Finding a Way

If you’ve seen my FB page from yesterday, you know that last weekend provided an incredible experience. My co-facilitator and seventeen other writers at our Pine retreat proved the truth of our title, Writing Into Daylight.

Whether through memoir, other nonfiction, or fiction, we’re moving out of the shadows. I could go on about that metaphor, but would rather share a photo my husband took this morning in frozen northern Iowa.

Clearly, an ice storm has put this bird feeder out of commission. However, a tenacious squirrel awoke this morning with one goal: food.

Yes, he thought, it’s frigid and miserable, but this furry creature’s willing to do whatever it takes to satisfy the hunger roiling inside.

What will it take to reach his desired goal? He’ll do it. The hunger drives him, despite all odds.

For those writers at our retreat, this squirrel provides a picture of the writing life. Challenging, goal-oriented, lonely, passionate. We might have to go out on a limb, pardon the pun:

The deeper connection is that for some of us, writing equals sustenance, nurture. It’s our calling, our vocation, and even though risks present themselves, we must write.

All kinds of doubts and questions assail us. Do our words deserve to be heard/read? Does what we have to say really matter to anybody out there? Will our stories touch, nourish, encourage or warn readers?

Like this squirrel, we cannot know the answers before plunging into the work. But we take the leap, ignoring the voices, inner and outer, that proclaim us foolhardy. Perhaps we feel we’re hanging on by one claw, but sitting back and watching just won’t do.

At times in my leapsthe odds against success seemed far too high, the struggle much more arduous than I’d realized. In addition to the laborious task of writing, we’re responsible for promotion? We’re expected to swing out there with no net underneath, to seek potential readers? Yep, it is what it is. Might as well accept it.

But somehow, this process sustains us. Such an intriguing journey, replete with opportunities to toss aside the torch and give up. Yet also brimming with adventures, new contacts, and opportunities to grow.

I’m very grateful for our weekend adventure, all the chances to step outside my comfort zone, think outside the. box, and especially, new writing friends. Doesn’t get any better!

Last but definitely NOT least, I’m so thankful for Lance’s expertise with the camera–what a perfect SHOW he provided for us this morning!

On Being Away…

That’s what I’ve been – away. We had company for a week, and went to see the beautiful Red Rock country around Sedona. Oh my…such glorious natural beauty.

The weather has been far too dry for safety up under the Mogollon Rim, but yesterday the rain came. Ahh…blessed relief. I’m so grateful, and also thankful that it came before and after I drove up the mountain from Mesa, where I met with a group of women intrigued by words.

Older women like me: I know I ought to label us mature women. But right now, only the magic of words matters. Oh, how words bound us together! Phrases and word-pictures enveloped us in shared wonder, reminded us of our moorings and our deep connection, and urged us forward in our private pursuits.

As in reading fiction, we allowed words to spellbind us, original words straight from the heart. Two members created incredible metaphors that still linger. One depicted life as an onion…being peeled, chopped, sautéed, and in the process, coming alive to one’s unique personhood. The other painted life as a sailboat gracing turquoise-blue waters, feeling warm wind wrapping one’s face and freedom bracing one’s heart.

Mmm…there’s nothing like gathering around words, working with them, playing with them, embracing them. Yesterday, we allowed words to infiltrate our consciousness and tie us to each other, or to unlock  memories.

This coming weekend, I get to embrace words again, with an eclectic group of writing retreat participants. I’ve been remiss at posting photos lately, but surely will after getting to know these seventeen other word-lovers better. We’ll see you then.

Once in A Blue Moon

We just experienced a lunar eclipse, otherwise known as a “blue moon.” Lance set his alarm and caught some photos around 5 a.m. today.

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One of our slang terms comes from this phenomenon: To do something “once in a blue moon” is to do it very rarely: “That company puts on a good performance only once in a blue moon.” The phrase refers to the appearance of a second full moon within a calendar month, which actually happens about every thirty-two months.

Ties in perfectly with something I do as rarely as possible -prepare my part of our income taxes…ARGH! I put it off as long as possible, in spite of determining that this year, it’ll be different.

With far more right than left-brained tendencies, putting the past year’s activities into concise columns is no fun. But this necessary accounting is…well, necessary.

Yesterday I completed the final edit of my next novel, All For the Cause, before submitting it to beta readers. The cause, of course, is World War II, and now I have time to work on the cozy WWII mystery an author friend and I are co-writing.

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The moon holds a certain mystique…does it really affect human behavior as specifically as we often hear? For me, taxes have zero mystique, but almost always some mystery.

But sending my heroine and hero off to be critiqued also gives me pause. Have I been faithful to their their deep-seated motivations and goals? Have I taken into account their idiosyncrasies, even ones that might drive readers crazy? Have I honored their devotion to the war effort?

Stan, the hero, truly challenged me, since I’ve never fought my way through the jungles of Bataan, been wounded, or gritted my teeth and determined to heal completely so I could return and participate in the liberation of tens of thousands of G.I.’s taken captive by the Japanese in the Philippines.

I gave my best effort to comprehending what he went through, including interviewing an incredible WWII veteran who lives quite close to us. His story enlivened Stan for me, and provided details I’d never have found any other way.IMG_4666

So onward with this writing journey. We’ll see what my beta readers have to say and make adjustments. If past manuscripts are any indicator, there’ll still be plenty of editing to do.

No matter how much time and energy the process takes, I’d far rather do this than tax preparation! And just for good measure, here’s another intriguing photo taken two days ago from under the Mogollon Rim.

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Light in Darkness

We went to see an incredibly well-written/directed/acted movie yesterday. The Darkest Hour offers humor, honesty, riveting tension, and a challenge. My own personal challenge was to avoid crying through the last hour, and I failed.

It’s difficult to imagine the stress Winston Churchill experienced as Britain’s new prime minister in the dire circumstances brought on by appeasement: Hitler’s forces surrounded the entire British army near Dunkirk, and many in the government urged this new leader to seek a peace agreement.

It’s even more difficult to imagine our world today if Winston Churchill had cowed to the pressure and ignored his intuition that declared England must NOT negotiate with Herr Hitler. Unfortunately, he had no way of knowing how many British citizens agreed with him.

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This morning, my tea bag boasted just the right sentiment for Prime Minister Churchill’s predicament.

Many in Parliament were still controlled by the former appeasement-focused government, and felt nothing could be worse than the present situation. They were also quite aware of Churchill’s imperfections. The movie clearly and honestly shows these…and that’s part of its power.

Who among us is perfect? What leader has no weaknesses? Yet, certain leaders arise at just the right time to alter history’s course for the better.

My tears were for this imperfect leader’s loneliness in what seemed an impossible task. Yet he found the strength to persevere, to act courageously in the face of bitter adversaries on every side. He ordered the Admiralty to summon ordinary citizens with seaworthy vessels to rescue the men at Dunkirk. Kind of like the fishes and loaves…nobody thought the idea could possibly work.

But behind the scenes, the nation prayed…and a truly miraculous outcome afforded Churchill with the support the next difficult five years would require. This production also provides a down-to-earth example for us when anyone’s opinion threatens to dim our light.

I don’t often promote a movie, but this one stands out as UNMISSABLE, especially if the World War II era intrigues you.

 

 

Country Folk of Another Era

Reading Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale has given me an even deeper appreciation of the way simple country folks suffered in the early years of World War II.

When we say country, we visualize rural American farm families. But in France in the early 1940’s, thousands of peasants tended their gardens and vineyards, cared for their children, and enjoyed a simple pastoral setting.

Then, suddenly their freedoms were swept away by the brutal Nazi occupation.

What’s interesting is how people came from all walks of life to help the French Resistance change the tide of the war. One of these, from my Women of the Heartland series, hailed from Iowa farm country. Used to the sight of corn and soybeans ripening for harvest, Kate Isaacs is thrust into the midst of unthinkable horrors.

Unthinkable but very real. Her land-centered background serves her well as she treks back woods trails to avoid the Gestapo, delivering vital messages for the Resistance. So does her heritage of valuing hard work and tenacity. You can’t take the country out of a country girl, right?

Admittedly, this “country,” replete with mountains and deep valleys, is different from Kate’s moorings. Along the way, she views incredible structures like the Abbey of St. Pierre at Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, built in the ninth century. She gasps at this architecture and takes heart at the eternal message of hope engraved in this incredible structure’s entrance.

If you need some more historical fiction to get you through the winter, may I suggest…

 

The Ins and Outs of Life

A friend of mine wrote, “I really hope the New Year will see changes in my attitude. I have to stop w/ the pity parties, the hatred toward the consequences of my choices or lack thereof. There’s enough good in my life. I may not have all I expected to have in life at this age, but what I have, I want and I need to care for it.”

Perspective. That’s one of the gifts of aging. Of course, nobody wants to talk about aging, but things go better if we keep on learning.

Many birds here under the Mogollon Rim enjoy eating acorns – this one is a Stellar Jay one of the small, rounded nuts in its beak.

IMG_1923The woodpeckers have learned they can’t use our outer walls for a granary, to store the little acorns for winter food, although they certainly made hay while the sun shone. But our trusty bird netting surrounding the whole house has thwarted their storage intentions.

IMG_1829A few years back, we discovered about three hundred and fifty holes in our house…beak-sized and drilled with great intensity over the months we were absent. And each hole contained a treasure in woodpecker language: food.

These little 1/2 inch acorns pepper the mountain oaks around here, but who would have thought they’d end up in our house? Lance filled the holes with some foamy goo he found at the hardware store, and after it hardened, the netting provided a way OUT of being attacked.

A way out…just what we needed–we’d tried everything, hanging shiny CD’s from the eaves to scare the acorn-carriers away, etc. The birdies, of course, still sought a way in, but have had to accept what they cannot change, while we had to change the things we could. 

In this new year before us, and those two phrases depict many of our desires. Sometimes we seek a way in…into a deeper relationship, into a more serene existence, into success. Other times, a way out describes what we need. Still other times, we need to embrace acceptance.

Perspective…just another way of looking at things. I’m going to try to remember this in 2018.

 

Writing and acorns and a new year…

Once again, we’ve crossed the Great Plains and wound down through New Mexico and northern Arizona to the Mogollon Rim. Today, Lance tackled some window cleaning, and I texted some friends and family this photo of him at work.

Not to be outdone, he texted this one, with the following caption:

IMG_1696                                           WHAT WRITERS DO.

What can I say? I was having a New Year’s moment, filled with gratitude for being here in the Arizona mountains, and for some potential good news about one of my submitted manuscripts. I’m a writer, so I guess this IS what writers do!

I also heard from WordCrafts Press that A PURPOSE TRUE is on sale now through January 1, 2018, one half off, exclusively at Smashwords.com. You can purchase ebooks in a variety of formats, including .epub for e-readers like Nook, Kobo, iPad, etc., and in .mobi for Kindle. Just go to the site and the discount is already in place.

Later in the day, Lance found time to attend to his hobby…the woodpeckers are still here!

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Still eating acorns and leaving the tops behind.

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Leaving behind what we don’t need…not a bad philosophy as another year rolls around. Fears, doubts, misgivings, conflicts – moving away from them all and into 2018.

Root Canals and Crowns and Christmas…

Today a lowly tooth underwent a transformation–a very pleasant, welcome change for me. Last Friday, I had a root canal. We often use this experience as an example of the WORST, but the surgery truly was the best, relieving unrelenting pain. And today, the saved tooth received a protective covering known as a crown.

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What a process, and with the help of the friendly folks at Burgmeier Dentistry, I chronicled some of the steps.

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A myriad of required tools20171222_091446plus precision, patience,

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skill and experience (thank you, Doctor KYLE!!!)

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some intense heat…

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and voila! a perfect fit and the ability to eat normally again.

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What does this have to do with World War II or the Christmas season? For one thing, I really enjoyed chatting with the staff today, several of whom have a great interest in the forties era.

And of course, Gratitude for GOD WITH US…no matter what we’re experiencing.

I’m so thankful for the sacrifices of thousands during the era of my novels, sacrifices to ensure our nation’s freedom and future. And Christmas? This holiday focuses on a priceless gift, with gratitude at its very heart.

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May your celebration this year be deeply meaningful and filled with peace. 

Joys of Christmas Past

Last week our community held a gathering for people to share their Christmas memories–some ninety-plus year-olds joined us. Can you imagine remembering the Pearl Harbor attack being reported in a radio news flash? 

Here’s a photo of my first Christmas. Before Charles Schulz cried the phrase, “Charlie Brown Christmas tree,” my brother and I posed beside one. In this 1951 photo, we look pleased and proud of our find along one of the ditches bordering our farm.

 

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Mom looks happy, too, with the war over and never a hungry moment on the farm, like those she’d survived in her Depression-laced youth.

The war had ended five and a half years earlier, and good times were on the upswing. If you lent yourself to back-breaking farm work, you could make it. If anybody can identify the auto in the background, I’d like to know the year and make. Behind the tree sits Grandpa’s green Ford farm truck.

Like most children, my brother and I knew only the present: a loving mother, a hard-working dad, a roof over our heads, food and clothing. No fear for the future, no sense of the past…only this present moment in time.

Release Day

I’m researching my next novel deep in the heart of the Philippines, but pausing today to celebrate the release of A PURPOSE TRUE, the culmination of Addie and Kate’s story. My order of the new book is scheduled to arrive today, so I will post a picture of me hugging the UPS or FED EX delivery person, if at all possible.

Thanks to everyone who follows my work and encourages me in this writing endeavor. Seventy-six years ago on this day, the United States suffered great loss at Pearl Harbor and entered a long and costly war. I hope to keep people remembering what our ancestors contributed to the effort to halt the outbreak of evil across the world.

And as you follow Kate and Domingo through Southern France in their work for the Resistance, may you sense their growth through trial and tribulation–and the blossoming of their mutual commitment.

Today I’m visiting The Over Fifty Writer, where you may leave a comment for the giveaway of an e-book copy of A Purpose True and learn more about my long journey to this momentous day. http://www.pattishene.com/theover50writer/504

 

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