52-10 Your Current Relationship

Ah, this will be a tough one. Right now, my only relationship is with my characters in my writing. That wasn’t always the case.

First Love

That was in high school, of course, and the person I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with was different from every other boy in the school. Then came college and the death of first love. I think I whimpered a little.

In college, there were dates, a few, but no one stood out as “the one.” There was a professor, but that went no further than flirting. There was also a Vietnam vet in several of my history classes. We talked about politics, the war, revolution, and almost anything else. However, I wouldn’t do drugs with him, and he moved on to someone who did.

Second Love

So, rule one. Never date someone your mother likes, especially if you think it will improve your relationship with her. He was a policeman and a racist, and I wasn’t my authentic self with him. He didn’t see handcuffing and having nonconsensual sex with me as rape. He was also my infamous stalker after we split, the one I had to hold a gun on to get him to leave me alone.

Oh, and when we split, guess whose side my mother took?

Final Love

I found “the one” at work in the early 1980s, and it was bliss for 20 of our 22 years together. The last two he spent in an alcoholic daze, and I wish I could say we drifted away. Rather, we both turned our backs and walked away: him because I wouldn’t enable any longer; me because I couldn’t live the rest of my life the way I had started it, with an alcoholic.

I’ve often said he was the person I was put on earth to love, and I do. I still do, 11+ years after. I always will.

Giving Up

A couple of years ago, I put my toe in the waters and had a couple of dates with a man in my area. Lunch dates only, and we decided on a “real” date–dinner and a movie. He didn’t call to set it up as he indicated he would, and I’d built up a good head of resentment. Then, I found out he’d died at home, alone, a couple of days after we’d chatted on the phone. I felt ridiculous, of course, for being angry, but I also thought it wasn’t my “right” to grieve. We’d barely known each other.

Even almost two years later, I think about what might have been.

That, and my life is full as it is right now. I’ve been on my own long enough I can’t imagine sharing time and space with anyone other than my friends and family. However, I miss male companionship. I miss the Sunday mornings sharing coffee and the newspaper in bed. I miss the walks, the boat rides, the long drives in the country where we talked about any- and everything.

I think about the promise of forever made by “the one” and wonder why on earth I believed in that fairy tale.

Excuse me, while I go back to writing fiction that’s happy ever after–more or less.

52-9 A Fruit I Hate and Why

One thing I like about this 52-week writing challenge is the different topics I culled from various writing challenge lists (from Pinterest, by the way). Never in my life did I think I’d write about fruit, but here we go.

Hate is Such a Harsh Word

I can’t say I hate pomegranates. I love the crunchy seeds and that little splash of flavor when you chew them. I don’t hate them; merely, I find them frustrating. As far as I’m concerned they’re unpeelable and getting to the fruity, crunchy seeds is near impossible.

Oh, you say, there’s a special way to extract the seeds. I know. I’ve tried about a half-dozen of them. I’ve watched YouTube how-to videos, read how-to articles, and by the time I’m done trying to get the seeds out, I’ve lost interest.

And, yes, you can buy the seeds already extracted, but they don’t taste as fresh.

The Taste Test

Maybe it’s me, but years ago when I got introduced to mangos in Hawai’i, I thought they were manna from heaven. I had to have a fresh one every morning for breakfast. I even asked the waitress how to pick out a good one at the grocery store fresh fruit department.

Mangos in Virginia don’t take as good as mangos in Hawai’i. I don’t know why. I only know they tasted awful. I thought it was my imagination (actually, that’s what my ex said), but when I returned to Hawai’i a few years later, I had delicious, fresh, juicy, heavenly tasting mangos for breakfast each morning. Back home in Virginia? Meh.

It was the same for me with buying seeds already extracted from pomegranates. They didn’t taste the same. Now, I walk past the fresh pomegranates in my local grocery store with a wistful sigh (I don’t even look at the mangos.) and with only a memory of how they taste, quickly fading.

Do you have a “fool-proof” way of getting seeds from your pomegranates? If so, tell me in the comments, and I’ll try it.

52-8 My Thoughts on Ageism

This blog post could be short. My initial thought when I first heard of ageism (well after its coining n 1969) was: Huh? How is that possible? What does that even mean?

Of course, I was young, new in my government career, and coveting jobs held by what we called “dinosaurs.”

Then, I became one of the dinosaurs and had to scrap for every promotion and award with kids fresh out of college. In the beginning I’d had to prove myself because of my youth and inexperience. At the end of my career, I had to prove I wasn’t in my dotage.

Until It Happens to You

Like most entitled folk, I sometimes “don’t see” discrimination until it happens to me, and, unlike racism or misogyny, ageism is sometimes subtle.

It’s grocery clerks or wait staff or nurses or anyone half or less your age who somehow decide that calling you “honey” or “sweetie” or “darling” is something you crave.

It’s people who, when you tell them you’re hard of hearing (from noise damage caused by airplane engines not age), they raise their voices, smile sweetly, and speak to you as if you’re five.

It’s having a mechanic try to BS you into believing something is wrong with your vehicle… Oh wait. That happened to me when I was a young woman. That’s more misogyny than ageism.

It’s people in doctor’s offices who look at your age on the chart and offer to “help” you into and out of your chair.

Maybe that’s not exactly ageism, but a preconceived notion that once you hit a certain age, you’re weak and infirm.

No, that’s ageism.

Ageism Can be Deadly

That attitude that once someone reaches a particular age makes it easy for caregivers in nursing homes or even in families to consider that person less than useful, less than what he or she used to be. That, unfortunately, can lead to various forms of elder abuse–from stealing money, emptying bank accounts, to actual physical abuse. The belief that the older a person gets the more useless they are renders them less than human. Dehumanization makes harsh treatment easier to occur.

I remember clearly something that happened in high school. My grandmother was visiting, and she loved the old drug stores that had lunch counters. She particularly loved their chocolate milkshakes. At this particular time, she was in her sixties, an age I can relate to, and she was dressed as she always did for an “outing”: in a nice dress, purple, of course, matching shoes and coat. It was misting rain that day, and she had a bright, fluorescent purple scarf tied around her newly coiffed hair.

To me she was just grandma. She always dressed that way–bright, outlandish colors, usually varying shades of purple–and I thought nothing of it as we sat at the counter waiting for our shakes.

Not so for two girls a couple of years ahead of me in school. My grandmother’s hearing was bad by then, but mine was perfect. I heard them make fun of everything about her, and I was…embarrassed to be seen with her, something I’d never been before. It wasn’t until years later I understood that was ageism, that those two girls decided my bright, active, vivacious grandmother was worthy of disdain because she was, to them, old. They dehumanized her, saw her as a useless thing, and that made it easy, even funny, to criticize her.

What if she’d ended up in a nursing home with people who felt that way?

As a retired nurse, she’d seen quite a few of what passed for nursing homes in the fifties and sixties, and her ardent wish was that she never go to live in one.

Bucking Ageism

I’ve often joked I’m a sixteen-year-old trapped in a sixty-something body. I text. I’m tech-savvy. I’m a gadget nerd. I don’t dress like other women my age. Hell, I wear brightly patterned leggings, some with airplanes on them. One pair I have has a pattern of clouds and lightning, and one of those lightning bolts appears to emerge from my a$$. My version of shades of purple I suppose.

I had a friend say to me not long before my sixtieth birthday, “Now that you’re turning sixty, are you going to dress your age?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Are you going to stop wearing jeans and tee-shirts and odd shoes and wear something age appropriate?”

That was ageism. You can imagine what I said to that.

I’m lucky to have kids who don’t think of me as descending toward uselessness, and I think that’s key. If you’ve brought them up to respect the worth and dignity of everyone at all stages of life, you won’t be an inconvenience they shuttle off to an “assisted living facility.”

So, here’s my thought for those smiling, simpering, young things who call me cute names and talk to me as if I’m incapable of understanding a polysyllabic word: Suck it up, buttercup. Your time will come.

What are your thoughts about ageism? Experienced it yet? Guilty of it?

 

52-7 A Book You Love and A Book You Hate

The “love” part of this topic for the 52-Week Writing Challenge I thought would be the easy part. As I considered it though, I have so many books I love and read and re-read constantly. The easy part became the hard part.

The actual easy part was the book I hate. I had to read for novel research, and I loathed it, every scene and character.

The Book I Love

While studying English Literature I became enamored of most 19th Century authors: Shelley, Hardy, Austen, Dickens, the Brontës. One book, however, stands out, and that’s Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.

The story of an orphan much put upon by her extended family, who ultimately send her to a boarding school from this side of hell, and how she rose above her abuse to be a learned and dedicated governess touches me on so many levels. I have a weird family. I was the first female in that family to obtain higher education. I was a teacher who loved the kids but not the office politics. I found my very own bad-boy, Mr. Rochester. In my family’s history there were quite a few crazy women–who weren’t shut up in an attic.

Jane appealed to me because she stood up for herself. She remained skeptical of Mr. Rochester’s affection (and don’t get me started on the sh**ty way he expressed it), and she removed herself from the relationship rather than compromise her morals. She went off and became her own woman before she rediscovered Mr. Rochester.

And, most of all, it had a dark but happy ending. I didn’t get that in my love relationships, but I like reading about them because, hello, hope.

Jane Eyre is a book I’ve probably read a dozen times over the years, those intervals long enough that when I do re-read it, I find something new in it. Not bad for a 170-year-old novel.

Of course, now that I’ve talked about it a little, I have the itch to read it again.

The Book I Hate

I’m not a believer in censorship at all, particularly of hate speech. It’s nasty, it’s uncomfortable, but I prefer having it in the full light of day where everyone can see it for what it is: bigotry of the worst ilk. I’d rather it not be expressed in closed-door rooms or dark basements because if you don’t know about it, you can’t fight it.

A white supremacist named Dr. William Pierce so hated the U.S. government and the Civil Rights Act that he wrote, under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald, a novel about how a rightwing “heroes” overthrow the U.S. government and set up a new one where Jews, African-Americans, and other “mud peoples” are executed by mobs and hung from lampposts–The Turner Diaries.

The “second revolution” begins with the bombing of FBI headquarters–by a “martyr” in a rental truck who drove up to the front of the building and set off his bomb. (Sound familiar?) The rebels end up having to fight the U.S. armed forces and succeed only in small, commando-like raids. Until the novel’s protagonist, Earl Turner, flies a small plane with a stolen nuke into the Pentagon, leaving behind his diaries to “inspire” his fellow rebels.

Inspire this novel did, unfortunately. In the 1980s, an anti-government, white supremacist group from the northwest who called themselves The Order copied the novel’s exploits in almost every way. No bombs, but bombings were in the planning before one of their group turned informant. The FBI arrested many of them, and they’re in jail to this day for their involvement in the murder of a left-wing Jewish radio DJ named Alan Berg.

The reason I read this ugly tome was in my research for my series based on an act of domestic terrorism, I’d heard that The Turner Diaries was Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh’s favorite book and that he may have used it to learn how to make his bomb. Neither was true, though he had read the book, but it added to the monster image of him.

I’m a fast reader. A book the size of The Turner Diaries should have taken me a day or two to finish. It took me weeks. It was too dark, too hateful for me to take except in brief snippets. There is one scene that haunted my dreams for weeks.

I also don’t believe in book burning, but I’d make an exception for this hateful book. It doesn’t reside on any bookshelf in my house. It’s packed away at the bottom of a plastic bin containing all the materials I used for researching my series–buried in the dark where it belongs.

The sad part is, there is likely someone out there, now, in this current political climate for whom The Turner Diaries will be a book to love.

What about you? What books do you love? Which ones do you regret reading?

Full Moon Social 2017

When Clouds Eclipse the Eclipse I Give in to My Frustration and Write a Bad Poem About the Eclipsed Eclipse in Iambic Pentameter (I Hope) and in Quatrains That Have no Rhyme—or Reason—but That’s to be Expected from a Poseur Poet Who Might be Better at This if She Were to Practice More Rather Than Dabble

 

I have waited all day for the full moon

To rise, to see the promised penumbra.

I have checked my Star Walk app, eager for

The bright orb to rise above the Blue Ridge.

 

I have watched, too, the thickening clouds pile.

Sky Walk says the eclipse has started but

My eyes have no proof, empirical or

Otherwise. Once I see it, will it be

 

In shadow? No devouring beast taking

Bites. Will it be blood red like the others

I’ve seen? Once I watched through a telescope.

That moon wasn’t a full snow moon, instead

 

A gibbous one, an easy mistake. Blood

Red and I understood why ancestors

Cowered in fear. Blood on the moon. Surely

A moonwalker cut himself there but no,

 

That came back to earth trapped in a space suit.

I have waited patiently to see this

Astronomical marvel, and thinning

Clouds promise what to my wondering eyes

 

Should appear but a four point five billion

Year old extraterrestrial. The same

One gazed on by Lucy and some long dead

Neanderthal whose DNA rides in

 

My viscera. Maybe that’s why I can’t

Look away from that shared experience

Across millennia. I’m still waiting.

I have waited all day for the full moon.


Addendum

clouds like the red sea
parted
penumbral eclipse sighted

52-6 What Tattoos You Have and Their Meaning

I came late to the tattoo scene. I’d wanted one for a long time, but I heeded my then-not-my-ex’s advice about how a visible one would be perceived by the stodgy management where we both worked. My personal inclination was not to give a f**k, but he made sense. However, it wasn’t until he was my ex that I got the first of two tattoos I have. Pick your battles.

Tattoo #1

I wanted something to denote my Celtic heritage, but I didn’t want what every other person who thought they were Irish got: a shamrock, a Celtic knot, or a Celtic cross. I wanted something unique but recognizably Celtic.

images

My triskele is similar to this but is enclosed in a circle.

I looked through books on Celtic history and finally came across an article about archeology at the neolithic tomb in Newgrange, Ireland. Prominent among the carvings there was a three-lobed spiral called a triskele or a triskelion. The triskele is sometimes called the spiral of life, and ancient Celts found things in the combination of three to be sacred, likely why they took to the Catholic trinity.

Once I had a sample of what I wanted in hand, I went to a tattoo shop near my house. It was small and clean, but let me tell you it was not like the shops in the reality TV shows popular then–L.A. Ink and Miami Ink. The guy behind the desk had tattoos with a death motif on every inch of exposed skin, and it didn’t take much imagination to figure out what was on the unexposed skin. He didn’t seem terribly interested in what I showed him, but once I mentioned it was a carving from a Bronze Age tomb, he was all in.

The best place I decided was on my left ankle, on the inside. He made the stencil and applied it, and I wanted to watch him do the tattoo. Outlining the tattoo wasn’t an issue. It hurt but it wasn’t excruciating. The artist kept asking me if I wanted to lie down. Nope, I’m good, I told him.

When he started filling in what he’d outlined, which involved a head on the tattoo gun with multiple needles and a scraping motion, I decided it was time to lie down. In all, it took less than an hour and fewer than a hundred dollars to get inked.

I’m a bad girl now, I thought, and relished in my badness.

However, when I went back to work on Monday, I wore slacks for a couple of weeks before I wore skirts, and with them I wore dark hose or tights. Finally, after a month of keeping my tat “under cover” I wore a skirt with nude panty hose and…

No one noticed. Oh well, so much for bada$$ery.

Tattoo #2

The second tattoo is for a far more somber reason than denoting my heritage and wanting to be a bada$$, in my own mind at least.

When one of my grandsons was four years old, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes–an autoimmune disease which essentially means his immune system attacked his own pancreas and put it out of service. At four, he faced a lifetime of insulin shots several times a day.

My own brother had T1D, but he wasn’t diagnosed until he was in his twenties. He eventually became insulin-resistant, and every system in his body started to fail. He died when he was forty-four. I take heart for my grandson because the medicine and the treatment for T1D is far superior than what it was close to forty years ago when my brother was diagnosed.

My grandson’s father, who has a couple of tattoos also, and I decided we needed to show solidarity with him. If he was going to face a lifetime of shots, we could endure needles for as long as it took to get a tattoo.

On my right ankle, mirroring the first tattoo, is a T1D ribbon.

ribbon

My tattoo omits the words “Type 1 Diabetes” and has my grandson’s name above it and the date of his diagnosis below it.

This kid is the bravest little guy I know. An insulin pump has replaced the syringes, and he’s a normal kid in every way, including getting on Mamo’s nerves. Now eight, he’s decided he has T1D so he can educate people about it. I adore him; I absolutely adore him.

So, do me a favor. Read this and go contribute to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Tattoo No. 3?

I’ve been wanting a tattoo acknowledging the fact I’m a writer for some time, as well. I’m thinking on the inside of my wrist so I can look at it when there are those days where the words won’t come.

I’m leaning toward the words, “I write” or “Write well,” in my own handwriting, with a small quill pen in case no one gets it.

How about you? Are you inked? What do they symbolize? Tell me or show me in the comments.

You’re Invited!

panel-flyer-facebook-1-31-17How Many Writers Does it Take…

I’ll be in wonderful author company on Saturday, February 11, 2017, when six of us are featured on an author panel entitled, “Love to Write, Write to Love.” The event takes place at the Massanutten Regional Library, 174 S. Main St., Harrisonburg, Virginia, 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm. We’ll discuss our love of writing and our various paths to publication. After Q&A from the audience, we’ll be selling and signing our books.

The event is free to the public–gotta love those public libraries–and if you’re in the Harrisonburg, Virginia, area, here’s your chance to meet some great authors.

Who are These People?

I’m privileged to know everyone on the panel and have read their work–except for Taryn Kloeden, but that’s because her book won’t be published until spring.

Mollie Cox Bryan is the author of cookbooks, historical fiction, romance, and cozy mysteries. I write historical thrillers and speculative fiction. Taryn Kloeden writes dark fantasy. Margaret Locke is a romance novelist extraordinaire–she has to be to get me to read romance! Judith Lucci is an award-winning author of mysteries with a medical backdrop. Tamara Shoemaker writes incredibly visual YA fantasy–and dragons.

Stop by and See Us

This should be a great event. Writers talking about writing. Doesn’t get much better than that! Come hear what we have to say. Who knows? Something one of us says might get you started on your first novel!

52-5 A Place Where I’d Live but Have Never Been

Easy. Ireland.

No, this won’t be the shortest blog post ever.

Why Ireland?

I have roots there, and my grandmother told me stories and sang me revolutionary songs. If she were still here, she would say, “The bones of your ancestors call to you.” I have enough spirituality left that I get that.

I’ve never been there, and, yeah, that’s a shock. You see, granny believed in reunion, unusual for someone with Northern Ireland roots. However, she was born before there was an Irish Republic, before there was a Northern Ireland. She elicited a youthful promise from me that I wouldn’t ever go until Ireland was reunified.

She’s been dead for forty-three years. Do I dare?

Knowing Where You Come From

A year or so after my father died, I decided I needed to know more about the Scottish part of me. I took three weeks off work, spent a week in London, and two weeks driving the Scottish countryside, from Edinburgh to Dundee to Inverness, around Loch Ness (sadly, Nessie eluded me), and back to Edinburgh.

When I stepped off the plane from London to Edinburgh onto the tarmac, the bones of my Scottish ancestors said, “You’re home.” And I felt it.

Outside Inverness at the museum for the Battle of Culloden, I walked the Moor of Culloden, among the cairns erected for the dead, and I saw familiar names. This battle, family legend goes, was the source of the first Duncans to come to Virginia. They wanted to escape retribution from an English king.

My two weeks there were oddly comforting, as if I’d brought a part of my father home. When I boarded the plane to go back to the states, I felt as if I were leaving home.

My Mysterious Other Half

I grew up acknowledging and celebrating my Scottish ancestry but not my Irish. I’m not sure why, other than my grandmother and, hence, my mother never talked about it much. Even the stories my grandmother told me were “fairy tales.” I learned later there were immigration issues involved, and they wanted no attention drawn to themselves.

I don’t even know what piqued my interest in my Irish ancestry. Perhaps it was a woman who remarked I had an Irish face, or a man from Aer Lingus who gave me a potted shamrock because, he said, I need a bit of Ireland in my life.

And so, Ireland has called to me for several years now, and I need to go. What’s stopped me, you ask. Certainly not a forty-three year old promise. (Well, maybe a little; no one wants to get haunted by her angry grandmother.) I think it’s because once I get there, I’ll feel at home.

And I won’t want to leave.

Okay, what’s the place where you’d live but have never been to before? Let me know in the comments.

Some Things Make it All Worthwhile

If you’re a writer you know we deal with a lot of angst, much of it self-imposed. Am I good enough? What if they hate my book? What if no one buys my books? Etc. Many the day I’ve questioned why I started down my unexpected path of writing fiction, but every now and then something so wonderful happens you stop questioning, for a while, why you ever became a writer.

It Started Last Summer

I met a good old southern boy in my Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop last June, and I was pretty critical of a scene in his MS we critiqued, as in, dude, if you’re going to write a rape scene make it horrific instead of bordering on hearts and flowers.

He was pretty critical of a scene in my MS as well, as in, if I took this book off the shelf at the store and opened to this scene, I’d put it right back. Hard to hear, but his point was valid (as was mine). The scene was thick and stodgy and heavy, but I came away with a solid idea of how to fix it–the point of a good critique.

We friended on Facebook, I participated in a poll to pick the cover of his debut novel, he gave me an idea for a poem, and I let him know when that poem placed second in a contest. A fairly typical social media friendship for a couple of writers who write very different stuff.

tys-print-coverBut, lo and behold, without prompting, he bought a copy of my novella, The Yellow Scarf. Unknown to me, he was intending to write a blog post on the place of the novella in literature today and sought examples to use in his post. To my surprise and delight, he used The Yellow Scarf as an example of a good novella. (To read his blog post, “Is the Novella the New Netflix?” click HERE.)

 

 

 

 

He Liked It!

I love every good review a reader of my work has posted. Some of them have made me proud, and some of them have made me shed a happy tear. But this review of The Yellow Scarf within the blog post was the most uplifting thing my writing career has experienced, even more uplifting than holding my first book in my hands.

The reviewer has an MFA and knows literature, and he said some amazing things about my novella. More than that sheepskin, he got what I was trying to say with that story. It resonated, and, frankly, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do: Write a good story and have it stick with the reader.

And it’s all about the validation. Someone whose opinion I respect thought I did a good job, that I’m a good writer. That made my day. Hell, it made my year. My gratitude is undying–to my good ole boy and the author of the blog post and review, Kelsey Asher.

If you’re interested in how well you agree with this review, you can get your own copy of The Yellow Scarfhttp://bit.ly/TheYellowScarf (Kindle Edition, but there’s a link to the paperback version)