Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In Memory of Dreamette...

I hate when I have to work so hard I cannot write.

The month of April is when I am working at my real job the hardest. Usually the weather is awful, when is good for my normal business (special event rental) but also the wildest. Tornadoes, high winds, hail - you name it we get it in the spring. And nothing ruins a good event event quicker then any of the aforementioned weather problems.

Last weekend was one of our biggest spring events. There were lots of tents, lots of alcohol and lots of bad weather. The wind was blowing a small gale. The rain came down in sheets. The mud was everywhere.

At my 'side' job, we kept the horses inside in anticipation of the weather. Across the street, the broodmares were turned out for a short time to allow them to stretch their legs. Mares who are about to foal are miserable. Just like pregnant humans. One mare delivered in early March. The other two were due in early May.

Dreamette was 22 years old. A champion broodmare, she was due for her latest baby the first part of May. Last Saturday during a large spring thunderstorm, she was struck by lightning and killed instantly.

Karma is relentless. Even if Dreamette had been kept inside last Saturday, she wouldn't have been safe. The same storm that hit the paddock also hit the barn, exactly outside the stall she would have been standing in.

I have never truly understood mares who are only used for breeding purposes. It has always seemed like a waste of a good horse. But I can understand grieving for a lost friend and a lost child. She was a star in her own world, producing babies that excelled in their breed. Her last year's foal stands alone in the front pasture, looking for a mother he will never smell or hear again. That, my friends, is worthy of mention.

People think animals are dumb. They consider horses put on this planet for their amusement or abuse. But, they are also mothers, and sons, and daughters, and friends, and companions.

Somewhere Dreamette and the foal who never was are running free, enjoying God's much greener pastures. Free from pain or worry, they will run forever, Dreamette waiting for her other children to join them. May they run free forever.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Triumph and Tragedy

Why do women feel the constant need for cutting each other down?

That is a rhetorical question which has nothing (or everything) to do with this entry. Recently I received a publisher's response from a house I had honestly forgotten I had submitted to. The fact that is was a negative isn't the story. It's what they said that is the subject of my posting.

Once I read their comments I remembered why I sent a query to them. They promised a honest assessment of their rejection. Now, I'm getting used to the "no thank you" letters from publishers. However, what I am having a problem with is what they said next.

They told me I had no story development in the 50 pages I submitted.

Wow. Low blow.

Now, I will confess the opening is probably the only part of my book even I struggled with. My awesome editor (who shall remain nameless except to say that he is my hero) had me cut a lot of the opening right away. That ended up being about eighteen pages, which I am slowly working out my frustration concerning by blogging. But now, even he admits more needed to be lost. And that's probably my fault.

As a writer, I have a hard time separating myself from what I write. I have spent a long time developing this story. These characters have been living in my head for years and I feel a duty to tell their story as honestly and deeply as I hear it internally. To know that I have to separate myself from this and look at the story from a commercial side is hard.

Which in a very round about way brings me to the opening sentence. Girls, in a nutshell, can be very cruel. It is one reason I am not an extremely verbal person. I've never run in the popular group, most people think I am stuck up when I am actually only paralyzingly shy. Girls are like sharks. They swim around in packs looking for weaknesses they can exploit.

Currently my daughter is experiencing the painful lesson that teenage girls are two faced, and it is painful to see her bewilderment at the sudden changes in those she thought her friends. Why do others have to cut down the smallest in the herd? I tell her to try and let it go, but she is just like me. She takes everything way to personal.

Thin skinned people are in for a hard time in this highly competitive culture we live in . Whether they are writers or painters or poets or twelve year old girls, we have to choose what we allow to injure us and to always remember that it can only damage our souls if we let the barb penetrate that deep.

Women are cruel, publishers are even crueler, but teenage girls are killers.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

If Patience is a Virtue, Then I Have None!

I have come to the conclusion that I HATE TO WAIT!!!

First, I am waiting to be published. That one single process alone would be enough to test the patience of a saint. Nothing I can think of compares to the long term agony of waiting to hear from a publisher whether they think you are good enough to take a chance upon. Granted, they get more requests in a day than I get spam emails, but still...

I spend half my day at my regular job waiting for the mail to come. Just to see if any of the many people who owe me money have sent any. I get tired of tell my creditors, "not today maybe tomorrow." I just want to be caught up again with all our bills. I want to be able to set some money aside to grow old on.

Right now, I am waiting on a customer to return a credit card authorization form. I sent it more than an hour ago. How long can it take to write down a few numbers and fax it back? Now I am going to be stuck in traffic on the way home, still have to drive to the barn (20 additional minutes in another direction) and I had told my daughter we might go out to the tack store in Roswell. CRAP!

That is the part of being a mom I have a hard time with. When I get home, all I really want to do is take a nap! Not drive all over creation running kids here and there. True, my son takes a good deal of this burden by picking up his sister when I ask, but right now his car is broken and I don't have the money or time to fix it.

Have you ever heard the expression, "Just when I got it all together..."? That's how I feel right now. Money is tight, my kids are demanding, my business is having a hard time, the economy stinks, my son needs a job, my daughter is whiny and everything seems like I need to tie a knot in my rope and hang on.

That's when I need to submerge myself the most in my writing. When everything seems to be falling apart, the stories flow. Is there a corollary between suffering and the creative process? Of course there is. Look at Van Gogh. Look at Michelangelo. When an artist is suffering in their own private morass is when the greatest creations are made. Look at the Sistine Chapel. Look at "Starry Night".

Into every one's life suffering comes. How you deal with it is what makes the difference. I need to turn my problems over to my Higher Power, the Living God. Only He will bring peace to my soul. He gave me a talent and I thank Him everyday for my blessings. Now, I need to learn to praise Him for the suffering.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010



Well, I still have three publishers I have not heard from to date. Of course, they say in their guidelines they have three to six months to make a decision. Does that help my blood pressure? Not a bit, but until I have a 'no' in hand, I assume all of them will be 'yes'. But I have already decided the easy part of writing a book is the actual writing. That's not what my editor says, but it's how I feel at this moment.

I've been spending some time on the new book, finishing the rough, beginning to flesh out the story and finalizing names, location names, etc. This is the phase I like the best. Who are these people clamoring inside my head going to become? What are their stories? Can I do them justice?

Creating stories in my head is a pastime I have enjoyed my whole life. If I didn't have to work for a living, I would spend my days writing non-stop. It is nice to have the voices inside my head, they tell me some fascinating things. They have kept me company on many dark nights. But, at least they aren't crazy voices.

Doesn't mean that some of the stories they tell me haven't sounded crazy. Believe it or not, when I was fifteen I had a story in my head for an assassin trying to kill the President during the Inauguration. About twenty some odd years later, it was a movie.

I've always read a lot. One summer I spent reading nothing by Russian novelists. Of course, it only took about two chapters of Anna Karenina for me to decide Russian novels are depressing! But I made the choice and stuck with it, even though I thought I might kill myself before the summer was over.

Another summer I read only books by Robert Heinlein. Then books by Arthur C. Clarke were another project. One thing has always been foremost in my mind.

"These people have the same crazy voices in their heads as I have in mine."

Believe it or not, that's a very comforting idea. When I was a child, I was always scared to tell my mother I heard stories in my head. I was afraid she would think me insane. I have often wondered if any of my writing heroes had the same fears.

Writing these blogs is helping me conquer another of my deepest fears - public rejection. I have never had a really strong sense of self worth. I am painfully shy, a point which many people in my life have mistaken for bitchiness. I don't take criticism very well, see above 'no sense of self worth'. I march to my own beat, then try to disguise that beat so it appears to be closer to what others follow.

So, why at the spry age of forty something did I decide to go against every self protective instinct I have ever had and throw out my story for others to read? Because I am a mother. I want both my children to go after their dreams and desires with full speed ahead. If I am afraid to take on my fears how can I teach my kids otherwise.

I have a plaque in my office, above my desk. It states, "If you are standing on thin ice, you might as well dance."

So this is me - dancing.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Home Again, Home Again...

OK - I am officially tired!

We arrived at Dulles yesterday afternoon at 6pm for a 7:30pm flight home to Atlanta. Travelling with my mother is hard. she is almost 90 and requires a wheelchair through the airport. When we finally got to the gate -


The flight which was supposed to leave before us (6:40pm) from Dulles to Orlando was delayed for a 'mechanical problem'. The actual problem? A broken pilot seat. So the good people at Air Tran decided to give them the plane we were supposed to leave on to Atlanta at 7:30. Which meant we had to wait for the last flight from Atlanta to arrive. At 11:10pm. Which was three and a half hours from when we checked into the gate.

Now, wait a minute.

My father worked for United for almost 40 years. I know about delays. But I have never travelled with a 90 year old woman before. I wanted to get my mother home. It was a hard weekend for her, physically, and I just wanted to get her home. So a long delay did not sit well with me. But it really didn't sit well with others who were booked on our flight.

You see, there were no other flights out of Dulles last night by any airlines. So anyone who had a connecting flight they were trying to make in Atlanta was SOL. They could either fly out late with us and sleep in the Atlanta airport until another flight was available or stay at a hotel in D.C. and leave out the next morning. Needless to say, there was much unhappiness at gate b67 last night.

On the plus side? The plane landed in D.C. at 11:10pm. We rolled away from the gate at 11:25pm. The pilot floored it and we rolled to the gate in the ATL at 1am. That has to be a record for a commercial flight. I think he was as ready to get home as the rest of us. We dropped my mother off at 1:35am then headed for Woodstock. I finally got in bed at 3am.

Next time I think I'll take United.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Place for Reflection

Today we drove into Washington D.C. to see the Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin and other parts of the city. Of course, about a hundred thousand other people all had the same idea, so traffic was horrendous. But the sight of all those delicate blossoms surrounding our nation's Capitol was truly inspiring. Got some great pictures, especially around the Jefferson Memorial.

Then we drove out to the Pentagon to see the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. Wow. To see the benches, to read about the victims, how the benches are aligned to illustrate who was in the Pentagon and who was on the flight - really brought home to me a sobering thought.

We are still at war.

Not just the war in Iraq, or in Afghanistan or any of a thousand other little posting around the globe. We are at war with our own country. Never in America's history have we been so divided as a people about WHO we are as a nation and WHERE we want to move ourselves forward to be as a people. Just a before, we must remember "a house divided against itself cannot stand."

However, when the leadership of our country turn a deaf ear to the cries of their constituents, it becomes time to change that leadership. When legislation running through the Congress favors the people voting for that legislation more so than the people it is intended to protect, the system is broken, and must be fixed.

Alas, most democracies implode around two hundred to two hundred fifty years, so we are standing on the brink of a Constitutional crisis the likes of which have not been seen since Boston threw the tea overboard. If our government is broken, do we not have the right to change that government? Isn't that what we fought for over two hundred and thirty years ago? Isn't that what so many have given their lives defending.

Stand up American, and start using your Bill of Rights! If you don't know what they are, when they are taken away you sure will! We enjoy a standard of freedom the likes of which is found nowhere else on this planet. But freedom comes with a price. Some pay the ultimate price while others are willing to trade away our freedom for a kind word in some foreign newspaper article.

It's time to stop caring so much about what the rest of the world thinks about us, and start improving our own impression of ourselves. As Lee Greenwood sings, "But I'm PROUD to be an American, where at least I know I'm free." The other caveat to that pride is, "We are all bought with a price, the price Jesus paid on the cross for our sins." The prices are high, the bill is adding up.

Wake Up America - annoy the media - READ FOR YOURSELVES! Those who do now know their History are doomed to repeat it!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Change of Scenery, A Change of Pace

Well, we are now in Virginia, just outside D.C. for the Easter weekend. My sister and her husband live up here and we try to get up at least one a year, but it doesn't always happen. We flew up here with my mother, who will, God willing, celebrate her 90th birthday this coming October. She is moving slower, so traveling is not the easy trip it used to be. But I love that we can be together and wish my brother and his family could make it also.

The cherry blossoms are in bloom all around the Capital. We plan on driving in tomorrow and seeing them in all their glory. I want to go again to the WWII memorial. I always cry, especially when I pull up my father's name in the service computer. Then I want to go over the Pentagon to see the 9/11 memorial.

Washington is a wonderful place to visit our history, personal and national. The many marvels of the Smithsonian, the majesty of National Mall, the bookends of the Capital and the Lincoln Memorial, the reflecting ponds, the cherry trees - all have a story, and those stories all weave into the mosaic that forms who WE are. The United States of America.

A country founded by men with a thirst for freedom, with a desire to be more than mere puppet soldiers to a king many had never seen. Men with something I find to be lacking in out government today - the ability to put aside their personal differences to create a new system, the ability to realize the whole is greater than the part.

My own family came to America as a last recourse. They were Quaker, asked to leave Great Britain because of their religious beliefs. Settling in what would become New Jersey, they started a legacy of farmers who would work the land for more than four hundred years. I went back a few years ago, to show my children where their grandfather came from. It was sobering.

The old farmhouse and out buildings are gone. There is a subdivision on our farmland. But the family plot in the church cemetery is there, reminders of the impact we once had on this small Jersey town. My grandparents are buried there, as is my oldest sister. The church pulpit still bears the plaque noting the donation of my grandparents. There are still people around, growing fewer every year, who remember my father and his sister. Some who even went to school with them.

I live in Georgia, but my spiritual home is here in the North. My family roots run deep in this part of the country. I was born in Pennsylvania, my brother and sister in West Virginia. Northern born, southern raised, American through and through.

I wish I could say that about our government.