Our “Bags” of Words!

We all have at least one in our home.  It might be hanging on a door knob, tucked under the sink, or camouflaged in an attractive container, but they’re there; waiting for the next time we need them.  Be honest: you  have a Bag of Bags.

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You know the ones I mean.  You get them for every little thing you buy.  From a small gift card (that you could have easily placed in your purse) to the one so over filled with groceries that it splits half way up the walk to the front door.  It’s something every store give you, why they don’t even ask the old phrase “paper or plastic” any more!  And we know that they need to be recycled, so we collect them, usually putting all in one bag until it’s overflowing.  Then they get stuffed somewhere out of sight until needed for what ever job you use them for (personally, mine are kept by the cat’s litter box for-well you know).

I was thinking this morning, as I was pulling a bag out of the bright orange cloth bag I keep them all in, that these could be a symbol for our language, too.  Think about it.  There are so many words just in the English language, and we only use a small percent of them.  Most of us fall back on the same words over and over, even though we know that there are other words that could say the same thing!  Often the words we speak aren’t even “real” words at all.  They may be slang or regional words that we use to fit in with those we are talking to.  (Just count the number of times I use “word”)

But every one of us has access to our “bag” of words.  There is no excuse for us not to extend our vocabulary and express our thought more articulately.  Look on your desk, or bookshelf…there it is, you see it?  They are thick and full of wonderful tools.  Yes that’s it-your Dictionary and Thesaurus!!

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Every one of us tells hundreds of stories every day.  Most of us do this with our normal conversations with one another.  But some of us tell our stories in the written form.  And we all read!  From the simple children’s tale to the great literary masterpieces.  Some of us truly love to read, other would prefer to be read to.  This can be done by a parent reading to a child to anyone watching TV or a movie.  Think about it; the actors are portraying words that someone wrote; maybe as a screenplay, or a newscast.  At some point the actions you are seeing had to be WRITTEN down somewhere.  Even those dreaded electric games our children seem glued to have written directions on their screens.

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Words are our tools to communicate.  The more we know, the better we can express ourselves.  So crack open that dictionary or thesaurus and find a new word to replace a common word in your vocabulary!

Rituals of Writing

Every job has a set of tasks that need to be done to complete the job to your satisfaction. You have a goal to accomplish, often with a time frame in mind. You need to have your work tools ready at hand to be used, you need to be at the right location, and you might have to have some help lined up in case you run into any problems. Once you have all this lined up, you are ready to start. Hopefully all will go as you planned and your results will be everything you hoped for.
 thQA9LL7NIFor an author, writing is a job just like any other job. Our tools are just a little different, that’s all. We need our writing medium, be it paper or computer. Pens are always on hand for jotting notes as we compose. Some of us may use more technical items like a voice recorder or even a voice computer program where we can speak our words out loud and they “magically” appear on the screen.
But the most important tool that we need is our imagination. Somehow our thought have to be reigned in and put into some kind of logical order so that we can express them to others. There are some authors out there who can just sit down and start composing coherent thoughts and get their story easily down.
Then there are others, like me, who need to go through a warm up processes.
Some may do a quick bit of exercise to get the juices flowing. Or maybe a spot of peaceful meditation before they pick up their pen. For me, I need to make sure that all of my other day-to-day tasks are either done or out of sight to insure that I am not distracted.

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I think that if you asked most authors, you would find that there are certain items that they need to have within easy reach to help them with their work. It might be a cup  of hot coffee, or a glass of wine. A plate of healthy snacks might need to be on desk next to them. After all writing can be hard work, and we need to keep up our strength. My must have for writing time is a cup of coffee or a large ice tea (depending on the weather) and a dish of M&Ms (preferably dark chocolate).
Then there is the atmosphere. For some there needs to be quite, no outside distractions.  There are those who write only in a strict office setting in front of a desk, in a comfortable office chair.   Other’s thrive in chaos, and get their best work done amongst the sounds of TV & kids. Most seem to need some kind of background music. My taste run towards new age or instrumentals with nature sounds in the background. I actually do my best writing in my car, parked along the river, or on a towel by the beach.

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But not matter what the tools, what the setting, what necessary fortifications, or even what the atmosphere; the author has a job to do.  That job is to create a story that will keep the reader’s attention and give enjoyment for as long as they read along.

Big Words, Little Words

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Writers have a job to do, and words are our tools.  Words that can create a world away from our day-to-day life, words that can teach us, words that will make us laugh or cry, words that will make us wonder.

As a writer it is not just about stringing random words together.  We have a story to tell and we need to understand our reader to insure that they enjoy what we are creating with our pen (or keyboard).  Personally, when I am reading a cozy mystery (like the ones I write), a romantic comedy or “Chick Lit” I do not want to be bombarded with scientific mumbo-jumbo while I’m trying to enjoy the author’s words.  I want the words of the story to match the mood of the book, and so do most readers.

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On the other had, there are times when details and technical terms are a necessary part of the story.  Would you believe in a medical drama that used the words boo-boo?  Of course not.  The words need to not only tell the story, but build the suspense and the back story and these details make the difference.  Research or life experiences will give the author the confidence to weave a story that will keep you interested from the opening page to the ending page.

No matter what type of book you read, the type of words will set the mood for your enjoyment.  From the mother reading  her child’s favorite book, to the adult catching some private time out in the garden with the newest block buster; the words matter.6d563d64f75ad087e4fe43e1957876c2

So big words (medical suspense) to little words (children’s books) just read….

Remember Dr. Seuss has sold millions of books all based on rhyming little words! 

Some Things Just Go Hand-In-Hand

Gossip From The Southern Garden

I’ve been providing horticultural services for over 30 years and I can say with confidence that there are certain types of people who have a true love of plants.  From the simple exotic Orchid to the complex landscape design, there are people out there who have made plants an important part of their live. Obviously I am one of them.

New plantings in beds or containers are planned with meticulous attention to detail, parties and special events are planned with plants and flowers being an intricate part of the decorating.  New plants or flowers added to the interior bring a feeling of joy.  There is a special feeling of contentment felt when we can spent a day working in the garden.

But do you know what else I’ve noticed about plant lovers?  Most are also ANIMAL lovers!

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There are days that I go from account to account and I am…

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There’s More to People Watching…

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Like the kitten watching the outside world through the window, most of us spend a fair amount of time “people watching”.  There is no lack of entertainment as we go throughout our day, as human beings, we seem to love drama.  Some like to be the center of drama, others like to watch from the side lines.

As a writer it is not only second nature to watch and take mental notes on the activities around us.  The question is always there in the back of our minds; how can I use this in my writing?

Simple things like watching a bird splash in the bird bath, or the way a strong wind can pick up a leaf and carry it on a journey can catch our attention and help set a scene in our minds. The way that people interact with each other receive special scrutiny, as every detail is filed away for future use.  The hand movements as someone talks, the tone of voice, the stance of those talking, any visual habits; these are all important for the writer to remember.

Detail take on special meanings for the writer as well.  Are they wearing winter or summer clothes?  Is the weather gloomy or sunny?  Is it a city location or the suburbs?  Are they angry or happy?  Is everyone included in the scene, or are there some who are more background characters. 

After observing for a while, writers may actually re-write the scene in their minds to fit the plot of the book they may be currently working on.  For some, a simple observation of a family outing in a park can turn into a page from a Where’s Waldo story.  That argument you’re having with your girlfriend?  There is no telling how that will play out on the pages of a writers manual script.  A mother dragging her child home when he doesn’t want to leave could easily be written as a kidnapping.  A young women kissing the man next to her on the park bench could be about an elicit affair between co-workers.  The grandmother pruning in her garden could be a women harvesting hemlock to kill off her husband for one too many nights of loud snoring.  Simple, everyday actions that are viewed through the eyes of a writer can take on a new meaning altogether.

So, just remember that person watching you from afar may not just be watching…they may be creating their next novel in their minds.

I’ve made the investment!

The last few days have been interesting & exciting, exasperating & time-consuming, fun and rewarding…
You see I decided to comment to this thing called writing. I took what money I have earned from the sales of my first book (Murder for Neptune’s Trident) and the little rainy day stash I had put aside and invested into a much-needed and updated laptop. So with my cats by my side (or on my lap or across the keyboard) I have spent hours getting my files uploaded and getting myself acquainted with windows 8.1. I have to admit there were a couple of times that I was ready to put the whole thing back in the box and go back to my desktop! But now that I am a little more familiar with getting around the new program, I really like it.
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So now that I feel properly equipped to tackle this new adventure I decided on, I need to set some goals and work towards meeting them.  It is so easy to just sit at the computer and get lost on the many social networks, vast amounts of interesting articles out there on the web, music to discover, crazy & silly videos to watch on YouTube; the list goes on and so do the distractions.  With goals, I hope to see results as I work on the next book in my series.

Some writers set goals of working so many hours per day, other set goals of writing some many words per day.  Some prefer to work a few days on just research for their book, other write and research at the same time.  I know of writers that work on more than one project at a time, keeping to a written outline that will take them step by step through their book.  I am not sure what direction I will settle on, but I think that I will be working on a combination of styles until I find what works the best for me.

My adventure continues, and I hope you will follow along with me as I learn more about myself, my writing and my laptop.  You’ve heard the expression “boys and their toys”-for me it will be “writer’s and their tools”!

 

AS THE PAGE TURNS…

It was unusually quiet at our house tonight.  There was no loud noise coming from the TV, no sounds of war coming from the computer games, no barking from one spoiled Beagle looking for attention and no shouts of “Get out of that fridge-you just ate!”

Instead soft jazz music played in the  background and the gentle snores from one (or both) of the cats were what could be heard.  Each of us were in our own worlds (or to be more literal chairs).  And what were we doing that kept us so occupied that we did not need any electronic entertainment?  READING!

My son has recently re-discovered Steven King and was engrossed in a book of the writer’s short stories.  My husband was reading a non-fiction about Tuxedo Park and I was finishing up a book about writing: Authors in Bathrobes (Lauren Carr).

We all took a break at the same time, and each declared they were reading the best book.  We even took time to talk about each of the books and have a conversation.  (Do you have any idea how hard that is when you have a teenager?).  When we had finished, we each went back to our book to become part of the story once more.

Before I knew it, my husband was heading off to bed and my son to the shower: the evening was over.  It was a wonderful evening too.  We survived a night of being “unplugged” and would live to brag about it.

As a new writer, I have been pouring over author forums on the internet, trying to absorb as much information as I can.  One word of advise that was repeated over and over was to READ other author’s books.  No problem for me; I’ve been known to read a book a day.  But I was surprised at this advise.  I find that they are right, you know.  When you read as an author, the written word is viewed with different eyes.  Little things grab you, and you see different styles of writing to tell similar stories.

So I will continue to READ, Read, Read and Learn, Learn, Learn.

And hopefully, as a family, we will share more peaceful evenings like tonight!

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“Baby, it’s Cold Outside” – “No it’s a Blizzard Outside!”

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This winter has been brutal for those living in the North.  As soon as one storm is finished, the next one hits.  And just in case you’ve forgotten how many storms you’ve managed to get through, the weather service has decided to name them from A-Z.  At this point I think they are up to T.  But really, after K doesn’t all just become one long, nasty winter?

I grew up in Niagara Fall, New York-so I can sympathize with my northern friends and family.  I lived through the blizzard of ’77 and even though I was just a teenager, I can still remember how miserable it was.  And we didn’t have all the techy stuff to get us through, either. When the phone lines went down because an icy tree branch broke, well that was that-you had no phone.  Instead, you would bundle up and walk next door to check on your neighbors and make sure they were okay.  If the power went out, you relied on the wood stove or fireplace for warmth and played board games for entertainment.  And for exercise you shoveled snow and  (wait for it) went back out a half hour after you finished because either the wind had blown drifts across the walks or the snow plow had just gone through and blocked the end of the driveway.

Before the storm would hit there were chores to do too.  Wood had to be chopped for the fireplace, hoses disconnected so they wouldn’t freeze the water still inside, gas can filled for generators or snow blowers and a trip to the market was a most for bread and milk.

thCZHZHHZCYet for all the hard work that we had to endure and all the inconvenience, there was still something magical about the storm and it’s aftermath.  You have never seen the perfect beauty of a tree frozen in place with icicles hanging from the branches.  The wind will have created mounds of snow to be built later into snow forts and then, once the wind calms, there is an unbelievable silence.  Some may say it is eerie, some peaceful, but to me it is magical.  Only the sound of icicles dropping break the silence.  It is almost as if you are in another world.

And then the kids find out that there is NO SCHOOL!  Cheers can be heart from inside the house, mixed with the groans of parents wondering what to do with these happy urchins.  In no time at all the children are bundled up so heavily that they can hardly move (remember the scene from A Christmas Story?) and are out the doors.  Snowballs are flying, sled are being dragged out of garages and the older kids are reviving up the snowmobiles.

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Some how we managed to live through each storm and prepare for the next.  It is just a way of life.

Not anymore….I would much rather have to prepare for Hurricane season and each storm to come that will be named from A to Z.

 

***Just a note: this was a writing challenge that I threw out to my readers: just post one word that you would like to see my try to blog about (this one came from Karen in New York).  Feel free to join in the fun!

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