May 20, 2013 at 8:46 am (Adventures)
Tags: Holiday, hotel, memoribilia, Route 66
We went to the Springfield Scottish Games over the weekend. They had a group rate at a local hotel, and having Scottish blood, we couldn’t pass it up. Maybe we should have. It was the first Holiday Inn built on Route 66. When the current owners bought it, they built around the existing hotel to expand it and added a small museum of Route 66 memorabilia. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, and since some of you wouldn’t believe it if I told you, here is a sampling of what they had.
May 13, 2013 at 9:16 pm (Adventures, Homefront)
Tags: grad school, graduation, group photo, school graduation, thanks mom, traffic
I haven’t expressed my appreciation for my family around here lately. I have say, they’re all pretty terrific. All of our parents plus an aunt and uncle came for Eric’s grad school graduation this past weekend. They took the trouble, time, and expense to travel here and sit in the sun for the best part of four hours to watch him walk across the stage. Then they braved traffic and starvation to get to the restaurant he wanted to go to, even though it was half an hour further away from home, and we didn’t have to pay the bill!
Like I said, they’re all pretty great. Thanks, Mom and Carel, Dad and Linda, Jan and Liz, David and Beth, Alex and Emma, and Vicky and Justin for sharing the day with us. It was wonderful that we could all be together, even if no one thought to get a group photo!
May 6, 2013 at 10:02 am (Movies, Research, Writing)
Tags: characters, Iron Man 3, Pepper Potts, reveiw, story craft, Tony Stark
Now for something completely different! I want to recommend Iron Man 3, especially for my writer friends. I know, girls, it’s a guy flick. A lot of us aren’t into the Marvel movies. Explosions, testosterone drenched egos, people shooting each other, and the good guys are going to win anyway, right? What’s the point?
It’s a study not only in character change, but also ratcheting up tension. There were new writers for this script, and they understand story craft. They get that the characters have to be flawed, but they can’t be too flawed. They have to feel real to us. This is the first Iron Man movie that I actually wanted to hang out with Tony and Pepper*. Not only were the characters much more believable, they didn’t cut them any slack. Things just kept getting worse and worse. Not that I couldn’t see how they were going to get around the apparent death of a main character. They weren’t that subtle, but they made up for it by telling us the whole story instead of chopping it off at the end of the action like so many guy flicks do.
And the villain! I can’t even tell you about the villain without spoiling it. All I can say is they gave him the right amount of skeeve without giving him away immediately. He just barely edged ahead of Ivan Vanko (played by Mickey Rourke), who was great, but lacked the creepiness of Mandarin.
Unfortunately, we were about half-way through the movie before I remembered that I should be looking for story components. It drew me in that quickly, and it wasn’t until one of the characters was running across a scaffold hanging over a fire that I realized what they were doing. That’s how it is with writers, right? There comes a point where you can’t just watch a movie or read a book!
One side note: If you’re new to Marvel movies, don’t leave until the credits are over. Yes, I know your bladder is about to burst, but trust me because they have a little vignette after the credits roll that’s worth your time. The only movie that let me down was The Avengers. That one was just cheesy. All the others you’ll want to watch.
*Who the heck picked the name for Pepper Potts? Honestly. She deserves so much better, especially since she has to put up with Tony.
May 2, 2013 at 10:16 am (History, Research, Useless/Useful Bits of Information, Writing)
Tags: 1905, fire, historical fiction, knob and tube, Newport, The Wizard Of Oz, weather
Historical fiction is a cagey beast. We know so much history, but often the tiny details are lost to us, or they’re so hard to find they might as well be. The internet does help with the research. If nothing else, it points me toward the books I need. Still, finding the minutiae of daily life takes a lot of time to discover.
I’m working in 1905 on my current project. Details are easier to find than they were for the 18th century, and I’m enjoying the new era. Still, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve had to look for men’s dinner jackets and the accessories that went with them, knob and tube wiring and how best to use it to start an inconvenient fire, construction methods from 1865, and even when the Wizard of Oz came out. (The movie came out in 1939; the first book was published in 1900 but did not use the famous, “I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore” line.)
The gold nugget in my research was historical weather for Newport RI going back more than 100 years. It’s a rare find in my experience. Thanks to whoever put it up on the ‘net, I can say that May will be good weather for my hero to work on foundation issues, and the end of September might be best for roofing. That fits in my timeline rather nicely because the fire can’t be too early; it needs to be late enough to put the whole restoration in jeopardy. I can also see that Easter is sunny and fairly warm, which is perfect weather for my heroine to get into a scrape that will change her whole outlook. It’s the sort of information that lends credibility to a work of fiction. Let’s face it, some of you know more about history that I do! I think that’s why I love writing historical fiction. I learn so much in the process.
Anyone know something about Newport, RI or 1905 that I can weave into my plot?
March 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm (Adventures, Homefront)
Tags: counters, finished, kitchen, shelves
Well, mostly. Everything is installed. Not everything is put away, but I’m close! Very close!
This is the last piece we were waiting for, and it’s all because of this:
When we got the first set of shelves, the box was damaged, and the top shelf had a chunk missing. We had to take it back and re-order, and they couldn’t install the cabinet until it came in. Then, of course, we had to do the whole counter top process again.
Here’s the whole side,
and the whole front.
If you missed the rest of the saga, you can find the other posts here and here. We started the actual renovation part January 10. I didn’t really think it would take 2 1/2 months to get it done, and now that it is, it hardly seems real. Now to make the best use of the space. There’s the real challenge!
March 21, 2013 at 2:45 pm (Research, UBIs, Writing)
Tags: Carl Linnaeus, cedar shingles, drywall, foundation, index cards, J. A. Birchall, note pads, notebooks, roof, student
I run across some rather interesting tidbits in my research. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve learned today:
- Cedar shingles last 20-25 years on average but have lasted as long as 60 years.
- Jamming or sticking doors and windows can be either a crawl space structural issue or foundation settlement. Ditto drywall cracks.
- A sagging roof can indicate sub-par building materials, a lack of ventilation, or heavy loads of rain or snow accumulating on the roof.
- Spiral notebooks were invented in 1934. Since my story is set in 1905, there will be none of these. However, notepads were invented in 1902 by J.A Birchall In Launceston, Australia, and index cards were developed by Carl Linnaeus in the mid-1760’s, so I can use both of them. I could also use legal pads, which were introduced about 1900, but I have no idea how much they cost then. My hero is a poor seminary student. Notepads are a better option since they were developed with price in mind and were supposedly more economical.
Makes you wonder how all the pieces fit together, doesn’t it?
March 20, 2013 at 1:56 am (God's Kids, Homefront, Writing)
Tags: e-pulpit, faith, God, imperfection, paradigm shift, Psalm
No doubt you’ve noticed a trend here lately. I know I’ve been blogging about my faith a lot lately. I’m not trying to turn the blog into my e-pulpit, but around the beginning of the year, I ran across Psalm 37:4*–”Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I figured a paradigm shift couldn’t hurt.
Don’t misunderstand–I’ve been active in my church for years. We raised our kids in the faith and have tried to walk the walk in our imperfection. It’s the imperfection that gets me every time. It’s hard to delight in someone you don’t know that well, so I decided it was time to do something about it. Besides, God knows the desires of my heart better than I do. I only know what I think I want, and I haven’t gotten it yet. I don’t know–won’t know until something happens–whether it’s because I’m dreaming too small or dreaming the wrong dream, but when you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always had. I’ve had enough angst and frustration. Hence the paradigm shift and the God posts.
I certainly don’t want to drive people away. I’m just trying to be real. Writing is hard, and it’s solitary. It’s jarring sometimes to shift from real to imaginary and back again, often with no notice. You’re in the zone and the phone rings, or the kids come home from school and they’re starving, or the alarm you set when you put dinner in the oven goes off. I totally understand how so many artists end up on drugs or alcohol. Art wears you down. Who am I kidding? Life wears you down.
Sometimes I feel like the weakest person on earth, like I can’t do anything on my own. Scripture tells me that’s when I’m strong. That’s when God does His best work.
*All of Psalm 34 is worth reading. Very encouraging and practical.
March 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm (God's Kids, Homefront, Writing)
Tags: ark in the desert, circle, dreaming, faith, God, hope, Jericho, joshua 6, mark batterson, miracle, prayer, religion, spirituality, writing
“When our dreams grow as big as the heart and power of God, we begin experiencing answer to prayers that can be defined as nothing less than miraculous.” –Mark Batterson
I’m doing a short bible study at our church called The Circle Maker. The concept of circling things in prayer is based on the fall of Jericho in Joshua 6. It’s about finding the work God wants you to do and doing it, even if it means looking foolish. Let’s face it, Noah probably felt pretty foolish building an ark in the desert, right? It paid off for him in the end.
Pre-published writers have a pretty big Jericho. It’s bigger than getting the contract. It’s about craft, slogging through sloppy drafts and droopy middles, sitting in the chair when we’d rather be anywhere else. It’s about being adequately prepared, and learning the point where preparation becomes procrastination. It’s about making the draft the best you can make it, and then learning how to make it better still. And then there’s finding craft partners who understand you and your convoluted thinking, and who will be honest when something stinks. There’s a level of trust that has to be attained before the relationship can really start to work, and sometimes you don’t get the right person at first. It’s frustrating to go through that process again. The process is what makes us able to handle the contract when it comes. It makes us strong enough and gives us the skills to get and stay published.
This applies to any dream, not just writing. Drawing the circle big enough means you can’t get caught up in minutiae. You have to think past where you think you want to be to where you can’t possibly get on your own. We long for miracles, for some hope to cling to, but fear keeps us from setting up our own miracles. If we can accomplish it on our own, it’s not a miracle and too often, we get frustrated and stop one prayer short.
Don’t stop dreaming.
February 20, 2013 at 10:18 am (God's Kids, Homefront)
Tags: Downton Abbey, facebook, prayer, sin, tolerance, unsavory
****SPOILER ALERT! IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED DOWNTON ABBEY, SEASON THREE, AND YOU INTEND TO, YOU MAY WANT TO STOP READING!****
One of my Facebook friends posted a question the other day about how others handle scenes on television that they find distasteful. Specifically, she was referring to some unsavory scenes in Downton Abbey. My first thought was, “What unsavory scenes?” Then I remembered: Thomas tried to kiss Jimmy. Apparently, some viewers were offended.
Here’s the thing. Sin is sin. That kiss wasn’t any more sinful than O’Brien lying to Thomas that Jimmy liked him, or to Jimmy that he should tolerate Thomas’ behavior to preserve his job. It wasn’t any more sinful than Rose giving Edith the slip to cavort with a married man. For that matter, it’s not more sinful than Edith thinking of cavorting with a married man! Cora blamed Robert for Sybil’s death. Mary withheld information from Matthew about their infertility issues. She had ‘a minor surgery’ without his knowing. (I still haven’t figured out what that might have been, and the writer in me is very curious!)
I started to comment on that post, but nothing I could think to say would have been helpful. We all have limits and prejudices. There are certain things we can’t watch, but we should not turn a blind eye to the knowledge that what we see on TV happens in the real world whether we agree with it or not. So what’s the best way to handle it?
I think prayer is the only solution. Not that it would help to pray for the soul of a fictional character, but for those bound by that particular sin. Having said that, be careful what you pray for because the results may be unexpected. You may find that the world remains unchanged, that the change happens inside you. What would happen if we stopped judging people and started loving them? We don’t have to agree with their choices. My grandmother taught me to hate the sin and love the sinner. It sounds easy, but it’s not. Even so, it’s what we’re called to do. After all, there is probably someone out there judging you for something. If you knew about it, what would you do? Confront them? Defend yourself? Apologize? Cry? Accept the criticism and try to change?
We’re all imperfect. Regardless of our faith (or lack thereof), we make mistakes and have bad habits. We all make choices that someone, somewhere would think stupid or ignorant. Tolerance is not the same as giving the benefit of the doubt to another of God’s kids. Love the sinner.
February 12, 2013 at 10:18 am (Homefront, Pondering)
Tags: Christ, church, God, harmony, Heaven, love, lyrics, music, praise band, relationships, religion, selfishness, songs, spirituality, stereotype
On the way to church the other day I looked inside my music folder to see what we were singing and found one of my least favorite songs. The tune is catchy and upbeat, but the lyrics leave a lot to be desired. When we practiced it before church, I could hear God laughing at me and saying, “Really sets your teeth on edge, doesn’t it? Sorry, kid, the imagery that annoys you is just what one of my other kids needs. Get over it, girl.”
It’s exactly what I would have said to one of my kids.
He’s been working on this for a while. I never saw myself as selfish until a couple years ago, when God starting showing me what my selfishness looks like. It’s an opinion about a song and wishing we could take it out of our library. It’s insisting on a particular meeting spot because it’s slightly more convenient to my schedule. It’s wishing we could change a meeting night because it’s the least convenient for me, never mind how it works for the other 25 people. They seem innocuous, but what if my changed actions minister to someone? Or, on the flip side, what if I’m stubborn and come across as the hypocritical church lady? There’s a stereotype I never want to have.
Sometimes we have to realize that because something annoys us doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. I have a hard time reading the epistles because of Paul’s syntax. Frankly, he’s very wordy, and I find myself wishing he would get to the point. His teaching is amazing, though, and I have to remind myself constantly that what I see as extra words are there for a reason. I don’t need to know what it is. Some things we just have to wait until Heaven to find out. That alone makes me look forward to Heaven. Do you think Paul actually talks like he writes? It’s a little mind blowing to think about smiling and nodding politely over a perfect latte with the man who brought Christ to the gentiles. It’s even more mind blowing to think that he’s the reason I’m one of God’s kids ’cause there’s not a drop of Jewish blood in my veins!
I have been making a concerted effort never to let what I think of a song show on my face when I sing it. God likes all the songs and I feel like if I roll my eyes at lyrics I think are silly, I’m telling God He doesn’t know what good music is. It’s my offering to God first, a little tiny ministry all my own second. If God can speak to the downtrodden and broken hearted through my harmony, it’s all good, so long as they realize that the vessel has a long way to go to be perfect. Lucky for me, God already knows that and lets me stay around anyway.