Friday, January 31, 2014

Dear Old Sam McGee

The Cremation Of Sam McGee                   

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that he'd "sooner live in hell".

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead -- it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say:
"You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows -- O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May".
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared -- such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; . . . then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm --
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.
Robert William Service
(1874-1958)



I am posting this in the spirit of solidarity with everyone suffering from a brutally cold winter in much of the United States and Canada. The first introduction to this poem came to me at the age of seven when I heard it spoken from memory, up at camp. It chilled me and thrilled me. First published in 1907, Robert William Service was a bank clerk by trade. He did take off for the Yukon, and after traveling in California, British Columbia, and various other spots, he moved up to Dawson City. He initially had his 'Verse' as he preferred to call it, printed up to be given out as Christmas presents. The men running the presses began reciting it, and the rest is history. It has become a staple of campfire storytelling.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

At a Loss for Words

Olympic Champions, Virtue and Moir


Most people believe that a writer, suddenly inspired, goes running to the nearest table and jots the ideas down. While it may happen that way sometimes, there are many more days when a hapless author stares at a blank page, at a loss for words.

What can be done?

You could run to the nearest search engine and look up Ten Tips for overcoming Writer's Block. I must admit I have done this more times than I can count. I have also come up with my own lists, but in the end, I decided to approach writing as a trained athlete does their sport. Years of figure skating began with the simple act of lacing up my skates. Once on the ice, we were wedded to our warm up. At the start, we just skated, slowly, and then with increasing speed, circling around the rink. With our arms whizzing through the air, the great muscles in the body starting to warm up, crossovers were executed, and smaller circles were covered. Then we turned and skated backwards, back crossovers were done, with our knees bending easily. Next a great jump, the simplest one, the three jump. Once, twice, aiming for greater height, aiming to nail the landing. With a feeling of confidence, we tried a more difficult maneuver.

For the writer, it is not so very different. It begins with coffee. I like to check Facebook, email, Twitter, and any other thing I can think of before I get dressed, take a brisk walk, or do Yoga and then sit down and open the great document. For me, this is the hardest. John Lennon once went years without picking up his guitar, but when he did, the songs flowed out of him like a river. Ernest Hemingway advised that one should not write to the last idea in your head the day before; it is better to leave a little something for the next day. That should make getting started easier, provided, of course that you can remember what that little something was.

Stick with the same place. I need to have my gaze facing water. I need a dedicated space. I do not wander around with my computer. I need to be in the slot.

Keep inspirational icons near at hand. Two pictures of my children sit on my desk. I want them to know that I did what I set out to do. I have a plaque of my strengths as given to me by Gallop:  Intellection, Arranger, Connectedness, Learner and Context. An index card stating what I need to keep in mind is at my left. A bit of crockery my son made in a pottery class holds my pens. Mail that needs answering and a few other things are scattered here and there. It is always personal, even when I worked in a cubicle, it had to have a few mementos, to remind me of home. The rest of the room is stuffed with pictures of the people I love, watercolors on the wall that have been around for most of my life, a mirror of my mother's and on and on. I favor clutter, and always have; it makes me feel cozy somehow. A pine book case with a glass door holds my diaries. A notebook at my right is a running portrait of my brain. All these things help me to get started.

I get up frequently and move. Too much sitting stagnates the thoughts. I think about lunch all morning. I hate being interrupted and will not take calls until the afternoon. I will not clean house, or tackle  any other big tasks until my writing is done.

Ten pages a day. If I am really stuck, I tell myself, I can do ten pages. So that is where I am: on the fifth draft with ten pages daily of revision. Often times it is more, but that does not mean I get off the hook with five the next day.

Read, read, read and read some more. Did you know that a recent study identified readers of fiction having different brain patterns for at least five days after finishing a book? Read the first sentence of each book on the shelf. That will set your imagination in motion. It is an active creature after all.

Give yourself as much quiet time as you can swing. Here in Windy Bay, on Lake Coeur d' Alene, there are lovely woodsy roads that are as quiet as a church. I soak in as much silence as I can each and every day. In order to have thoughts spring to mind, you have to make room for them. Worries, cares and strife of every kind must be dealt with systematically, with the hours for writing carved out. If it means the baby's nap time, or the wee hours before work, or the midnight oil after, we have all been there and done that.

Be stubborn. Be selfish, driven, focused and above all obstinate because everyone in sundry will try to get you to do anything else, but what you set out to do first and foremost.

Ask for help. Isn't it so often the case that what we put last should be first? This is by far the hardest for me, and I daresay the most necessary. If you are struggling, reach out. It may be just the thing to put you over the top.



Monday, January 27, 2014

K.I.S.S.







K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple, stupid.

It is never nice to call someone stupid. The only person you may use this word on is yourself. Too much negative self talk may be crippling, but in terms of writing, this is a useful phrase. While living in the small town of Winters, California, I used to read the San Francisco Chronicle, delivered to my door every day. Under the delicious scent wafting from my orange trees and wisteria vines, I read the columnist, Herb Caen. It was he who informed me of the concept of K.I.S.S. American writers I admired, excelled at a spare, literary style which I loved. This concept, written on an index card on my desk, sits as a constant reminder to hone in on one theme.

Herb Caen wrote a daily column from 1938-1977. He walked through the streets of his adopted town. He popped into out of the way places. He drank in Irish bars and with his words, he showed me around his city, his dearly beloved, San Francisco. I learned from him. If you see white shoes in San Francisco, they are on the feet of a tourist. If you see a tweed jacket in July, it is on the back of a native.

From one of his columns:

“Pondering the imponderables, I walk along 11th street. It is twilight, my favorite time, dry with a hint of vermouth. I am in love with the city all over again.”


Simplicity eludes us all, from the clutter in our homes, to distractions of the mind. What is your novel about? You better have a very clear, and simple answer. While the temptation to launch into a long explanation of characters and what happens to them, you are better off narrowing the field to one word. Competition. That is the answer. Competition. That is what my novel in progress is about. Where does it take place? Toronto. It is the story of a young dreamer coming of age in a Canadian hockey family, defined by winning and losing.

In depicting the story of my early life, I focus on the highs and lows. I strive to keep it simple, and I describe my city, Toronto, emerging from stalwart bricks and stockyards, to a cosmopolitan center teeming with new citizens from every corner of the globe. It is a place so rich in restaurants, you could dine out every night of the year, never plumbing the depths. Yet in the days of my girlhood, it was a stretch to eat spaghetti with garlic bread. While I envied Herb Caen's love of San Francisco, time, distance and geography have led to a nostalgic fondness for the cobblestone streets and Tudor houses of my youth. Thanks to a mayor who is a bumbling, laughing stock, Toronto has hit the world stage. Yet for the first time in my conscious memory, it is not described as Toronto, Canada. It is now Toronto, plain and simple. My city, while it may never have quite the cachet of San Francisco, has come of age at last.


Strip away, strip away, scrape and sculpt, and then pad the bare spots. That is my formula for revision.

Strip away the trappings and you may find God's truth. The old Shaker hymn tells us that it is, “a gift to be simple, a gift to be free, a gift to come down where we ought to be.”

K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, smarty.






Friday, January 24, 2014

The Beauty of North Idaho & Local Authors

                                                

    What comes to mind when you think of north Idaho? Is it fishing at Dawson Lake in Boundary County? Snow skiing at Schweitzer?  Sailing on Lake Pend Oreille,  or perhaps paddling the deep blue  waters of  Lake Coeur d Alene?  Is it the pristine beauty of Priest River,  and picking huckleberries in  late  summer? Maybe the rich heritage of the  Coeur d Alene Indians or   historic Cataldo Mission, the oldest standing building in Idaho - also known as the Mission of the Sacred Heart, founded by Jesuit priest, Father Pierre-Jean De Smet  in 1848.

    How about the  Route of the Hiawatha Trail, the old Milwaukee Railroad line making its way through Wallace ,  now a popular mountain bicycle trail popular with locals and tourists, or Camp Sweyolakan, one of the oldest resident camps in the United States with nearly 300 wooded acres on the shores on Mica Bay, with one of the largest fleets of classic war canoes [for more about Sweyolakan, see my stories "Two if  by Sea" IDAHO magazine, September 2012 and "Paddles Aweigh - Around the Lake in Ten Days" IDAHO  magazine, December 2013].

      North Idaho has long been touted for its beautiful rivers and lakes,  rich forested land and  abundant wild life - elk, deer, moose; Red Tail hawks and the majestic Eagle soaring across a  smog free sky.

      I have travelled in Mexico, throughout Europe, western Canada and many parts of the United States, and still find north Idaho to be among the  most magnificent landscapes I've ever seen. What some might call,  'God's Country'.  But there is another hallmark here, too. Something worth noting. It is a fertile environment for the creative mind, the daydreamer, the artist, the musician, the writer.

     While there isn't space  here to recognize every author from north Idaho and their books, several come to mind:

       Marianne Love. After reading her,  Pocket Girdles and other Confessions of a Northwest Farm Girl, an uproarious collection of autobiographical stories  about rural life in the northwest,  I decided I wanted to write memoir, to tell stories  like she did, in a humorous, heartfelt way. It was after attending one of Marianne's writing workshops, and her encouraging words about blogging I started my own blog, 2 lane highway( http://2lanehighway.blogspot.com).   Marianne remains one of my favorite writers.
                                                     
        
     Nancy Owens Barnes. Moose for Breakfast Outdoor Poems & Essays  published by Rushing River Press gives picturesque view of north Idaho living through Nancy's colorful words and prose. Nancy is winner of the 2008 Zola Award for Poetry and was 2007 Jessie Cameron Alison Writer of the Year. Her book South to Alaska From the Heartland of America to the Heart of a Dream of one man's dream of living in Alaska fulfilled after he builds a 47 ft. boat in his Arkansas backyard begins a journey through a watery world he knows little about, to a world he cannot forget.
                                                   

     Elizabeth S. Brinton. "We landed with no thoughts of religious freedom in mind."  So begins, My American Eden / Mary Dyer, Martyr for Freedom. Chris Peck , editor, the Commercial Appeal writes, She captures with grace the gripping human story of a remarkable woman of faith who dared to challenge the dark side of an emerging America. Brinton uses her grasp of history and politics to help us better understand what happens when the line between government might and what is right is blurred.

     Phyllis HorneThe Carnival Girl - One Woman's Journey Through the Carnival Life tells how the author ran away from home at 14 and became a carnie - a carnival worker at the Pike in Long Beach, California. Hers is a story of brushes with the law, broken relationships and family trials until she eventually overcame those challenges and eventually owned her own business in Idaho.
                                                   

      Ana Parker Goodwin.  A former psychotherapist and lecturer turned writer, Anna writes a fictional account of Dr. Faythe Bradington , a Clinical Psychologist, shocked to learn that an ex-client is suing her for implanting false memories of childhood sexual abuse in  Justice Forbidden - A Dr. Faythe Bradington And L.P. Sanborn Novel. Ana is also co-author of renowned textbook on Sand Play Therapy.

                                         
       

     D. Faye HigbeeThe Dog Paw Chronicles/The Autobiography Of A Writer chronicles the authors life in short story form, with the addition of canine philosophy by Red the Dog.

    Michael Marsden. Author of several books, including The House in Harrison and The Black Dog Bed and Breakfast, Michael is a long time member of Idaho Writers League. His favorite quote is  one from E.L. Doctorow, "Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it's raining, but the feeling of being rained upon."

     Not just published book authors, but scriptwriters,  magazine writers, copyrighters, and bloggers as well.   Mary Jane Honegger recently won first place at the Sandpoint Film Festival  for her screenplay, Root Bound ,  a short film of how complications arise when a young professional denies his Idaho roots when he is hired by a national television show.

     Jenny Leo and Jennifer Rova are contributors to Writing North Idaho, and currently working on a novel.

    As writers we have a tendency to only look to the J.K. Rowlings,  Steven Kings  and other renowned authors far away for inspiration,  motivation and instruction,  when  local authors  very near can often provide the same right where we live, and write


* Note: All book titles mentioned in this blog can be purchased on Amazon
    

 

   

   

   

    

     





    

    

    

     

      

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Value Of A Letter? Consider Martin Luther King & His Letter From Birmingham Jail

 
                                                                                      
   Alexandra Stoddard, in her book Gift Of A Letter, quotes Sir Walter Raleigh when she writes , The appeal of a study of the great letter writers, is that it introduces us not to literary works but rather to individuals, who satisfy our innate curiosity about other people's lives and emotions.

 
  
    Stoddard also suggests,

   Writing has permanence  and requires discipline, which makes it stimulating to our minds and senses. Whenever we extend an effort, we become aware or the mysterious workings of our brains. Writing is active. We are the creator.

    As writers, I think   we sometimes forget the value of letter writing, and how letters contribute to the subject we choose to write about,  no matter the genre: Biography, Romance, Mystery, Memoir.  Letters can help develop character, and motivate story and plot. I can't say for sure, but I bet hundreds of novels have been written because of the influence of some old letter read, some  even  lead to social change .
   
   Consider Martin Luther King's letter in 1963 from Birmingham Jail. The letter written in response to public concern of eight white religious leaders of the South, became a corner stone of the civil-rights movement.

     King wrote:

      I am in Birmingham because of injustice here....I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever effects one directly affects all indirectly.

      While not all of us who write letters may instill the passion and impact on society King did, our letters can serve as  tenders of memory and past events, or illicit hope for the future.  And some may simply relay a kind word and  happy greetings to a friend.

     The following  was originally posted  January 12, 2014 on my blog 2 lane highway (http://2lanehighway.blogspot.com)

                                     Is Letter Writing A Lost Art?

  A sweet, lovely gift arrived in my mailbox Saturday, a letter  addressed to me from my dear friend, Phyllis.  Letter writing is considered somewhat of a lost art these days, so it was with great delight I opened the lengthy missive to  read the salutation that began,  Dear Kath

     I curled up in my favorite  comfy chair and sat leisurely in  front of the warmth of the fire to read, to digest the newsy details of a family Christmas, a grandchild's  soccer game,  a younger brother living in Oklahoma , and  movies. It had the easy, natural telling  so familiar between trusted friends.

     Phyl also expressed her thoughts  about an article she recently read in the Los Angeles Times titled A love letter to the letter where  featured columnist, Simon Garfield laments  the loss of letter writing , and what society misses  by only texting, tweeting  and email.  I , too, lament the loss of letter writing and have blogged on this subject before.  Garfield rightly points to Keats and Dickinson suggesting what we know about their lives , their creative talent  and style wouldn't be known without the  personal letters they wrote.

    The same holds true not only for people of fame - authors, poets, politicians, but those within our own life circle.

 
     I thought about the box of letters I have from family and friends dating back to the late 1950's , and  how they describe place and time, activities and adventures,  mood and emotion . Sometimes they express encouragement, other times great sadness.  But what they always do is  leave a history , if even a glimpse,  of who we were, and how we lived.
 
    To write a letter takes some effort, it is sharing, a giving of oneself. There was a time, for  30 years or more  I received a letter from my Grandmother Vera Cooney every week. She was always interested  in how we were doing - mother,  my brother, and me. Then  she'd  write about her  activities - catering a big wedding and decorating cakes,  China painting, church,  an Altrusa club meeting, and  news about aunts, uncles and cousins, and about the weather in Council Bluffs.   I always looked forward to a letter from Grandma, and am happy I kept so many of them. There are other letters in my box - from Grandma Blanche, Aunt Nor, Dad, Uncle Lloyd,  Grandma Viv, and many cousins , including  Shauna and Nicole, and  long time friends who wrote about their summer vacation  at the beach, or some feeling of great angst or  delirious  joy.  Each letter important, and held very dear. Each one a small  part of the larger story of family and friends.
 
    I once considered myself  a good letter writer, too,  but must admit in recent years have fallen victim to the  quick and easy text and internet as so many others have,  where texts never linger long, and email deleted. In his L.A. Times article, I appreciate what Garfield writes:

    And if we replace simple letters with their instant always-on alternatives, we relinquish so much epistolary architecture too. The elegant opening address and sign off, the politeness of tone and the correct grammar and spelling. And before this there is the nice flowing pen and the stationery, and after it the scuttle for the stamp and the rush to the last post.

    Receiving Phyl's letter helps renew my hope for letter writing.  I'm grateful to my friend for her letter, and the joy it brought me,   and because of my friend's letter, I'm  prompted  to  take pen and paper in hand   and  write a letter, too.

To read Simon Garfield's complete article visit
http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-garfield-letter-writing-20131229,0,2646801....

Martin Luther King/Letter From Birmingham Jail
http://www.uscrossier.org/pullias/king-jr-letter-from-birmingham/

 

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Most Difficult Writing Privilege---letter for adoption

 Good friends are in the process of adopting a baby. They have asked me to write a letter of recommendation. I am honored, scared, and worried.  My writing skills feel like they are under scrutiny in neon yellow highlighter. 

I have been thinking about this letter for weeks. (I have until the end of January to complete the task.) I think they asked me to recommend them because I have known the woman since she was in elementary school and her husband for over ten years. I do not think the fact that I am writer has influenced their request but it is prominent in my mind. The adoption agency will not know that I am a writer but I know and thus I feel the weight of choosing the perfect words and phrases that will persuade the agency to realize that this couple will be great parents. 

What if I "miss the mark" or worse yet say something detrimental to their quest? What if I neglect to include an important facet of this this couple's profile? What if my sentences are trite and boring? What if I am not serious enough or too stiff in my writing? What if the letter sounds forced and not free flowing with admiration for this couple and their ability to care for a child? How can I write the most enticing letter to this adoption agency?

I finally had enough beating myself up and got down to the task. GBG! God bless Google. I typed in "sample letters for recommendation letters for adoption" and got numerous web sites. Fortunately, I think, they all had about the same format and structure. From each site, I gleaned ideas on how to present facts about the couple and about each person. I learned what salient points need to be mention. I believe I am smart enough to know what not to include. 

These are some tips I learned if you should ever be in a position to write a recommendation for adoption or need to request it of a friend.

1. Be sincere. Communicate that they will take good care of a child.
2. State how long you have know each of them.
3. Reveal that they are a stable couple, financially responsible and able to provide a loving, safe environment for a baby/child.
4. Mention activities in which they are involved especially community activities.
5. Include if there is a support system nearby such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, close cousins and long time friends.
6. Tell how you have seen them interact with children.
7. Find a way to explain what they can teach a child.
8. If you do not know a salient point, do not worry about excluding it. Usually the agencies ask for three letters of recommendation and probably one of the other letters will cover the point.
9. Do not discuss their problems in conceiving a child (if any); the couple will divulge what is necessary. They may want to adopt a child even though they have other biological children or are choosing not to have a biological child. The story and reasons are theirs to tell.

Here are some phrases I found helpful:

--I know nothing in their characters that should prevent/hinder them from being wonderful parents.
--Both are kind and patient.
--They are a pleasure to be around, include others in their activities and join in easily within groups.
--I am writing an unrestricted recommendation letter because....
--When I met "John" I knew there could be no one better for "Anne" than "John." They are loving toward each other and kind to others.
--Please feel free to call at this number (xyz) xxx-xxxx during the day if you have any questions. (This conveys the idea that you have nothing to hide, that you are willing to answer extemporaneous questions and that you fully support their decision to adopt.)
The anticipated end result! (Actors)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Neologisms (new words and phrases) 2014


Thomas Jefferson on Neologisms  “But if dictionaries are to be the arbiters of language, in which of them shall we find neologism? No matter. It is a good word, well sounding, obvious, and expresses an idea, which would otherwise require circumlocution. I am a friend to neology. It is the only way to give to a language copiousness and euphony.” (Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, August 15, 1820)

To a writer, the use of neologisms is a conscious decision. You ask yourself, “Does this fit my character, the times, and does it express what I want my character to say to move forward the plot?” “The cat’s meow” does not belong in Slaughterhouse Five nor does “poshitis” make sense in Jane Eyre. Here is a list of some current neologisms. Some will become an integral part of the American English language and others will fade like cheap lipstick. urbandictionary.com is an excellent resource for neologisms.

DIGITAL DETOX—period when a person, in order to decrease stress, stops using electronic devices

DIGITAL AFTERLIFE---what remains of a person online after their death

PLANET HACKING—geo-engineering methods intended to mitigate climate change

MULTIGEN—groups includes people of several different ages

CULTURED LEATHER—leather grown from skin cells

POSHITIS—back pain from carrying in the crook of your arm an oversized handbag

WIKICELL—type of edible food packaging

ZENWARE—internet technology designed to make users calmer

CRONUT—cross between a doughnut and a croissant

MEM—image or piece of ext that helps you remember something

MEH—uninteresting especially conversation on-line

FRANKENSHOES---really ugly shoes

FLATFORMS—flat shoe with a high, thick sole

HOBOSEXUAL—sexually active person who hops from one partner to another

BROMANCE—strong, nonsexual friendship between two or more men

ALCOLOCK—device on a car that locks the engine when a driver has consumed too much alcohol

DWEETS—drunken Tweets

PHUBBING—snubbing someone in a social situation

TWERK(ING)--dance in a highly sexual, provocative way

LISTICLE—a magazine article written like a list

PINKWASHING—practice of using the color pink to indicate a company has joined the search for a cure for breast cancer (from Susan B. Komen Foundation)

CUPERTINO EFFECT—computer automatically types what it thinks you meant to say; ‘fraud’ instead of ‘Freud’

SLACKVISION—practice of clicking multiple on-line petitions for political reasons

SELFIE—picture you take of yourself to post on a social media site

EX—former; he exed his girlfriend last night

IFNIK—person who lives, works and plays conditionally. He gives several reasons he will or will not join “if….”

VIDEOCRACY—power of visual images in contemporary societies that have a crucial impact on the consumer-- “I want that!”

ALPHA CONSUMER—person who picks up trends early and who has to have the newest, hottest item; influenced by videocracy

WEBBIAGE—too much information on a web site

BEAULICIOUS—something that appeals to the two senses of vision and taste; a beaulocious cupcake for instance

BOFRO—shortened form of boyfriend

SSB—sugar-sweetened beverage

PRANCERCISE—form of exercise that imitates a horse prancing

FLOOROBE—pile of clothes discarded on the floor during a busy day

FACE BOOK-HAPPY—miserable person who fakes bliss in carefully managed Face book posts

BRAPHET—person who thinks he knows everything

PEACOCKING—similar to braphet in that a person gives off an intentional, superior image to others via expensive clothes, cars, electronic equipment, houses, boats

OBAMACARE—political term for managed health care in America

BIT COIN—decentralized, open-source, peer-to-peer currency

BINGE-WATCHING—marathon viewing of a TV series from its DVD set

SMH---shaking my head

SNOWHAWK—line of snow you are unable to reach when you brush off snow accumulation on your car; auto Mohawk

FISHELED—wrong weather forecast; snow storm predicted for overnight but you wake up to no snow for instance

DISNEY EFFECT—to make a bad prequel or sequel to a blockbuster movie

               Old Neologisms
"O harsh lips! I now hear all around me such words as common, vices, entry, malice; even virtue, study, justice, pity, mercy, compassion, profit, commodity, colour, grace, favor, acceptance. But whither, pray, in all the world have you banished those words which our forefathers used for these new-fangled ones? Are our words to be exiled like our citizens? Is the new barbaric invasion to extirpate the English tongue?"
(Alexander Gill, Logonomia Anglica, 1619; quoted by Henry Barnard in English Pedagogy, 1862)

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Path to Publishing

Today's  post is from guest blogger Susan McNabb. She is a multi-talented woman who lives in North Carolina. If you have questions or comments for Susan, please use the comments section at the bottom of the post. Thanks, Susan, for sharing your experiences.

When I finished my first book and started shopping it to agents, I remember thinking, wouldn’t it be great if this part was easy? Everyone says getting published is hard—that it’s fraught with rejection and heartache, and I wondered what it would be like if my publishing path was easy instead.

I’d spent my life in the modeling and acting professions---facing rejection and heartache along with incredible highs on a regular basis. I longed for an easy path in my new writing career, but of course, my experience made me the perfect candidate for navigating the publishing world. You could knock me down all day long, and I’d get up and keep going every time.

An experienced writer sat me down and started to explain all the rejection in the business and that it can take years to see success. She asked me what I did for a living and when I said, “I’m an actor,” she laughed and said, “Oh, never mind.”

That was nearly five years ago. That first book is still unpublished, and believe it or not, I’m glad I didn’t find that easy path back then. That book wasn’t ready to be published and I was too inexperienced to know it. It’s been through several drafts and it still being tinkered with. I’ve since written more books, and now I am published.

Was it an easy path? That question makes me laugh. It’s as hard as everyone tells you, and then some. At least it was for me. But the key is perseverance.

I did get a book contract eventually—two actually, for a series of vampire romances. I found a new e-publisher and submitted my romance novel—the third book I’d written, but my only book in that genre. I thought my chances as a new writer might be better with a new publisher, and I was right. While we were editing the first book, I signed a contract for the second, and I thought I was on my way.

My publisher had appealed to me because they were new, but there was also a risk I hadn’t considered. Exactly seven days after the release of my first book, I was told they were closing their doors. I was released from our contracts, and at their suggestion, I self-published.

I had lined up interviews and reviews on blogs and websites, and my local newspaper had already announced my release party. I panicked at the possibility that the people I’d worked so hard to tell about my book wouldn’t be able to find it, so I hurried to get it up on Amazon the same day my publisher had removed it.

Was it easy to self-publish? For the most part, yes. Amazon has made it pretty idiot proof, and admittedly, had I given myself more time to get acquainted with the process, it would have been less stressful. I made some mistakes in my frantic state—the biggest one listing the book under the wrong name: a combination of my pen name and real name. I obsessively checked Amazon for a long nail-biting day waiting for my pen name to appear after I’d corrected it.

Today, the book’s on Amazon: Drop Dead Gorgeous by Suki McMinn. I didn’t get my wish from five years ago for an easy path to publishing, but I’ve certainly learned a lot. I have more books to publish and more books to write. And I’m sure more mistakes to make. But my plan, as always, is to persevere.


Susan McNabb lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and writes romantic fiction under the name Suki McMinn. Her adult vampire romance series, L.A. Vamps, begins with Drop Dead Gorgeous.

Susan was raised in Asheville, North Carolina, and earned a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Tennessee before moving to Los Angeles where she was a model and actor for nearly three decades.

Now happily settled in the tiny writers’ haven of Tryon, North Carolina, with her husband and rescued dogs, Susan is also a photographer, potter, and fiber artist.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Literary happenings around town

If the weather outside frightful and the fire is so delightful, January's a great time to snuggle up with a good book, or a movie. Recently a fellow writer recommended to me to watch the director's cuts and interviews on DVDs for some great tips that can apply to any kind of storytelling, not just screenwriting and directing. I'm in the habit of skipping those bonus features, but now I realize I've been missing out. Sounds sort of like taking a film class from the comfort of your couch!

If you're cruising the Web, take a few minutes to read the winners and runners-up of the Inlander Short Fiction Contest. The talent of Spokane writers Ross Carder and John Whalen, Pullman writer Richard Harlan Miller, and more will reaffirm the conviction that Inland Northwest writers really do rock.

On the other hand, if you've been cooped up for days and the walls are starting to close in on you, don't give in to cabin fever! Bundle up and head out to see what's going on in the wider world.

Catch the film version of the widely loved James Thurber story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller, at local theaters.

Author Deby Fredericks will sign copies of her latest sci-fi novel, The Seven Exalted Orders, at 1 p.m. on January 11 at Hastings, 1704 W. Wellesley Ave., Spokane.

Moscow-based author Janet Richards will present and sign copies of her book, Crossing the River Sorrow: One Nurse's Story, January 11 at 2 p.m. at Auntie's, 402 W. Main, Spokane.

Also at Auntie's, a new poetry workshop called the Wordwright's Workshop will be held on the second Saturday of the month, open to all ages. January 11 at 4:30 p.m. Free. For information, visit Spokane Poetry Slam (838-0206)

Later in January, in Coeur d'Alene, Athol-based author Alexander Hencoski will sign copies of his book The Adventures of Rathdrum Willie and His Motor Car. Rathdrum Willie is an uproariously funny hermit who lives in the small town of Rathdrum, Idaho. When he’s not being a public nuisance, you can usually find him inventing a unique contraption or practicing his finely tuned hermit skills. This time, Willie has created a car that has no brakes! Follow Willie as he rides around town, wreaking havoc on all who cross his path. 1-4 p.m. on January 18 at Hastings, 101 Best Ave., Coeur d'Alene.

Up in Sandpoint on January 15, writers, musicians, and listeners can check out the Five Minutes of Fame open mic event beginning at 6:30 p.m. in Cafe Bodega, located inside Foster's Crossing at 504 Oak St. Original material only, please -- arrive at 6 p.m. for dinner.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Smoking Gun: Writers Who Inhaled

Anne Sexton
This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the landmark Surgeon General's report that stated exactly how terrible smoking is for one's health and why the government should get involved in putting an end to it. Some readers may be old enough to remember those ancient days, when blue-gray clouds of smoke hung everywhere in the air and practically every flat surface sported an ashtray. While my own parents weren't smokers and forbade us from doing so, it seemed as if all the Cool People smoked. Seeing other adults smoking cigarettes was no more alarming than seeing them pop a breath mint into their mouths--which the smart ones did, since smoking stank. I tried it once and that was more than enough.

John Steinbeck
Half a century on, smoking is heavily restricted, with good reason. Most of the Cool People no longer light up, anyway. Or do they? A recent Associated Press article reported that, while the U. S. smoking rate has fallen by more than half to 18 percent [since 1964], "that still translates to more than 43 million smokers."

I stumbled upon an older yet interesting post about famous writers who smoked. Writers, the author states states, are the occupational group "most closely associated with the practice of smoking in particular, as if, in the general consensus, the scribe could find inspiration in a tobacco pouch or pry the muse from her hiding-places with a few puffs of poisonous fumes." The post goes on to name such prodigious smokers as Colette, Steinbeck, Wilde, and Moliere.

Mark Twain
Mark Twain wrote, "Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times."

David Sedaris (When You Are Engulfed in Flames) wrote about various cigarette brands, "Kools and Newports were for black people and lower-class whites. Camels were for procrastinators, those who wrote bad poetry, and those who put off writing bad poetry. Merits were for sex addicts, Salems were for alcoholics, and Mores were for people who considered themselves to be outrageous but really weren't."

Ian Fleming, the James Bond guy, wrote, “Smoking I find the most ridiculous of all the varieties of human behavior and practically the only one that is entirely against nature. Can you imagine a cow or any animal taking a mouthful of smoldering straw than breathing in the smoke and blowing it out through its nostrils?” Pretty clever observation, coming from a lifelong smoker.

What do you think? Setting health concerns aside for a moment, do you think that nicotine helps or hampers the muse?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Resolved: To Stop Making Writing Resolutions

Happy new year! With the first January post of the year comes the near-obligatory charge to address the making of new year's resolutions. I'm not going to do it. Why? Because this year, instead of resolutions, I'm concentrating on a different "r" word--routines.

In my experience, resolutions, no matter how well meant, don't really change anything substantial.In fact, unless they're written down and posted somewhere prominent, they're often forgotten by Valentine's Day.

Routines do change things. Routines are like taking resolutions and giving them hands and feet. Routines lift resolutions up off the couch and shoo them out into the world to do their work.

Here's what I mean.

Resolution: I resolve to receive a publishing contract for my novel this year.

Really? Unless I choose to self-publish, that goal is out of my control. I can't make a publisher offer me a contract, any more than I can make them pluck my manuscript out of the slush pile and read it in the first place. But what I can do is make sure the novel is constantly in circulation, constantly in motion, constantly landing on someone's desk.

Routine: I will take action every week/month/quarter to give my fiction proposal the best chance of being seen by the right publishers. That's something I can do. I can research publishers and narrow down what they're looking for. I can craft and polish my query letter and proposal until they sparkle. I can work with my agent to make sure the proposal is being sent to the right pairs of eyeballs. I can set appointments to meet with editors at writing conferences. While I can't make the proverbial horse lean down and take a sip, I can do plenty of things to lead him to water and make that water look mighty appealing and thirst-quenching to a thirsty horse.

Here's another example:

Resolution: I will finish writing my second novel.

The problem with this resolution is that, not only is it vague (what constitutes "done," anyway? So many words written, no matter how rough? Polished and shined to perfection?), but I won't know for months whether it's a realistic aim. By December 2014 when I look back and say "I did it" or "I didn't do it," it's too late to make any necessary mid-course corrections. However, if I recast it . . .

Routine: I will write at least 500 (or 1000 or 250) words a day on my novel.

That's a goal I can control. When evening falls, either I've done it or I haven't. The result may be a finished novel, or it may turn out to be a darn good start. Either way, the routine of writing X number of words a day is in my control, even when the result is not.

When it comes to your writing, do you tend to make resolutions or set routines (or both, or neither)? How will you keep your productivity high in 2014?