Category Archives: Blogging

Creative Art

A quilter or seamstress invests in the machine best suited for her hobby. She has a sewing room stocked with shelves of materials, trims, and embellishments. A knitter has baskets of yarn, pattern books, needles, and accessories. Artists have easels, paints, and brushes. Most of these crafters have supplies they will never use.

A silhouette artist works with minimal materials. A person chances by. A smile or turn of the head alerts the artist. From a canvas of black paper, he captures the profile with clean, sharp blades. He creates curves and angles that detail the subject. The framed product becomes a visual treasure.

My sewing machine and serger sleep like Rip Van Winkle. My knitting baskets overflow with yarn, needles, and supplies. I’ve donated my colored pencils and construction paper to a charity.

I’m a writer. My hands are my tools. I mold the shape of a head, add a beard or mustache, and dress a dapper character. If the look isn’t pleasing, no need to rip out stitches, or change the canvas, or discard the paper. I can add a hat, shave the beard, and update the wardrobe—all with words that dance across my computer screen at the command of my fingertips.

Words

 

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Filed under Blogging, Writing

Some, someone, somewhere

caution-642510__180Writing classes often emphasize more about omissions than inclusions. To-be verbs like am, is, are, was, and were top the list followed by –ly adverbs. The same instructors tell wannna-be authors to eliminate indefinite words like some, someone/somebody, somewhere and skip the menu details.

But wait! What about New York Times best-selling author Stuart Woods? Here’s his narration from Collateral Damage after more than fifty books published.

vegetables-pixabayStone Barrington, the protagonist, is looking for dinner ingredients.

  • Stone found some Italian sausages, some mushrooms, some broccoli rabe, and some garlic.
  • He ran some water into a pot…
  • He found some ziti in a cupboard…
  • Then he chopped some onion…

From another paragraph on the same page:

  • Stone had bid on some books but didn’t get them.

pasta-shrimp-pixabayThese writing examples make me hungry. I’m going to search the fridge for some leftovers. After I eat, I’ll edit my crime fiction to mention some angel hair pasta with some sautéed shrimp my protagonist is eating at home after losing someone she was tailing somewhere on her night watch when somebody got in her way and she lost sight of her mark.

Sherlock Holmes Statue -Edinburgh

Some detective she is. I’ll give her another chance to redeem herself somewhere after my next edits.

 

 

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Editing, Writing

Okay to ignore writing rules if you’re Lee Child

Start-screenI’m a freelance editor for individuals and independent publishers. My job is to pinpoint spelling, punctuation, grammar, incomplete sentences, and syntax errors, but the rules are always changing.

For example: Limit the use of anybody, just, like, only, some, and somebody. But or and, once forbidden as sentence starters, are now acceptable, but the author should avoid beginning with because, when, which or words ending in –ing. One more grammar rule: Don’t use incomplete sentence in narrative, only in dialogue. Don’t overuse commas.

Bookpages animatedWait a minute! I just read Night School, a Jack Reacher 2016 novel by #1 New York Times Bestselling author Lee Child. Here are random sentences from that prequel.

  • Reacher thought back, to the conversation in Garber’s office.
  • She drove, back to the place she had only just left.
  • Surprised, and a little quizzical.

Are those commas necessary in these three short sentences? What about the double-up of only and just? I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop on that last sentence.

How about these incomplete, single sentence paragraphs?

  • Twitching and writhing and wringing his hands. [Note: At least this is appropriate syntax]
  • Thinking.
  • Local gentleman, like himself.
  • Like an old black-and-white movie.
  • An inconvenient ratio.

Start-Finish-RoadWhy does Lee Child’s editor let him get away with these writing blunders? Not because he was born Jim Grant in England. Not because he hires a freelancer like me (Delacorte Press can afford top-quality editors). Not because the third-person narrator mimics Jack Reacher who doesn’t waste words. Because one thing an editor doesn’t change is the writer’s style.

P.S. Bestselling is now one word. Lee Child and his editors got that right. It’s possible that the #1 New York Times Bestselling Author blurb is the #1 reason basic editing rules don’t apply to Jack Reacher.

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Escaping Christmas Kitchen Duty

cooking-utensilsLong ago, pots and pans rattled in our kitchen on Christmas Eve. Pungent sage escaped the 11 x 13 inch rectangular glass Pyrex dish filled with dressing baking in the oven. Homemade pie crust snuggled inside a nine-inch round glass plate on the linoleum counter top. Crimped dough, pinched between Mama’s right thumb and forefinger, fluted the pie’s edge. Mincemeat filling rested in a bowl ready to be spooned into the crust. A baked lemon pie cooled and waited to be crowned with meringue on Christmas morning. Mama moved from one task to the next as smooth as a restaurant chef.

Pocket WatchChildhood memories are reminders of a homemade life. Everything from scratch from killing the chicken in the backyard, plucking and cleaning it in the kitchen early Christmas Eve to dipping flour from the tip-out bin for making rolls. Days of work for Christmas lunch (You may remember from previous postings that my father insisting on eating at 12 Noon by his pocket watch) followed by hand washing and drying dishes and sweeping the kitchen and dining room floors.

cheeseballMy own adult memories of baking banana bread, dredging chopped dried fruit for the annual fruitcake, and baking cornbread for southern-style dressing, and homemade cheese balls rolled in fresh-shelled, chopped pecans prepped the holiday scene. Labor-intense hours in the kitchen on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning remind me of those special days.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Recent holiday memories are toil free. If invited to dine with others, I bring a relish plate of veggies and olives. If I decline the invitation as I did this year, Denny’s is my go-to place. My twin and I attended church then headed to the nearby restaurant. It was packed with families, even one group we knew, who escaped Christmas kitchen duty.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Blogging, Events, Holidays, Memoir

Day of the Dead (Diá del Muerto)

flagsMy family chose the traditional May Memorial Day to visit the cemetery, but November 1 and 2, the Day of the Dead, are recognized by many Californians with memorials to those who have passed through this life.

My father died on the third day of November, “a day late, and a dollar short,” an idiom he often used with his personal twist on humor. On this eve of Diá del Muerto, I chose “Faded Blues,” a revised excerpt from Double Take, to share my memories from more than half-century ago with a twist my father would have appreciated.

Faded Blues – in Memory of John Ewing Carr, 1889 – 1953

ironing-board-pixabayMama was well respected for her excellent ironing skills. She did laundry for the most difficult to please customers in our neighborhood. Our home was not air conditioned but Mama made do. She set up the ironing board in the dining room where a breeze whispered through the screen door now and then. After she finished ironing for her customers, she sprinkled and ironed our starched church clothes—a dress for herself, dresses for the twins, and a white shirt for Papa.

Papa had a favorite faded blue shirt long before it was trendy. The old shirt sported the drop shoulder look. Cuffs of sleeves much too long were kept in place at the wrists by masculine black garters below his elbows. The soft shirt bloused over his belt, and dark pants made his slight frame appear taller than his 5 feet, 7-inch height. Mama disliked, perhaps hated, that blue shirt because it did not reflect her reputation of starched and ironed clothing. No matter how much she ironed that shirt, it was too supple to hold its shape.

Papa sometimes wore a white shirt to our local church on Sunday mornings if Mama insisted. Other times, he donned his favorite shirt no matter what church we visited or how ministers were expected to dress. Each time Papa wore that faded blue shirt, Mama frowned and mentioned the white dress shirt. He pretended not to hear. Mama never argued with Papa’s decisions about other things, but that soft blue shirt became her enemy. She pouted quietly each time he wore it.

gold-leavesOne November afternoon, Mama chose the stiff, freshly ironed white shirt hanging next to the limp, faded blue. One of her grandson’s standing near the closet said, “Oh, Grandma, let Grandpa wear his favorite blue shirt.”

Mama refused. She insisted that Papa must wear his dress shirt for this special event. She removed his aging black suit and the crisp white shirt from the closet. She placed a rolled blue tie, folded black dress socks, and undergarments in a small paper bag.

Tears cascaded from Mama’s dark brown eyes. She turned to her oldest son. “Be careful not to wrinkle the shirt on the way to the undertaker.”

 

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Rigged Election

Student chairCookie CuttersConversation was limited in our family. “How was your day?” or “How was school?” were never uttered. No need. My twin sister and I bubbled over the minute we stepped inside our modest home after school. We blurted out everything to Mama in the kitchen. We talked between bites of fresh homemade cookies while she began preparations for the evening meal.

My parents talked during meals, usually things they’d heard about town or at church. Papa expected the twins to be silent except for an occasional “May I have another roll?” or “Please pass the butter.”

republican-elephantThere was no political talk in our home. My father, born five years after Herbert Hoover, was a Republican and Mama was uncommitted. All that changed the year Noah*, my newest and most handsome brother-in-law, took an interest in politics, but his wife wasn’t quite old enough to vote. When they visited us, the ladies usually separated from the men—Old radio - Pixabaywomen and girls in the kitchen, men in the living room. That evening, we all settled into the living room like we sometimes did when listening to the Chuck Wagon Gang or the Carter family singing on the radio. But the radio was silent.

Noah ignored Papa and directed his question toward Mama. It zinged like an arrow shot from a fully-stretched bow. “Misses Carr,” he said with heavy “z” emphasis on the misspoken Misses. “Who are you voting for?”

patriotic-pencil-pixabyMama pushed the old rocker back and forth a couple of times with her feet resting on the fresh-waxed linoleum before she answered. “I don’t vote,” she said.

“You have to vote,” Noah said, “so others don’t elect the wrong candidates.”

“I don’t know any of them gov’ment people,” Mama said. “What if I put in the wrong man and he does bad things?”

Papa harrumphed his “I told you so.” Noah had no comeback.

On Election Day while Papa was at a fall gardening job a few block away,  Noah came to take Mama to the polls. “I signed up to vote because you talked me into it,” she said, “but I still don’t know one of them men from the other. Besides, I never voted before, so I don’t know how. You’ll have to show me.”

When Mama returned, I asked how her first attempt at voting went.

“Oh, it was easy,” she said. “I couldn’t read them big words so Noah showed me which places to mark.”

ballot-pixabay

*Noah is a fictitious name substituted to protect the guilty.

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Crossing the Amite

Lightning-storm sepia tone-PixabayOn April 8, 1983, I left home in Livingston Parish and traveled Interstate 12 West to my temp job location in mid-town Baton Rouge. I crossed the Amite River Bridge at Denham Springs as I had done hundreds of times. That morning, the stream had risen several feet. Debris floated faster than usual. In the parking lot at work, wind and rain whipped my umbrella and drenched me before I reached the entrance. Nothing new for Louisiana spring rains, but heavier than usual.

The project was behind schedule. My job—meet the deadline. I couldn’t concentrate on the stacks of data that needed to be typed, copied, faxed, or delivered. How will I get home if the Amite floods over the highway?  

Home-Blue-PixabayTwo years earlier, we had built a home in rural Livingston Parish, twelve road miles from the Amite (A-Meet) River at Denham Springs. A small back portion of our 400-ft. deep acre was in the 100-year flood zone, so we chose elevated Acadian-style construction rather than a concrete slab foundation. That lifted us another three feet above potential flooding. Only three miles south of the I-12 at Walker, we didn’t worry about an evacuation route. Those  precautions melted like winter ice on a warm spring day.

Pixabay tax-consultant-secretaryLong before mobile phones text, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram photos, weather alerts trickled into the business world from a portable radio. Early afternoon news reported that the Denham Spring I-12 Bridge would be closed by nightfall. I’d be marooned with thousands of others in Baton Rouge until the water receded. I asked the office manager to let me go home early. “It’s not as bad as they say,” he replied. “You have to finish this project.”

I returned to my tasks. My fingers flew over the keyboard. I stared at the cascading sheets of rain outside. Thunder rumbled. Lightning flashed. I scurried between my desk to the copier and fax machine, skirting his office like a mouse avoiding a trap. About two hours later, still a long way from finished, I approached the manager, latest efforts in hand. “I have to go,” I said. “With the flooded streets, I may not make it to the bridge before dark.” He insisted the danger was exaggerated and told me to keep working. Caution with a hint of fear said otherwise. I cleared my desk, gathered my purse and umbrella, and headed to my car. My drive through flooded Baton Rouge streets was slow. I relaxed a little when I reached the elevated freeway. Twenty more minutes and I’ll be home.

Flashing lights and a line of vehicles stopped me near the Amite River Bridge. Darkness encroached. I inched forward, headlights pierced the rain, windshield wipers at high speed cleared a semi-circle, until I was the first in line. A State Trooper approached. I lowered my window a few inches. Rain poured from his Smokey-the-Bear-style hat when he leaned down to be heard.

“Water’s over the bridge now, ma’am. We’re gonna escort you across,” he said. “Then, we’re gonna close the road.”

 

Road cosed sign-Pixabay

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