Friday, June 24, 2016

Fired-Up Friday

Back in the Day

          When I sold my first short story over 33 years ago, I bought two things: an electronic typewriter and a copy of Merriam-Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (copyright 1983). The Smith-Corona electronic typewriter replaced the JC Penney electric typewriter I’d been using, and when I saw all the marvelous things it could do, I thought I was in writer heaven. I could choose different fonts by changing a wheel. I could delete up to ten words back just by pushing the delete key. I could make corrections without using whiteout or those tricky little correction strips. I could type fast! It was amazing. The dictionary I bought was also top of the line at the time. It listed the year a particular word or phrase came into use as well as having its own Handbook of Style with punctuation and capitalization rules. I felt both the new typewriter and the dictionary were investments in my writing career and a good way to spend half the check. Those were the days.

            The typewriter served me well for a number of years and helped me sell quite a few more stories. It held up even when a glass of water got spilled on it. But needless to say, it has since gone on to the place where all outdated machines go. I never cried when computers allowed us to cut and paste and make corrections and move scenes around without having to actually get out the scissors and tape. Yet I sometimes wish I still had a typewriter to address an envelope without involving the printer or to fill out a form.

            The dictionary, too, has gone the way of the albatross now that computers can show us the correct spelling of a word (and even correct it) without us having to leave the keyboard. We can look up the meaning of words online as well as Google just about anything to find an answer. But I have kept that Ninth Collegiate, though I can’t say it’s the newest version anymore, and I use it on occasion to look up a spelling or word meaning. As you can see from the photo, it's showing its age, but it still has a place of honor among the research books I own. I know it will serve its purpose when I get around to writing the historical trilogy I have in mind, and I need to make certain a word was in use during that time. In some ways I feel like the old dictionary is a friend who, although coming apart at the seams, still keeps me company and remembers the days when we first started out on this adventure called writing.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Fired-Up Friday

44 Years…Wait…What? How Can That Be?

                On June 17, 1972 I got married. I was 20 years old. The groom was 3 days past his 20th. So from the beginning you could say we did everything wrong. I wonder what the odds were then that we would stay married? Probably not too good. But here we are 44 years later and to quote a song that has also been around for years, “You’re still the one.”

                That is not to say I haven’t on any given day wanted to cheerfully annihilate “the one.” To any long-married couple who can say, “We’ve never gone to bed angry,” I say, Good. For. You. I have. And I’ve gotten up angry and stayed angry for most of a day or until he called and asked, “What’s for dinner?” and then we started talking about that or some other issue that had nothing to do with what made me angry in the first place. Pretty soon you decide staying angry takes too much energy and you let it go.

                I once listened to a talk about different psychological personalities and how they match up. The speaker described these two: the one who gets mad, holds on to their madness, and remembers forever what they were mad about and why, and the one who gets mad, yells, acts pissed off, and then five minutes later is not mad, and ten minutes later does not remember being mad. When I heard those descriptions a light bulb flashed in my mind. That’s us! That is us to a t! I will let you guess who is who in the equation, but who knew we could be so perfectly profiled?

                Sometimes I wonder what it was that drew us together. We met senior year of high school when our two schools (small Catholic rival schools) merged and became one. I think our first encounter was when I gave him a ride home after some jerk from another school had popped him in the face and his buddies dumped him. My girlfriend and I put him in the back seat of my mom’s 1959 Oldsmobile convertible and took him to his house where we promptly left him before his parents could come out  and ask questions. At school the next week he sat behind me in some class, tapped me on the shoulder, and asked if I had any aspirin. His lip was still swollen, and he was wearing sunglasses to cover a black eye. I think I felt sorry for him. Is that when love was born?  

                You can’t go through 44 years without a lot of ups and downs, and we’ve had our share, but somehow we’ve always managed to stick it out and get to the other side. We have a lot of shared interests; we both listen to the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, and Johnny Cash. We favor trips to national parks and have never been on a cruise. We don’t read the same books and we argue about gun control. We usually vote the same (thank goodness!) and we sometimes watch the same TV shows and movies. He got me hooked on Modern Family and Big Bang Theory. I’ve taken him to the darker side with Law and Order SVU and CSI. He goes to bed early. I stay up late.

                To any young couple just getting married, I would offer this advice. Make darn sure you like the person you are marrying. Yes, I know you love them but do you like them? Sometimes liking someone is enough to get you through the “I don’t know if I love him anymore” days. Conversely, loving is the thing that makes you care for someone when they’re ill and support them through job loss and loss of loved ones. Love is what helps you rise above the many disappointments that are sure to come your way. Make sure you grow enough of both emotions because that is what will carry you through 44 years. 

                Perhaps this is why I choose to write romance, in the hope that I can give this to the characters in my books, the hope that when I leave them at the end, they are going on to 44 years and more together. (Because you know, in my mind, they do go on, because they are real.)  I never promise them a happily-ever-after, because I don’t know if there is such a thing, but I do believe in working hard at something every day and making it last.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Fired-Up Friday

We Were Beach Girls

                Welcome to the first official Fired-Up Friday blog. It’s the beginning of summer, and although it’s been a little chilly this past week, here in southwest Michigan it also means the beginning of beach season. If you are familiar with this side of the state, you know that we have some of the best beaches anywhere and they are all on the shores of Lake Michigan. In the words of singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, Lake Michigan “steams like a young man’s dreams.” I’m not sure she’s steaming yet, but give it another month. Yet the temperature of the lake doesn’t seem to deter the people, both locals and visitors, who frequent the beach. It draws people like flies to honey, and on any given summer weekend beaches are the place to be. Visitors flock to the beach towns that line the sunset coast. People who have moved away come home to see their favorite beach, and local folk just pray for them all to go home so they can have the beach to themselves again. 

                When I was a teen-ager I was a beach girl. My friends and I would spend every available afternoon basking in the sun, playing in the lake, and hoping someone would have a beach party at night. We didn’t think about sunburns (although I’ve had more than a few) and baby oil was liberally applied to facilitate deeper tans. Who knew that in later years we would learn all that sun-worshipping could lead to skin cancer? The beach was the place to meet your friends and hang out, day or night. This corner of Michigan is blessed to have a choice of beaches, and we made it a practice to hit them all. If you had a summer job that you worked at night, it was great because then you could go to the beach in the afternoon. It was nirvana.

                Some years ago I read a book called Beach Girls by the wonderful author Luanne Rice. She writes of beaches but in a different place, from her view on the ocean. But the sentiments of her characters mirror those we felt when we haunted our Lake Michigan beaches. If you read any of her books, you will learn what it’s like to be a beach girl. I'm happy to say I also raised a beach girl, who always tries to spend one day of a summertime visit home at the beach.

                I don’t visit the beach much anymore. Mostly we just drive-by, but it’s always something to do on a summer evening—go drive by the beaches and see what’s happening, maybe stay to watch the sunset. A road trip up the Lake Michigan coast will take you to many a spectacular beach, and it’s worth it to check out every one. I sometimes feel we take our beautiful beaches for granted, but I have never stopped believing we do have the best. And even if I don’t lay out there and bake in the sun or dip my toes in Lake Michigan as I used to, I think I’ll always in my heart be a beach girl.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Fired-Up Fridays

Welcome to what I hope will be a new blog venture for me; blogging every Friday this summer of 2016. The first title I chose was Freaky Friday, but after a Google search proved there were too many other blogs with that title, I decided to go with Fired-Up Fridays. I'm hoping that by writing a blog every week I'll fire myself up for more writing and maybe do the same for you.

While commitment to writing a blog every week is a challenge, it's one I plan to do for fun and to try something different. Not sure what I'll talk about. Sometimes it may be about a writing topic or maybe a story that was in the news that week (though I promise nothing too political will cross this path!). I might talk about what is happening in my writing life, a book I'm reading, or how a song inspires me to write. I love to talk about favorite authors and will maybe feature a book or two. If I get too desperate, there are always stories about my cats and a dog named FooFoo. They can usually be counted on to provide a treasure trove of anecdotes.

So check back here next Friday to see what's up and to get fired-up to write, to read a great book, or just to enjoy the weekend. Or maybe to just take a nice nap.