband may have found their way into the portrayal of my character George in Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade... but in no way was the character an accurate portrayal of my hubby as a whole. When Smarticus read the book, evidently he must have related to the character... so much so that he said, "Hey! I never said (or did) that!" 

Ditto, actual events from our lives may find their way into our books. For example, many years ago, one of my cousins really did toss her entire dinner out the door when her hubby came home from work acting like a jerk, and my memory of that led me to include a similar scene in my book. I mean, really, that's too priceless not to include. So, yeah, bottom line, I've done these things on purpose

However, I think the characters in my current book originated entirely within my imagination. (I am kinda accident-prone, though...)

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Odds 'n' Ends

Thought for the day: If you have a junk drawer for holding various odds and ends and there's only one item left in the drawer... what do you call it?

This is gonna be an odds and ends kinda post. No deep thinking or brainstorms required, but you may possibly get a chuckle or two out of it. That's the plan, anyway. I pulled the following two items out of a folder on my computer comprised of stuff I might use on my blog someday. Might as well pick today. First, we're going to tackle that age-old question as to why the chicken crossed the road. To get to the other side, right? Or maybe the reason is much more nefarious...

                                        Why DID That Darned Chicken Cross The Road?

SARAH PALIN:  The chicken crossed the road because, gosh-darn it, he's a maverick!

BARACK OBAMA: Let me be perfectly clear, if the chickens like their eggs they can keep their eggs.  No chicken will be required to cross the road to surrender her eggs.  Period.

JOHN McCAIN:  My friends, the chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON:  What difference at this point does it make why the chicken crossed the road.

GEORGE W. BUSH:  We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road.  We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road or not.  The chicken is either with us or against us.  There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY:  Where's my gun?

COLIN POWELL:  Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON:  I did not cross the road with that chicken.

AL GORE:  I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY:  Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it!  It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions.  I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON:  Why are all the chickens white?

DR. PHIL:  The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road.  What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he is acting by not taking on his current problems before adding any new problems.

OPRAH:  Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross the road so badly.  So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a NEW CAR so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER:  We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

NANCY GRACE:  That chicken crossed the road because he's guilty!  You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN:  To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART:  No one called me to warn me which way the chicken was going.  I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level.  No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR SEUSS:  Did the chicken cross the road?  Did he cross it with a toad?  Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY:  To die in the rain, alone.

JERRY FALWELL:  Because the chicken was gay!  Can't you people see the plain truth?  That's why they call it the 'other side.'  Yes, my friends, that chicken was gay.  If you eat that chicken, you will become gay too.  I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the Liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like 'the other side.'  That chicken should not be crossing the road.  It's as plain and as simple as that.

GRANDPA:  In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road.  Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.

BARBARA WALTERS:  Isn't that interesting?  In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish it's lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE:  It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON:  Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

BILL GATES:  I have just released eChicken2017, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents and balance your checkbook.  Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken2017.  This new platform is much more stable and will never reboot.

ALBERT EINSTEIN:  Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

COLONEL SANDERS:  Did I miss one?


So how many people did I offend? Oh, wait! You in back... sorry I left you out. Let's try again with this one... about two doctor pals with great senses of humor.

[image courtesy of morguefile]

Two fellas, great friends since childhood, graduated from med school at the same time and decided to open a practice together so they could share office space and personnel. Problem was, their specialties didn't exactly go hand and glove... one was a psychiatrist; and the other, a proctologist. So they put their heads together to brainstorm an appropriate sign to advertise their new practice.

Their first sign read... Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones-- Hysterias and Posteriors

The town council considered the sign unacceptable and made them change it.

Okeydoke. So they went with...  Schizoids and Hemorrhoids.

Nope. Still not acceptable.

Then... Catatonics and High Colonics

'Fraid not.

Next they tried Manic Depressives and Anal Retentives.


Minds and Behinds

No way.

Lost Souls and Butt Holes

Definitely not!

Nuts and Butts


Freaks and Cheeks

No go.

Loons and Moons

Thumbs down again.

Their brainstorms in serious danger of running dry, they finally came up with a sign that passed muster with the council...  Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones --- Specializing in Odds and Ends.


                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, September 22, 2017

There Ya Gogh!

Thought for the day:   It's hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs, because they always take things literally. 

gullible me, second grade
I've always been gullible, but I'm in recovery stage. Used to be, I believed anything anyone cared to tell me. I mean, why would anyone lie to me, right? One fella we know turned out to be a pathological liar, and he used to tell me some reeeeeal whoppers about his so-called adventures. Smarticus knew he was full of it, and so did most of our friends, but this guy loved to corner me at parties so he could bend my ear with his outrageous tales, because I always swallowed his stories hook, line, and sinker. Periodically, he'd turn to his wife and say, "Ain't that right, babe?" to which she dutifully provided his desired, "Yes, dear" response. (If I'd paid closer attention, I might have noticed her eyes rolling...)

I eventually caught on to the improbability of the things this guy was telling me and learned to steer clear of him, but as a child, I was definitely fair game for the things various family members told me in jest, especially my mother and Aunt Myrtle.

Two jokes they got me with involved names on  mailboxes. The last name? Bean. As we drove past said Bean mailbox, which sat beside the road next to a farmer's field, my mother said, "I wonder how our old friend Lima is doing?" My aunt said, " I heard he and Pinto had a baby. Named her Navy." Me, wide-eyed in the back seat, said something like, " I didn't know you knew them..." Which, of course, spurred them to come up with more names.

The second name that inspired them to yank my chain was Road. Same thing, only this time we were walking in the Pocono Mountains area while on vacation. As I recall, they mentioned names like Tobacco and Dusty. To my credit, I caught on a little faster this time, and even added a couple names of my own.

Which may explain why they didn't pull that joke on me a third time.

Anyhow, I was reminded of those two memories by an email Smarticus sent me recently. It's a rather clever family tree list of names that I'm sure my mother and Aunt Myrt would have appreciated. I hope you do, too.

The fun family?

'Tis the hypothetical family tree of the great Vincent Van Gogh, pictured at right in his 1887 self-portrait.

By the way, you know why he was an artist?

(shhhh) I hear he needed the monet...

Talking about artists, (Weren't we?) what do you think Salvadore Dali's favorite breakfast was? A nice bowl of surreal, of course.

And what's a modern artist's favorite footwear? Sketchers!

Okay, I'll stop. Let's take a look at that whimsical family tree, shall we?

  • First, there's his annoying brother... Please Gogh.
  • His dizzy aunt... Verti Gogh.
  • His prune-eating brother... Gotta Gogh
  • His cousin who worked in a convenience store... Stop'n Gogh
  • His Yugloslavian grandfather... U Gogh
  • The distant cousin who bleached all of his clothes white... Hue Gogh
  • The other cousin from Illinois... Chica Gogh
  • His uncle, the magician... Wherediddy Gogh
  • His Mexican cousin... Amee Gogh
  • His Mexican cousin's American half-brother... Grin Gogh
  • His nephew who drove a stagecoach... Wessfar Gogh
  • His poor ol' constipated uncle... Cant Gogh (He should work something out with Gotta...)
  • His ballroom-dancing aunt... Tan Gogh
  • His bird-loving uncle... Flamin Gogh
  • His psychoanalyst uncle... E Gogh
  • The fruit-loving cousin... Man Gogh
  • His postive-thinking aunt... Wayto Gogh
  • His bouncy nephew... Po Gogh
  • His disco-dancing sister... Go Gogh
  • His niece who travels in an RV... Winnie Bay Gogh
                                       Can you think of any others to add?

                Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.