I’m guest blogging November 11 on my editor’s website: http://aliciadean.com/alicias-blog/ Every Tuesday, she posts a Two-Minute Writing Tip. With several books to her credit and a job as an editor for The Wild Rose Press, she gives some good advice. The interview will let you learn more about me, What the River Knows, and my writing process.
All systems are go for launch of What the River Knows on October 14. Validation of a dream I’ve cherished since I was 14 years old. For more information beyond what I have on this site, go to http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/ for the e-book or What the River Knows-paperback for the paperback. The e-book will download on October 14 and the print book will ship soon after. Here’s also a QR code for those of you who know how to use such things. You can also find it on Amazon and other sites
If you read the book and like it, please do me and the publisher a huge favor and leave a review. A lot of folks buy books based on what total strangers think of it. I know I buy them based on recommendations from friends or “buzz” I’ve hear.
Thanks to all of you who have supported and encouraged me on this journey. The next books starring Detective Scott Aylward is in planning stages right now. The working title is A Little Shame, such as when your mother used to admonish you when you had done something that probably embarrassed her (I’m using imagination here; I never did anything like that!) “A little shame is a good thing.”
Being a writer is a great job. Even when we are not BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard), we are writing. No experience is ever wasted on a writer. Bussing tables, driving cattle, building skyscrapers, working in an office, driving a truck: writers can draw on any of these experiences to write to the heart of the matter.
When people call, writers have an automatic “get out of jail free” card. “I can’t go to the tea with Great Aunt Grenadine. I’m writing.” Writing also serves as an automatic door opener. “Of course, I need to talk to the President. I’m a writer.” The problem with this world-changing power is that it is so invisible and subtle that almost no one recognizes it.
Friends call up. “Whatchadoin’?”
“No, you’re not. You’re mowing your lawn.”
“I’m working out plot twists while calming my mind with physical activity.”
“Oh. You wanna work out more plot twists and mow my lawn?”
Or a neighbor walks by as you are sitting on your porch steps watching birds and trees.
“Hey, neighbor. Whatchadoin’?”
Why is that always just one word? “I’m writing.”
“No, you’re not. You’re goofing off sitting on your porch.”
“No, really, I’m observing birds in flight. It’s research for my current work in progress.”
“Oh, what’s it about?”
Think fast. “Kinda like Jonathan Livingston Seagull meets Dirty Harry.”
“Hmph.” He starts to wander off. “Sounds . . . interesting.”
“Yeah.” Guess I won’t count on him as a beta reader.
Or the boss calls. “What are you doing?” Why are they never casual?
“No, you’re not. You’re on the beach in Fort Lauderdale with your family.”
“On the beach?”
“Yeah. Observing the interactions of various species of shorebirds.”
“Yeah, gulls and terns. And how the white gulls sneak into the back of a flock of dark gulls.”
“Yeah. And I just spent twenty minutes observing the rhythm of the waves.”
“Yeah. They try to suck you out into the ocean. Very hypnotic.” Truly inspired, I share some of the fruit of my inspiration. “When the waves break over the shallow part of the beach, they make me think of a herd of school kids all trying to get through the door to the playground at the same time, each one of them wanting to be the first to get there.” Lost in my art, I don’t notice the long silence on the other end.
“I think you need another week. Don’t rush back to work.”
See? Being a writer is a great job.
The Wimpy Dog takes me places I would not go otherwise. On my own, I would not visit the Boston terrier across the open field. Nor would I venture around the lilac thicket that once surrounded a home in our city park. Now it is home to who knows what creatures that have made obvious paths and bedding places within it. I would not have discovered that the clumps of cedar in our park would be secure places to shelter in snow and wind. Of course, his travels to these places often make me nervous we’ll encounter wild kitties somewhat different from the ones we feed on the porch—those black and white striped ones! But so far, Bart’s all-seeking nose has not brought us into danger.
Further, after a recent walk outside our usual routes, downtown to pay bills, I suspect Wimpy Dog might not be so wimpy if danger did confront us. Though he crosses streets as if all cars want to be his best friend, when we came to an alley, he paused, sniffed and glanced around the corner of the building before crossing. Then his nose led him to a door at the bank. He went right up to the door, as if waiting for it to open. How did he know that my daughter-in-law went to work through that door two days before? Further down the street, he followed the same trail I had when I visited her that day. Yet he didn’t go up to any other doors as we traveled on down the street. The only door he showed interest in was a garage door that workers had apparently used that day. He ignored the restaurants and shops that had to be full of delightful scents.
It occurred to me that, as much as I make fun of how he wants to be babied, maybe he is not as wimpy as I think. Whether he would protect me from intruders I don’t know, but I do know that his deep loud bark and his huge size could make someone believe he would defend me. And that’s enough to earn his dog biscuits. Enjoy your snooze, buddy.
Why do summers feel so busy? I mean, there’s not that much more to do than in winter. Is there?
It only takes me about two hours a week to mow my yard. That’s not much. Unless you add in the rests and naps I take between mowing sessions. Still, it’s only one or two evenings a week. And then the trimming takes a couple of hours every other week or so. And then the lawn maintenance: weed killer, fertilizer, aerating. Of course, the shrubs have to be trimmed at just the right time. And there is always a tree limb or two that must come down. Then when your neighbors are outside, it’s only proper to introduce yourself and chat a bit.
The garden doesn’t take much time either. Well, if you don’t count the multiple evenings and weekends it took to get it set up and planted. I have my hoses and sprinklers set up so I just turn on one spigot and let it run for about an hour. That gives water to the flower beds next to the house and yard, the Bobo Memorial Garden, the vegetable garden and the planter under the maple tree. Well, I still have to take a hose or a watering can to the hanging baskets, the pots on each step, and the planters by the stairs. And the flowers by the mailbox. The althea bush, Charles’s tree and the lilac bush need watered once in a while. There are still a few trees of heaven sprouting that need cut and treated with herbicide. There are holes yet to fill, as well as soil testing to do in preparation for reseeding the dog yard this fall.
Then the vegetables begin to ripen and it’s time to make zucchini cake and zucchini bread and zucchini everything, then you shred or chop zucchini for the freezer. And you have cucumbers with ranch dressing, and hummus, and with onions and in salads. And then you make pickles. And then finally, you can’t stomach another cucumber. Then the tomatoes start.
And when the yard is done, there is also the house to paint. Ten years ago, my house saw its last coat of paint; it’s time. But first, I need to scrape, sand, fill and prime the window frames. And rebuild the porch rails. I have all the pieces, but need to paint the house first.
I must always hurry through the yard work, too, because I need to go visit my children, or go to meetings or work. Friends and family come to visit me as well, so there is yard and house tidying to do. I seem to have more laundry in the summer, too. I wear fewer clothes at a time but change more often. There are birds to watch and listen to, as well as wild kitties to try to tame. Bart needs walked more often, for his health and mine.
I don’t even have kids in summer sports, no traveling teams or schedules to meet. But it seems I don’t have time to write, to sew, to cook. I turn down invitations to dinner in order to mow. And yet, already I notice the days getting shorter. My gauge of the passing seasons is the length of time I must wear my sunglasses from my car to the office door. By mid-winter, the shadows are so long in the morning, that only a shaft of sunlight about a foot wide bothers my eyes. In mid-summer, I leave them on until I get inside the door.
Yes, summers seem busier. But are we really busy, or do we simply convince ourselves we need to do things outdoors in order to stay in touch with the natural world? I really don’t know, but for now, I need to go turn off the water and weed the flower beds.
Bart the wimpy dog turned 10 years old today. You can see it when you look closely at him. Much of the gold on his face has turned to silver, but he wears it well because he’s blond. He shows his age when he goes down steep stairs and the wrinkles around his jowls. He’s in no rush to get up in the morning, content to stay in the warm, thermal foam mattress topper rather than jump down to the cold floor. When I leave for work, he settles himself on the couch, where he stays till I come home—unless he goes back to the bed. He no longer bounds to meet me at the door when I get home, instead waiting for me to come to him on the couch or the bed.
And yet, when he gets a human on the end of a leash, he’s a puppy, bounding ahead with joy, tail waving like a flag. He explores the news on every tree and bush, and approaches people on the trail certain each one wants to be his new best friend. Every task I undertake finds him at my side, eager to help. Just today, as I ate my 6” sub sandwich for lunch, a worker came to the door to mark utility lines so I could avoid hitting the lines on a fencing project. When I came back in ten minutes later, Bart appeared happy, and my sandwich was no longer on the kitchen table. The only evidence was a piece of lettuce and part of the wrapper on the floor.
Happy birthday, Bart. Here’s to many more years of being my exercise accountability partner, my cuddle buddy, my confidant and critic. Sorry I didn’t put a candle in that sandwich for you.
The dog boots I ordered during the blizzard came the day after life went back to normal. Snow had been cleared from the roads, melting began and I went back to work. Then the dog boots arrived.
Anxious to see Bart’s reaction, I slipped the boots on his front paws, which was about as easy as putting shoes on a two-year-old child that wants to go barefoot. Finally, both boots were cinched on. He lowered himself from the couch and began to paddle his way to the front door, lifting each paw up around his ears with each step. When I could stop laughing enough to find the leash, I snapped it on him.
Evidently, his trek from couch to door had told him the boots cushioned his feet. He bounded down the front steps, still covered in snow, and pranced all around the snow in the driveway and yard. His paws hitting the snow sounded like a shod Clydesdale on a brick street. I told him “short walk,” and he trotted across the street to make our usual circle of two trees, a fence row, an alley and a big tree. That’s when I discovered that the boots helped him stay on top of the crusty snow, while my shoes, plus the fact that my weight was concentrated on two feet instead of four, caused me to break through. I was huffing and puffing by the time we made it to the alley at the top of the hill.
When we got back to the house, I stood with my sides heaving like I had just run the Kentucky Derby. Which is a whole lot easier to train for, at a mile and a quarter, than a marathon of 26 miles, but that’s another philosophical discussion. Bart paced into the bedroom, plopped down on his dog cushion, and immediately began to gnaw on his boots. I guess even dog boots need breaking in. I took them off him and put them up for the next walk.
This morning when I woke up and looked out the window, it was another glorious spring day—in February! Crocuses bloomed in my flower bed and it promised to be a great day for a walk. And that made me think about how often we pray for weather (let it be cold, let it be warm, let it rain, let it not rain). Personally, I like the warm winter we’ve been having, but there is a down side to it. Some plants need a certain number of cold days to bloom properly in the spring. If we don’t get enough cold days, we’ll have more bugs of the annoying kind. We could take it further to the economic impact of those who depend on selling items needed in cold weather. There’s also the problem that the warmth fools plants, animals and insects into believing it really is spring and then—whammo. Kansas weather changes hit, and it’s below freezing for a solid week, killing the tender buds and baby animals.
We plead for outcomes all the time, even for sporting events. I can imagine God saying, “Really, you want that team to win?” Yet, how many times has God provided not what we want, but what we NEED. For instance, seventeen years ago, I prayed that God would hold my marriage together, despite our problems. Yet God provided what my husband and I needed, not what we wanted. Neither of us would have grown as persons had we stayed together. We had become like an ill-fitting shoe and a sore foot. It was time to change.
Twelve years later, when my new-found love Charles was facing leukemia, I prayed he would be healed, that we could share our lives for many years. God healed him—by taking him home, and we had only five months. Yet both of us learned profound truths in those five months, and we lived our many years together in that short few weeks.
A few years ago, a spring blizzard we didn’t believe would materialize dumped 28 inches of snow on our town, and led to our mad rush stopping for three days, as, trapped in our homes, we marveled at this reminder of Who is really in charge.
Sometimes I have prayed to be spared certain experiences, and yet, those have often been the very experiences I now cherish. As Garth Brooks sings, “Sometimes I thank God, for unanswered prayer … Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” When has God not answered your prayers the way you wanted, and you later gave thanks for that?
Easter morning the alarm yanked me from a comfortable sleep far too early. Deep darkness still pressed against all my windows. “Sunrise does not appear imminent,” I thought, as I stumbled across the room to shut off the insistent alarm. Sunrise had to be further away than an hour. The odd thought repeated itself in my head, like a chorus — Sunrise does not appear imminent. Why didn’t my mind simply say, “It’s still dark?”
I yawned and swayed between staying up and resetting the alarm. Trust in wisdom beyond mine (the wisdom of the pastors who had set the time for the sunrise service after consulting solar-lunar tables) held me up, and I set about waking my daughter and her friend, who had agreed to attend with me. We made coffee, and even stopped for cappuccino on the way to the island in the center of our county lake. Still, even though pale light now surrounded us, the thought came back — Sunrise does not appear imminent.
The service had already begun as we walked along the low causeway that allowed access to the island. Other people followed us. We joined the crowd, huddled close for both fellowship and warmth. I glanced at the treeline as the congregation, combined Methodists and Friends, sang and worshiped. A great blue heron rose majestically from the lake, while a trio of ducks dipped and rolled in an acrobatic show above us. A chorus of wildlife joined our hymn. Sunrise does not appear imminent.
As my pastor stepped to the podium to begin his sermon, rays of light broke through the low cloud bank that hovered just above the treeline. Like a fanfare of trumpets, these rays heralded the coming of the true dawn. Within seconds, as Don spoke of the risen Lord, a radiant sun, too bright to behold directly, rose to shine its light upon us.
Sonrise does not appear imminent! Suddenly, the message was as clear to me as the brilliant day. Sonrise does not appear imminent. As we go about our daily lives, absorbed in the many details of modern life, how many of us notice the heralds of the dawn? I know that most mornings I arise in the dark, then realize that while I went about my business, daylight has come without my taking note of it.
Will we treat the Christ the same way? Sonrise does not appear imminent. Do we listen for the trumpets? Do we watch for the heralds? Do we heed the wisdom of those who read the signs? Or do we arise in the dark, thinking, Sonrise does not appear imminent? Will we be suddenly faced with the presence of the radiant majesty of God, too bright to behold directly, and realize that a new day has come?
Sonrise does not appear imminent, but it may be closer than we think. Will we be ready?
The snow just kept falling, until we had 14 inches of it. I awoke to a text from my boss, telling me work had been cancelled. I rolled over to get back to sleep. Bart sighed and dropped his head on my knees, as if to say, “So, we don’t have to get up yet?”
We finally arose, and he seemed eager to go outside for his “constitutional.” I opened the utility room door to the enclosed back porch. He went to the door that led to the deck, propped open to make it easier for him to get out, and looked back at me as if to say, “But there’s snow!” He came back into the house.
We did this same exercise several times until late afternoon. He went to the deck entrance, then came back to the utility room door, where I stood. “Do you want back in, buddy?” I opened the door for him. He looked at me, then back at the deck, as if he was saying, “Yeah, but I really, really gotta GO!”
“Aw, is Barty afraid of getting his ittle-bitty pawsies cold?” I admit it, I teased him. He paced between the house and deck about three times, went out on the deck, came back in twice and finally eased his way down the steps like a little old lady afraid she would break a hip. He approached a tree in the yard and circled it, puzzled as to how he could pee above the snow.
Soon he was back at the door, wanting in. He went right to sleep on my feet, while I ordered him doggy boots. And THAT is an interesting story…