When I was a little girl, as soon as I got up in the morning I was out the door, most often with my dad, or sometimes with my mom in the garden, and I spent the whole day out there. I didn’t come inside to stay until my mom called me in when it got dark.
I grew up this way, playing outside, in the barns, in the fields, in the yard, and climbing trees. I made interstate “overpasses” for my Matchbox cars out of maple roots, and I used scissors to cut grass short enough to make “pastures” for the tiny animals from my farm sets.
If the weather was fit, and sometimes even if it wasn’t fit, I wanted to be outside.
Then I started school and made a wider circle of friends, and I discovered that not everybody liked to be outside as much as I did.
“Hey, let’s go outside!” I’d say. Some of them would go “Yeah, let’s go outside!”
But others would frown. “It’s too hot,” they’d say. Or the worst of all… “Let’s just stay in,” with no reason given for why they preferred this choice.
Little Cassondra could not fathom this.
Outside, after all, there was this enormous, glorious world to explore.
Soon enough I realized that people tended to be either “inside people” or “outside people.” I was born an outside person.
Of course there are people who like both, but in my observation, true “outside people” tend to look for any opportunity to get outside, and we will still be out there when the “inside people” have gotten too hot, too cold, too bothered by bugs, or just plain too bored. Inside people generally do not like to sweat, I think, and can I just say, I totally get that. The ugly parts of sweat could someday make me switch sides.
I’m married to an inside person.
Right now, as I type this, I’m sitting on my deck, under the umbrella, watching the sun play peekaboo with the clouds as it sinks toward the horizon way across the fence toward the west. That’s a photo, on the left, of the view i had as I typed this.
I’m surrounded by an army of citronella candles, and the Deep Woods Off is on the patio table beside me, just in case the candles are not enough. I’ve got my glass of wine, my bottle of water, and four bars of wifi from the internet router in the house.
Steve is inside, in the air conditioning, on facebook.
He comes out for short bits of time when I’m out here in the evenings, but once the mosquitos come around, he waves the white flag.
Mosquitoes love Steve the way dogs love ice cream, and honestly, they can take all the fun out of anything.
Lately I’ve been having to wage war with the nasty bloodsuckers too.
But I’m willing, because, you see, I’ve figured out that if I’m outside, I’ll write.
If I’m inside, I tend to get distracted by laundry, dishes, and the internet. Inside does not feed my muse. I’ll have to figure out what to do different when the weather turns cold, but for now, I’m loving the return to my outside self.
For the past few weeks, any time I get a chance, as soon as I get up and moving around, I bring my pot of coffee out onto the deck.
I also bring my laptop, and sometimes I bring writing assistants. This past week, TK (short for Tiger Katt) has been lying in the shade of the umbrella, helping me with research and providing encouraging purrs and toe licks as needed. He has a bowl of water on the upper deck, but day before yesterday, he decided he wanted to taste the water in the birdbath.
The wrens who were waiting their turn for a bath were not amused. I put TK back inside when I realized he was in their way, but still, they cussed loudly in wrenish for a solid hour, telling me off.
But see….I made a note about being cussed out by a wren, and since I’m writing small-town contemporary romance, I’ll use that in a future story. :0)
When I come out here in the mornings I open the story I’m working on, and when my eyes need a rest, I stare off into the distance, at the neighboring farms, the wildlife on the pond behind the house, and the rabbits running around the yard.
I stay out here all day. Other than bathroom trips and drink refills, I don’t go back inside until the evening. I’m out here through the light breezes, through the heat of the 90-degree, mosquito-infested, Southern Kentucky August afternoons (not too bad for this time of year, honestly—it could be over a hundred degrees right now) and then I go in to fix supper. But I come right back out and these days I type late into the night on my trusty laptop, surrounded by citronella candles and tiki torches.
It’s full-on dark as I finish this blog. with a half-moon peeking through the trees above me.
For the past two weeks, I’ve waked up in the morning and my first thought has been, “I get to sit on the deck and work on my story!” And it’s coming along nicely.
Del is the heroine of book 1 in this series, and she’s an outside girl like me. But her best friend is completely different. Let’s just say that all of Rainey’s friends have set Material Girl as her ringtone on their phones because it aggravates her. Her friends might know she’s not really like that, but a lot of people see her that way, and she hates it.
Which has nothing to do with her love or hate of sweat…..
That all depends on whose sweat she’s looking at.
So I’m interested in your take on the outside vs the inside.
Are you an outside person?
Or an inside person?
Or are you a combination? Can you relate to both?
When you were a kid, did you like to play outside? Did you like to get dirty?
Or did you prefer to stay inside and stay clean?
Is your idea of a perfect vacation a resort hotel where they pamper you all day and you never have to set foot outside? (Okay that sounds good even to me!)
Or is it a hike in the woods, camping on the New England coast, or going with Bandita Nancy on a boat trip through her beloved Okefenokee swamp to see the wildlife up close and personal?
Are your evenings spent out on the deck until long after the sun has set? Or inside, watching movies in the blessedly cool air conditioning?
What’s your best cure for mosquito bites? Any tried and true advice for beating the heat or the bugs outside?
Last week I drove to another town to meet a friend I’d never seen in person.
I made this friend online.
Now let me explain that there’s a little deeper connection than it would seem at first.
April has been on the fringes of my world for a long while through our mutual friend, Dianna Love. She’s a fan of Dianna’s books, and I “met” her through correspondence on Dianna’s behalf a few years ago.
And that brings up a whole question of its own, doesn’t it? Have you truly “met” someone, if you’ve only met them online? I still feel the need to put the quote marks around “met” if I have not actually been face-to-human-face with a person.
Maybe we need a whole new word for “meeting” someone online.
So anyway, I knew April’s name, and I could probably have picked out her photo from the avatar on her emails, but I didn’t really know her. Understand?
But as online relationships tend to progress, we ended up as each others’ friends on the twenty-first century’s great social experiment.
Yes, that’s right, I mean facebook.
A couple of months ago she commented on one of my facebook posts and we ended up in a conversation. A “comment” conversation, which we then moved to the more personal conversational level of the facebook Instant Messaging. The IM of “I’ll IM you.”
How do you even write that? I’ll I-M you? I’ll I.M. you?
We chatted for a bit, and there was wine involved—at least on my end.
See there? I can’t say I’ve actually had a glass of wine with April, but from my point of view, I’ve absolutely had a glass of wine with April. I was drinking wine while we “talked.”
And at some point I decided I’d like to meet this girl in person.
We set a date, and last Thursday, I headed west down Kentucky Highway 79, an arrow-straight stretch of asphalt that slices through corn, soybeans, and Amish produce stands on the way to Clarksville Tennessee, the bedroom community of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne division of the US Army, the Screaming Eagles.
We’d figured out that we both like consignment shopping and flea markets, so that was the plan for the day.
April met me in the parking lot of the Cracker Barrel. She climbed into my van and we hugged. It seemed only right, since we’d had so much back and forth online, laughing and getting to know one another.
I’ve gotta tell ya though, the hug at the end of the day was completely different from this one. At least for me.
I’ve been thinking about this “online relationship” thing since I met April.
My husband, Steve, and I both know a number of people who’ve met their spouses or significant others online.
For at least two of these friends, the online dating thing has been an unmitigated disaster. It is easy enough, after all, to pretend you are something you’re not when you are not actually face to face with a person.
But setting those instances aside, for more and more people, it seems to really work.
I had proof that things were changing about two years ago.
Okay, if I’m stuck in my writing, I often take my laptop to a little café or a bar where there’s wifi. There are a few of those around here now.
I’ll have a meal and maybe a glass of wine and work there, surrounded by the energy of other people, most of whom see me focused on the laptop screen and pass by without interrupting. It works for me.
One day I was camped out at a tiny, high-top table in a small town just south of my home. I was in the bar area, up a flight of stairs from the main restaurant, and I was there when the schools let out for the day. Since this restaurant was a designated “safe spot” where kids could wait for parents, a bunch of middle school and high school kids flooded the restaurant area of the place. From my table in the upper-level bar area I could look down at the main floor and I noticed that the boys were all on one side of the restaurant. The girls were on the other side. I mentioned this to the owner, who happened to be behind the bar at the time.
“Yeah,” he said. “They split off by gender, then they sit there and text each other from fifteen feet away.”
If I were guessing, they probably share the same glances and blushes that kids shared when I was their age, only they do it from a little further away, and they can pass notes with no paper involved at all.
I sat there wondering if I was watching small town romance blossom between kids who might date through high school and then go on to get married and have families of their own, making a new generation to buy ice cream at the walk-up window of the Frosty Freeze down the street.
Between the two of us, Steve and I know probably twenty people who met their spouses, one way or another, online.
I know a boy from Illinois and a girl from Texas who met on an internet forum and fell in love.
I know a highly-skilled nurse who met her husband online.
In our group of close friends, one couple met through an online dating service. They’d just started dating when we met them. Now they’ve been together for six or seven years and own a house together.
And yet, when people ask my friends how they met, they glance down at the floor or look away as they quietly say, “I met him…online.”
There’s a stigma about it I think.
But I sit here, all day long, at a computer. I might take my laptop to a restaurant to work. More often I go out to sit on the deck and use the wifi. But regardless, my butt is glued to a chair in front of a computer for many hours each day.
I hate clubs. If I were single and wanted to meet somebody with my present job, what would I do?
I might be tempted to sign up for some kind of online service.
But I think I might be embarrassed to do it.
And that would be a shame, wouldn’t it?
There are plenty of people who put all of their energy into creating an online image that is totally different from the real-life version. There are guys (and probably girls) who live in their parents’ basements, spend all day and night playing World Of Warcraft, and never actually see daylight.
Brad Paisley did a song about that.
But times, they are a changin’.
In my lifetime thus far, the world has gone from passing notes the old fashioned way, to most people owning a computer, even if it’s just a phone. And it seems to me that if I look around me and I’m honest, most of us spend a fair bit of time “knowing” people through the internet or the phone, or some other electronic media.
Next month a group of good friends from other states will converge on my house to camp in my back yard for a night or two. They’ve done this for three years now.
And I met every one of them on an internet forum dedicated to a subject we all enjoy—a hobby we have in common.
So last Thursday I spent the day with April. I roamed through some of the best consignment warehouses I’ve ever seen. We ate lunch and we talked, and I got to know the amazing, beautiful person she is.
And when I dropped her off at her car and we hugged goodbye, I was hugging a true friend. A sister in the real sense of the word, which has nothing to do with blood, but everything to do with love, support, and liking each other for who we are. I hugged a friend and a sister I hope I’ll spend many, many more days with.
And none of it would have happened if I hadn’t met her…online.
So tell me, Bandits and Buddies…what do you think of online relationships?
You know us Bandits, and we know you, because we’re all online, and when I think of never having met you, it breaks my heart a little.
I think of all of you as my real-life friends.
But some of you could be nonexistent!
Do you ever wonder about the people you meet online—about what their lives are really like? If they are really who they say they are?
Have you ever met someone online who turned out to be a fake?
How many online friends have you gone on to actually meet in person?
In this internet age, why do you think there is still a stigma around meeting a husband, wife, or lover online?
Will it ever become the norm?
Do you know anybody who’s met a life mate online?
Have you ever made a trip—a drive across town, across country, or even taken a flight—to meet a friend you met online?
We are all word lovers here in the lair. What do you think the new word should be for “meeting” somebody online? Maybe I “netmet” her?
I’ve never been all that much of a phone talker. Even as a child, I called, I got the information I was after, and I hung up. No sitting on the phone for hours. I’m still that way.
When I was a little girl, we had one phone in the house. It looked like this phone on the left.
Our phone was on a party line.
For you who don’t know, that means several homes in the community would share one line.
I remember waiting for hours to call my grandmother. Waiting for the teenagers to get tired of “talking” which wasn’t really talking at all. It basically meant sitting on the line, saying a word or two, then breathing fo r the next ten minutes, all the while tying up the line so nobody could call.
I didn’t have the nerve to ask them to give up the line.
And of course, the most interesting thing about a party line was that anybody could listen in. Most of the time you could hear the obvious clicking and clunking when someone picked up. But not always.
The polite thing to do was to pick up, and if you heard people on the line, hang right back up again. But not everyone did that.
Usually, you knew when someone was eavesdropping. Other times, there was no telltale. So if you didn’t want it known, you didn’t talk about it on the phone.
Fast Forward to private lines. I was a teenager by the time my family got one, and it was a big deal. I could talk without being overheard, and I could call any time I wanted, unless the phone was in use.
Then came call waiting. I’d moved away from home by then, but I had trouble with call waiting. I didn’t want to be informed that somebody else was trying to call me while I was talking. I still don’t.
Fast forward again to the 1990s. Now the phone could be taken in a car, or carried in a purse. A few incarnations later you could walk down the street while you talked to someone half way around the world.
And even then, nobody dreamed of texting.
Flash forward to now.
I can read a book on my phone. I can listen to music. I can play games, check email, or post to facebook. Duchess Jeanne or Bandita Nancy can send me pictures of their trip to the Okefenokee Swamp. (As an aside, they did this, and I was overcome with jealousy instantaneously, instead of having to wait to be jealous once I got home to my email.)
I was talking with Dianna Love yesterday evening, and she told me this is “National Cell Phone Courtesy Month.”
What, exactly, is “courteous” when it comes to cell phone usage?
Since I hate talking on the phone as a rule, I happen to love texting. It took me a while to warm up to the idea, but then I figured out that I could get finished typing a paragraph in my story, then I could answer. I could look at the incoming text and think, “are you crazy?” and I could think about my answer before I type it in.
Yeah. I love texting.
Of course, where the waters seem safest, there’s always a sea monster. Recently I got the following text:
Hey beautiful I’m at work! Be extra careful on ur way in this morning!! I hope u have a great day today! I love you with all my heart and cant wait to see you! Muahhhhhh!
Unfortunately, that was not from my husband. It was from our neighbor down the street.
A few seconds later I got the following:
Sorry I meant to send that to my wife.
Yeah, smart phones are not always so smart.
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!
I try hard to NOT be on the phone when I get to the cashier at the grocery checkout lane. If I am, I ask the caller to hold on. I figure the least I can do is smile and actually interact with the person who’s checking me out. That’s a person, after all, not a machine (thank God), and to ignore him/her is rude.
At least that’s what I think.
I also think it’s rude to go to lunch with a friend and spend the entire time checking my phone for texts. I understand if there’s a real emergency, but that could be covered in advance. “I’m so sorry, my mother is in surgery and I may get a text to let me know how she’s doing.” Totally understandable.
But otherwise, can you not wait for half an hour to find out that your buddy from Waco just hit the jackpot in the lottery and won $25 worth of tortilla chips?
The idea of cell phone courtesy is an interesting one to me.
Because I’ve gotta tell ya, I think it’s too late.
I think it’s a bit like trying to signal the boat that there’s danger after it’s already gone over the dam.
Houston, we have a problem.
Technology is no longer a thing that is off in the distance somewhere, sending men to the moon. And etiquette is no longer a fixed set of standards.
Back then, you either knew, or did not know, which fork to use at dinner. You knew, or did not know, the protocols for sending thank you notes.
Now, the idea of etiquette–or courtesy–is in constant flux as the ways we communicate change right before our eyes. Seems to me that the rules would need to change almost daily, or they won’t keep up with advancements in technology.
Maybe we should give up rules entirely?
Incidentally, that book on the right, Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette, is where I learned which fork to use. I checked that out of the library when I was fifteen, and then re-checked it for nearly an entire year. I figured a girl needs to know about forks, yaknow?
So I’m updating an old manuscript—a book I wrote a long time ago—as part of a series that will release in a few months. The romance is still the same, but updates mean that everybody in the book now has a cell phone, because in modern life, almost everybody does.
And even then, I have a friend who has no cell phone and has no plans to get one. She is embracing simplicity, and doesn’t want to be available to anybody, anywhere, any time.
I think I’ll put a person like that in this series.
So tell me, Bandits and Buddies, what is courteous behavior for cell phone use?
Do you have any pet peeves about cell phones, whether in public or in private?
Ever gotten a text meant for someone else?
If you could write a section in the “Bandit Book of Modern Cell Phone Etiquette” what would you put in there?
When I was a little girl, the evening meal wasn’t dinner. It was supper.
When time came to eat that meal, there was just no telling where I’d be. I might be working somewhere with my dad outside, or I might be playing by myself in the barn loft, or down across the field at the pond, or I might be way at the back of our small farm, in the woods on the hill. But even at the edges of the farm, if I was paying attention, I could barely hear my mom’s voice.
Across the fields I’d run, back to the house. Over to the sink to wash my hands and into my chair at the table I’d slide. And every now and then, there’s be a special treat for supper.
Mom would make salmon patties.
For y’all who don’t know, salmon patties are a peasant version of salmon croquettes. They’re flatter, like in this picture on the right, and they don’t have nearly as many ingredients. It’s basically a can of salmon, a bit of flour and meal, an egg to hold it together, and a little pepper. Spoon it into a skillet with a little oil and press it out flat so it fries into a crispy outside with a soft, salmon-y center.
It’s simple, country food.
Yes, I see some of y’all scrunching up your noses, but stay with me for just a bit. There’s a point to this.
My mom’s shopping list back then was very basic compared to my grocery list now. The entire Houchens grocery in our tiny town would fit into the frozen foods section of the Kroger where I now shop. There was no fresh seafood back then. It was canned fish or no fish.
The produce aisle in that grocery store was about ten feet long. “Lettuce” from the store meant iceberg lettuce, and trust me, they’d never heard of flat leaf Italian parsley or arugula. If we didn’t grow it in the garden, raise it on the hoof or hunt it, we had to take what was there.
I grew up eating peasant food, you see.
There’s an odd bit that you won’t understand unless you grew up eating peasant food the way I did. The nights that we had salmon patties were “treat” nights.
My mom was born two years before the onset of the Great Depression, and even all those years later, opening a can of anything was an extravagance. Just the opposite of the way I cook today.
I’ve come to understand that salmon patties are a regional peasant food, and that there’s every good chance you’ve never tasted them.
What fascinates me most about food is this exact kind of dish. Anywhere you go there are dishes like this—recipes that people have adapted so they can be made from cheap, available ingredients. And over the decades, those regional recipes have turned into some of the best food you can get anywhere.
Here in Southern Kentucky if you go to a country diner and you ask for cornbread, you’ll have to choose. “You want corn muffins or fried cornbread?” they’ll ask.
Chicken and Dumplins are a “meat” at any meat & three, and macaroni & cheese is a vegetable.
Another favorite regional “vegetable” is macaroni & tomatoes. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Macaroni cooked in canned tomatoes, tomato juice and a little water. Sometimes nothing else will do.
Friday nights at any diner means one of the “meats” is catfish (battered and fried) with hush puppies, and the traditional sides are white beans and “slaw.”
Pinto beans come with a slice of raw onion and a scoop of relish on the side.
I was in a diner last year and actually saw pig’s feet on the menu. I ate those when I was a kid, but now….can’t quite go there.
Dry Land Fish is a delicacy and turnip greens are an art form.
Y’all already heard about Green Tomato Ketchup in a blog last year.
Two nights ago we had fresh grilled salmon. That’s it cooking in the photo on the right. It was marinated in olive oil, fresh, chopped garlic and chopped parsley. We eat that usually twice a week. So you see, I don’t cook the way my mom did much.
But I still appreciate it, and just every now and then I miss it.
I’ve had fabulous crab cakes and wonderful salmon croquettes at eateries on the coast. I love fresh fish. I’ll raise my hand and admit that I’m a sushi fanatic.
But tonight I didn’t have any fresh meat or seafood in the fridge, so I reached in the pantry for a can of salmon and didn’t feel one bit deprived. I mixed it up and five minutes later I had salmon patties fryin’ in the skillet. That was them up there on the right with the mashed potatoes and green beans.
If I could take any kind of “round the world” tour, it would be a tour where I learn about the local wines and the peasant food.
So, Bandits and Buddies, tell me about the food where you live, or where you grew up.
Did you eat dinner in the evenings? Or supper?
Are any of you interested in peasant food the way I am? What is the peasant food from your area? Are there regional dishes from those locales that you can’t get anywhere else–maybe dishes from your area that are simplifications of “fancier” food, like my salmon patties are, I figure, the peasant food based on croquettes?
Have you ever traveled to a different place and been surprised by the food there?
Have you ever eaten salmon patties?
I’ve got a hero in my latest book who was born in New England and comes to stay a while in Kentucky, where he meets the heroine. Are any of y’all from that part of the country? If so, tell me–if he moved to landlocked Kentucky, what foods would he miss most?
What foods do you think would surprise him?
Would he think it was strange if the heroine said, “supper’s ready?”
Wherever we want to go, we go.That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and sails. That’s what a ship needs. Not what a ship is.
What the Black Pearl really is…is freedom.
~~ Jack Sparrow
I’ve wanted to sail since the day I was born.
Maybe I was a sailor in a past life.
I only remember being a little girl and seeing all those films with huge ships, their masts reaching high into the air and what looked like a gazillion sails, all full, driving the bow of the boat through the pounding sea.
Using nothing but the wind.
I also remember squinting at the tv, wondering, how in the world do they make that ship do that?
Then there were the news reports of refugees sailing all the way to Florida on a few boards nailed together with a box of food and water and a bed sheet on a stick. I saw that and thought, how in the world could anybody do that?
You’ll be noticin’ a pattern to my questions.
In 2003, Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley brought the romance of tall ships back to the screen in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
It’s one of the best soundtracks ever.
Flash forward to now.
Apparently, modern sailors are a friendly lot. Around here, a bunch of them volunteer their boats each year, they spend their time, and they furnish the hospitality (sailors like to eat and drink, I’m observing) to offer a community education class in the town near me. For $50 and the gas to drive up to the lake, I can have four weekends of sailing lessons.
So I’m learning to sail.
I know y’all can’t see the big grin on my face, but this is damn near the most fun thing I have ever done in my whole life.
I know. Y’all who live on the coast are thinkin’ “what’s the big deal?”
Well…I have to drive about ten hours to get to an ocean. The “Kentucky Better Boating” class I took in 8th grade really only talked about motor boats, cuz they assumed anybody who knew what sailcloth was would not be livin’ in a landlocked state. Just sayin’.
For the past two weeks I’ve sailed in an O’Day 25. It’s an awesome little, 40-year-old, 25-foot cruising boat, with a cabin I can stand up in (I’m short.)
On Saturday I was part of a crew for a sailboat race.
Okay that sounds WAY more advanced than it really was. It was a baby race for beginners, and basically I did what I was told, learned a whole bunch, and understood I have a whole bunch MORE to learn.
Yeah, I’ve got a character in a book who sails. He walked on stage ten years ago in the middle of another book and announced that he would be my favorite hero ever. That’s how I found this group of sailors who run the class–trying to figure out who this guy was. But you know what? I think maybe that character is just an offshoot of me. He sails because I want to sail.
That’s me up there on the left at the bow of the boat, helping to rig the drifter–the beautiful blue and orange sail you see in the photo
There wasn’t much wind. We might have gone 1.5 miles per hour. But it was exciting the whole way.
And I’m learning the same skills that Juan Sebastian Del Cano used in the first recorded circumnavigation of Earth.
Yes, you’re right. I have no idea how those tall ships manage all those sails, or how they manage to survive in stormy seas. I’m still scared to death of the ocean, and don’t know how I’ll manage to overcome that if I get the chance to sail offshore.
But I’ve at least learned windward and leeward, the points of sail, and how to (theoretically) make a sailboat go the way I want. Sort of. Sometimes. If the wind cooperates.
One step at a time.
I’ve got a fun gift for one commenter. It’s a dream journal. The quote on the front is by Eleanor Roosevelt and it says, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.“
So what about you, Bandits and Buddies? Have you ever been fascinated by the sea?
What movies have you seen that involved tall ships?
What’s your favorite Pirates of the Caribbean movie?
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Is it ice skating or steeplechase, rock climbing or cliff diving, swimming with dolphins or digging for ruins? And…have you tried it yet?
What’s on your bucket list?
Have you ever been sailing?
Original photos in this blog copyright May 17, 2014 by Steve Allen Doyle, All rights reserved. No use without permission.Tall ship photos–Wikipedia.
Don’t forget! Thursday, May 8th (THAT ‘S TOMORROW!) is the Monster Blowout PARTY on the Romance Bandit Facebook Page. Come along and chat with old friends, find new authors, and celebrate our blog’s anniversary! Now back to your regularly scheduled blog. :0)
I was working on a scene today.
It’s the lead-up to THE scene.
You know. The love scene.
A lot of romance authors can toss two characters on the page and within a few paragraphs, have them…well…entwined with one another and it’s a fantastic read. Thus far, when I’ve tried that setup, none of my characters have cooperated. I wish they would.
I always write two characters in fairly strong conflict, and yes, there’s always explosive chemistry. That’s what I like to read in romance, so that’s what I write. But it’s not just the chemistry that makes it work for me. Since these two people have issues with one another, the tension has to build to a point that it’s just irresistible. The pull takes over.
And something has to tip the scales.
Y’all know from my blog posts that I often write about misperceptions and how simple things can hold much deeper meaning than the surface lets on. Those ideas permeate my characters and my stories too.
In this scene I was working on today, the hero,(let’s call him Erik, for now) is taking over a failing nursery business where (let’s call our heroine Adelaide) is a horticulturist—a plantswoman. To put it simply, Erik believes Adelaide is up to something, and that something includes stealing large amounts of money from the nursery.
Adelaide is exhausted from the recent death of her beloved mentor, the stress of holding the nursery together, and keeping her nasty ex-husband from destroying her career. On top of all that, and for very good reason, she has a secret and she’s keeping it from Erik. Something Erik has a right to know.
Of course, there is chemistry. Loads of it. And they’ve been dancing around it for days. It’s so uncomfortable that Adelaide ducks out of her own birthday party to avoid him. Exhausted and sick of all of it, she falls asleep on her porch swing.
Erik follows her to see if he can catch her in the act of thievery, and instead finds her there on that swing, asleep in the warm evening breeze, with a glass—something melting and watery –on the table, and through the screen door he can hear music on the stereo.
There’s a book open in her lap.
None of it looks the least bit nefarious. And none of it is even remotely like what he expected to find. Not the kind of house. Not the music. Not the book. Not what she’s drinking. Not what she’s wearing. None of it.
And he’s so thrown by finding her to be so different from the picture he’s painted in his mind from seeing her at work, that his guard drops. He forgets himself.
She’s surprised at the sudden appearance of the real Erik—the unmasked, unguarded person she’s never seen before—and she’s just plain too tired to get the walls up in time.
POOF. The momentary connection between the real people they are pushes the chemistry over the edge. Combustion point.
It’s gotten warm in Kentucky this week. Warm the way it is at Adelaide’s house. I’m sitting here in the early evening, looking out my window at the long shadows stretching across my spring-green yard, at the hackberry leaves completely still on the trees. I’m thinking about Adelaide sitting in a porch swing reading, and taking sips of something cool as she looks out at a view not too different from mine, and I’m wondering…
Would you play the What-If game with me for a bit? Tell me what you think…
What kind of book–or what specific book– might Adelaide, the horticulturist at a small-town nursery, be reading that surprises Erik so thoroughly?
What music could be on the stereo in her little country house—something he’d never have guessed the hard-working, calloused-hands, dirt-on-her-face flower monger would enjoy?
What do you suppose he expected her to drink, and yet to his surprise, what’s actually in the glass?
Have you ever been so completely surprised by something about a person that you were thrown off guard?
Tell me about it, and help my muse along as I ponder the scene that causes Erik and Adelaide’s chemistry to push them over the edge.
Porch swing photo from Dutchcrafters.com. Fire photo by Cassondra Murray.
I was invited to dinner this evening at the home of two close friends. As we ate, one friend told us about his recent visit with his grandmother, and how they were watching comedy DVDs.
As I listened to his stories, I was struck by how he (late twenties) and his grandmother (mid seventies) were both laughing so hard they were literally crying. And they were laughing at thesame thing.
The funny stuff that had them (his words )about peeing in their pants was the old Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. These apparently ran on tv from 1974-1984.
I don’t remember this show, but when he pulled out the DVDs, I recognized almost everybody who was funny on tv from when I was a kid. These comedic geniuses would step up to the podium and crack jokes at the others’ expense.
That photo on the left is of Dean Martin and Don Rickles from one of the roasts. The photo came from a DVD review page here.
I could literally go down the line of people sitting at the table in the video, and I know I’ve laughed at every one. Many were from the old comedy tv show Laugh In. And tonight as I watched, I was laughing out loud. Their timing and their takes on things are as funny today as they were back then.
Okay, I’m gonna admit this right here in front of God and everybody. When I was a very little girl, I thought The Three Stooges was funny. I rushed home from school to turn on the TV to watch a half hour of Three Stooges episodes every day.
Now? Well…I don’t think they’re very funny at all. The slapstick eye pokes and head smacks just don’t do it for me. My husband, though, still laughs just as hard as he ever did. Hmm…maybe it’s a gender thing.
But aside from Larry, Curly and Moe, it’s interesting to me that a good bit of that comedy from my childhood is still as funny as it ever was.
There is one thing about me that never seems to change. In particular, I love a good stand-up routine.
I’ve been to only one live stand-up comedy show in my lifetime, but I indulge via DVD and online a LOT. My goal for the past two years has included “laugh every day at something.” If I don’t find anything to laugh at over the course of the day, in the evening I pull up Comedy Central on the computer, and find something funny.
At least, I try to find something funny.
The unfortunate thing is that these days I’m having to sort through a lot of “comedy” to get a really good laugh. Some evenings I wade through a number of routines without ever cracking a smile. I want to. It’s just not really very funny.
It could be my age, but I hope it’s not that.
I’m not even a little bit of a prude, and most comics I know step on all kinds of toes and talk about the stuff you “shouldn’t” talk about. Part of what makes them funny is that they’ll say what we’d all like to say but can’t.
Still, when a comic relies solely on the vulgar or the disgusting to get laughs, well….that’s good for a little while, but after a bit I start to wonder if this person can actually BE funny without that stuff.
Beyond that, really outstanding comedy acts poke fun at everyone from every race, and every political position, without ever making their own positions obvious. Because they literally DO make fun of everyone. Lately when I see a comedy routine, within a few minutes it’s obvious that the “funny person” has a strong political bias one way or the other. That’s the opposite of why I watch. I want to get away from that stuff.
The funniest people I’ve ever laughed at—they didn’t do that. I don’t think they needed it. Who can forget Lucille Ball and her Vitameatavegamin routine? She’s trying out for a job reading a television commercial, and the product (if I remember right) is about 80 proof.
Then there’s Carole Burnett in Went With The Wind, her ridiculous comedy spoof of the Gone With The Wind drama.
Together with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, Burnett made generations of people scream with laughter, and it’s still just as funny. Almost. Forty. Years. Later.
So….. I’m looking for funny. Laugh out loud, spew your coffee on the monitor, snork-and-get-strangled funny.
Do y’all know Jeff Dunham?
He’s a standby for me. He and his ventriloquist dummies are old fashioned, but they’re modern humor. Pure comic genius.
If you want a taste of it, you can find video of some of his most famous routines at JeffDunham.com.
I’ve listened to a fair bit of Jeff Foxworthy, and the man is always good for a laugh.
I wince a little as I admit that I also like James Gregory, because a lot of his redneck humor is so, so, so wrong. But I come from that same “country raisin’” and I laugh almost every time. As asinine as his take on things is, he’s Just. Plain. Funny.
Ellen DeGeneres is one of my absolute favorites. I get to see her on tv sometimes at the gym, and I think she’s one of the most outstanding comic geniuses of our time. She is my favorite comedienne.
Unfortunately, I’ve been through most of the comedy I can find from my favorite people.
So I’m coming to you, Bandits and Buddies.
When you need a good belly laugh, where do you look?
Do you like stand-up comedy? Any favorite acts?
What about funny movies? Any to recommend?
And do you ever read romantic comedy? I could never write that, but I surely do like to read it.
Some of the early Jennifer Crusie novels stay on my keeper shelf through cleaning after cleaning just because they make me laugh.
When I want deep emotion interspersed with outrageously funny moments, Bandita Susan Sey fits the bill now.
What other author makes you laugh at the same time you’re getting your romance fix?
I’m looking for recommendations—where do you go when you’re looking for a really good laugh?
Three Stooges photo and I Love Lucy logo from Wikipedia. Promotional photo of Jeff Dunham and Peanut from JeffDunham.com
Last year about this time I told my close friends and the people I work with that I didn’t want to travel in the spring of 2014.
I have several trips I usually make at this time of year. Been making those trips for six or seven years now. For y’all who might not know, spring is the start of conference season for writers, and there are all kinds of events for readers–luncheons, teas, weekend events where readers meet writers…you name it.
I LOVE those events. I love meeting and getting to know people. I love readers and I love talking about books.
Beyond that, I get together a couple of times a year with a few of the other Banditas to talk about our books, throw around ideas, and brainstorm new books and series.
It was hard to say, “I’m not traveling in the spring next year.” Because that meant other people had to bend their schedules for me.
But it had to be done. Because each year when I’ve had to leave during March, April or May, I’ve mourned. I realized last year that each time I’ve been gone in the spring, I’ve missed something really important. This past year I knew I had to make a change. I need to be home in the spring for a specific reason.
This is when the creative magic happens for me. The magic *ping*– that moment when the soul resonates with something so profoundly that you just have to stop in your tracks and soak it in. It is those moments when you feel the kind of deep peace that reconnects you to who you are. It is the moments that heal you–the kind of things that awaken your creative soul.
The most powerful *ping* for me is found right here in my own yard.
It is watching my flowers bloom as soon as the weather turns warm.
Something revives in me as I watch the world come to life in the early part of the year. With the awakening of the earth after the dearth that is winter, my soul comes alive as well.
Maybe it’s that I love flowering bulbs just about more than any other blooming plants. There’s something reminiscent of the eternal about planting bulbs in the fall and having them bloom the following spring. It sparks some magic inside me.
Sinking bulbs into the cool earth during the death of autumn, to wait through the long, cold winter, and have those bulbs sprout into a glorious, colorful resurrection in the spring…
That does it for me.
I’m not the least bit religious any more. But it’s a little hard for me to notbelieve in a creator when I see that happen.
This winter was a long, cold one here in the United States. At least in most parts of it.
I’m really, really glad that I have this season with no travel. I’ve been able to witness the glory of the resurrection of nature and my garden every day so far this year. It has awakened the creator in me.
I asked Bandita Donna what does it for her. She said, “ The ocean. There’s something about the tide coming in and the eternity of it that soothes my soul. And the sound...I love the sound of waves. Definitely the ocean for me.”
I feel the same way about the ocean, actually. Sometimes I use a recording of ocean waves to lull me to sleep at night. But I live in landlocked Kentucky, so don’t see much of the real thing. I have to travel to get it.
So I asked Bandita Jeanne what did it for her.
“Buildings,” she said. ” Old ones. Imagining what to do with them, where they could be utilized. Renovation, of course. Adaptive reuse. :> Houses. Gardening. Hanging with the dogs/walking with them. Cemeteries.”
All of those except cemeteries do it for me, too. No wonder Jeanne and I are evil twins.
Every writer has some kind of background story. Some upbringing that made him who he is today, or life events that have shaped her into the storyteller she is. For me, it is my childhood on the farm, what I learned from the old folks around me, from working with my dad, and from gardening with my grandmother, the one us grandkids knew as MotherGrant.
MotherGrant was a creator in her own right. She had a green thumb. Shorthand for a gift for growing things. She had an 8th grade education (that was considered graduating when she was a girl) but she could mix a little sunshine, a little water and a few seeds with a bit of dirt and her own magic, and with that concoction she could create the most beautiful garden you’ve ever seen.
I’m not her. I’ve got a higher degree in horticulture, but I’m not that good.
Still, when I put my hands in the dirt, something happens. I can feel her beside me, urging me on, telling me just how deep to cover the seeds, and just how much water they need.
Maybe it’s that connection with her that makes me need the spring so much. I dunno. But when the winter starts to give way to warmer weather each year, I start watching for the bulbs to emerge from the ground, and when I see the green shoots grow and spring into glorious blooms, the creator in me comes to life. I feel the *ping.*
I took all these photos (except for the jet) in my yard tonight. And with every moment I was out there, I felt more whole. I felt that *ping* of “Yeah, this is who I am.”
What about you, Bandits and Buddies?
What do you look forward to in the spring?
Is there some place, like the ocean, or the mountains, or some activity like skiing, painting, knitting, or playing with your grandkids, that connects you to your inner self, lets you hear your muse, and brings you peace?
Maybe it’s a town, hearing certain music, or maybe even a person that brings you back to the core of who you are, and makes you go “yeah, all is right with the world for this one moment.”
My first dog was Princess. She was a pekingese mix, and she came with that name already installed. I got her when I was three and she was three. I grew up as she grew old. She was my best friend.
Since I grew up on a farm, I also had “my” chicken, Henny Penny, and “my” cow, Rosie. I had a pony named Peanut (name also pre-installed).
Kittens were Chocolate and Vanilla. Yeah. Bet you can’t guess the colors. And more kittens, Salt and Pepper.
Hey, at least I was consistent.
I had a box turtle named Tortie for one summer. Tortie was just a young turtle I found in the woods on our farm. He enjoyed the fruits of our garden for a few months, then escaped his enclosure and went on his way. Even then I knew that Tortie was not the best name for a turtle, but I hadn’t figured out how to come up with good pet names at that point.
Look at that turtle over there on the right. He could carry a name like Sophocles or Vladimir or Plato. Any of those fits that face I think. Regardless, even if he were only a summer guest, he would certainly deserve a far better name than “Tortie.”
I had a hamster and also had many fish in my small aquarium. All of these had names, but I can’t remember them. Probably because they were not, in the least, extraordinary names.
I had a parakeet. Can’t remember the parakeet’s name either. That was too long ago. I don’t *think* I named it Tweety. But as you can see, I was not particularly creative when it came to naming animals.
Then I grew up, and I noticed that the cool people had really cool pet names. And I knew right then that I was lacking. I determined to repair this breach.
These cool people, I observed, were actually paying attention to their pets—to the personalities—before they gave the animal a name. Growing up on a farm, where most animals were livestock, this had simply never occurred to me.
As an example, one fun couple I know rescued a baby kitten from a gutter and named him Velcro. You know how little kittens can’t control their claws—they stick them out and then don’t know how to pull them back in at the appropriate time? Yeah…Velcro would walk across the back of the couch with his claws out and it sounded like…well…Velcro.
Another couple we know have three awesome cats, Mieko, Oliver and Dexter. I don’t know where the names came from, but I have to say, each name fits each cat perfectly, and as cat names go, those are awesome.
In every book I’ve written, animals are part of the cast of characters. They just walk on stage. And my human characters do a pretty good job naming them. In the first book I wrote, there is a cat named Emperor, named for his high and mighty attitude.
When my husband, Steve, was a little boy, he had a mouse named Cleopatra,which is quite a lofty name, even for a sophisticated, white mouse, but Cleo accidentally got sucked into a vacuum and met an untimely end.
All the other pets Steve had as a child involved scales or fangs and (often) eight or more legs. *Shudder.* So quite often they had no names. Steve had allergies, so no cats or dogs allowed.
Steve’s brother did have a red-tailed boa named Moses. I have to admit that Moses was an extraordinarily good name for this snake. With his forked tongue and deceptively easygoing manner, Moses had the look of someone old and wise. Someone who could part waters or smite anything that needed to be smitten.
I know a young lady with a cute chinchilla named Chester. If you ever met Chester, you would realize that his name suits him perfectly.
So when Steve and I got together, I was determined that if we had pets, we would have to up our “naming” game. I wanted us to be “cool pet name” people.
Our first cat was named Bullet (We were both shooters, and she did shoot around the house at high speed). Among our many pets was a huge male rottie named Bismark. Yes, he was that big. Another rottie was named CareBear. We also had an escape-artist Border Collie-Sheltie mix named Houdini.
There was a cat named Max (after Max from Where The Wild Things Are) because as a tiny kitten who weighed only three-quarters of a pound, he started wild rumpuses in the middle of the night. I later learned that Max is the most common cat name of all. But I didn’t care, because it fit him so perfectly. That’s Max over there on the right.
A lot of pets have crossed the Rainbow Bridge since we’ve been married. Max is one of those. They have crossed the bridge accompanied by a lot of our tears, and (I believe) met by their brothers and sisters who’ve gone before.
Our most recent losses were Jager—named by Steve because it means hunter in German, apparently, and Jager was a Search dog who hunted for lost people—and Majik, my SAR dog, who we found under a table at a closed-for-the-season store. He would answer only to that name, so it became his. Jager is there on the left, with the blue tag.
We still have a lot of pets. More than we need. More than we can afford, really, but it’s hard to turn them away when they come to your door needing help.
There is Kali, the German Shepherd. She’s on the right there, in the crate. She came with a pre-installed name. And there is Mako, Steve’s SAR dog. We took him for free from a puppy mill to keep him from ending up as pit bait. He’s named after an actor.
With the cats, we started a few years ago with good intentions. There is Amon, which is Egyptian for “faithful and true” (and she is). She’s there on the left.
And there is Umbra—the darkest part of the shadow in an eclipse.
Umbra is there on the right as a baby.
There is Mishra on the left. He’s named after a Bengal tiger who won our hearts at a cat sanctuary we visited. Mishra is a Savannah, which means he’s huge. His tail is 17” long. Even so, he thinks of himself as a much larger kitty.
And we have sweetie pie, Holly Grace. It’s a dumb cat name I think, but no matter. Holly has earned her place in our home. If you want to read about how Holly came to be with us, I wrote a blog about her a long time ago. It’s called The Little Gray Cat.
Aaaannnd after Mishra, we ran out of steam with the pet names.
A wayward kitty came to our door a few years back, needing help because she was in the family way.
Her name? MommaKatt.
Yeah. Not too creative. But in our defense, we were dealing with four baby kittens in our bathroom at the time. That’s MommaKatt on the right, pregnant at the time, and before she would let us touch her to bring her inside.
Recently we’ve had a new addition. Another kitty came to our house in the dead cold this winter. It was below zero and he was outside, sitting there, looking in the door.
We caved like a cheap suitcase.
We have a small house. And WAY too many animals already. We are becoming the crazy cat people.
And we have run out of energy with the pet names. The well is empty. This new addition got the laziest name yet.
Yeah, he has some stripes, and his face is wide like a tiger’s. He’s a tom cat. Well..he WAS a tom cat. Ahem.
So tell me, Bandits and Buddies..
I’ve blogged about pets before, but I didn’t ask your pet’s names.
If you grew up with pets, what were their names? Did you name them? Or did someone else?
Do you have pets now?
Where did their names come from?
Are you a “creative” pet namer—one of the “cool people”? Or are you like we are recently—just giving the animal a name for reference?
Here is a picture of the babies that were born in our bathroom. Four little beauties. All of them have good homes and awesome names. Clockwise from left to right is Elphaba (Elfie), Embers, Olive, and at the bottom is our Mishra.
Do you have a “method” for naming pets?
Any favorite pets from books or movies? If so, what were their names?
Is there an author you love who does a good job including pets in his/her books?
If you could have any pet you wanted, with no worries about care and feeding, what would you have? And what would you name him/her?
I’m not talking about a chicken or goose. They’re heavy.
But have you ever picked up a fallen cardinal or sparrow?
They. Weigh. Nothing.
I know this because every now and then one will hit the window and get knocked out cold. When that happens, we run outside and search the ground, and if we find the bird, we give it water from a dropper and try hard to get it flying again.
Honestly they are nothing but pure spirit–pure energy wrapped up in a bunch of brightly colored feathers and a small bit of skin.
They are nothing but bits of fluff suffused with exuberant life. Little miracles, really.
I think of them as the ornaments on God’s Christmas trees.
So when I realize how fragile they are, how almost “not there” they are, it stops me cold to also realize that they manage to survive through a winter. A winter where there is hardly any food, and what food exists, is hidden and must be searched out, and where the cold wind howls like a banshee at ten below zero or colder, and the birds must ride it out clinging to the limbs of trees, with FAR less body weight to generate heat–far less fat on their bodies–than I have.
I would freeze to death in one night.
But they don’t.
If y’all have been reading my blogs for a while, you know I believe in a Creator. I don’t much care what you call said being…God, The Great Creator, The All That Is, The Higher Power, Source…heck, I don’t care if you call it the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I’m not picky about the name or the philosophy. But I’ll tell you, that even if I did not believe in God, the fact that those tiny birds can manage to live through hard winters?….Yeah. That would make me believe.
Something has to help them. Something a lot more powerful than I am.
So I figure if God can put those little creatures here for me to look at, to remind me that if they are provided for, then I will be too….well…then I can do a little something in return. So we feed the birds year-round, but in the winter we try to do more for them, and when it snows, we notice the impact our small effort makes.
We had our first serious snow on Sunday night. The photo up on the left, above, was from last November, so you’ll have to picture it twice that deep. Two inches of ice, with two inches of snow on top of that. Not so much as compared to what many of you have experienced this year.
I’m in Kentucky, and yeah, I have some southern sensibilities, but honestly we’re not anywhere near the deep south. Our entire way of life does not come to a grinding halt when someone spies a snowflake. A lot of businesses close down, but many keep right on going. I can drive on snow and ice and have been doing so since I was a kid.
Still, for the past two days, the birds have been practically knocking on our door. “Excuse us, but could you put out more food RIGHT FREAKING NOW?”
We have six or seven bird feeders. But they’ve been empty for several years now. We figured out a while back that the birds can more easily get the food if we just scatter it on every available flat surface. The deck, the rocks that line the flower bed, the top of the grill, and best of all…the picnic table.
Honestly, our picnic table hasn’t been used for human food for at least ten years. It’s now a rotting wooden table that I use to pot flowers in the summer, and the rest of the year, it’s a bird feeder.
That photo up on the right is of a woodpecker and a tufted titmouse on our feeder table. NOT in this snow. Unfortunately my camera froze (along with everything else in my world) and would not take pictures. So I had to dig out old ones.
We also figured out that we don’t need all those fancy “bird seed” packages. We feed suet from midwinter through spring, but most of the time we buy Chicken Scratch and black oil sunflower seeds in 50-lb bags. Almost every bird can find something it likes in those two bags.
That photo on the right is a mourning dove on the table. Can you see the dog food in the background? We put that out for the jays. They flock to the table in overwhelming numbers, and they’re big. They like the dog food, so they stay near the edges mostly, and leave the middle open for the little birds.
That’s a closer shot of the woodpecker on the left.
My “office” is really in my dining nook just off the kitchen. (Not too far from the coffee pot, as it happens.) I sit at my small dining table and on my left is a window that looks out over the bird feeder table. So when I need a break from the computer screen, or when I’m having trouble with writing, or heck, just every now and then when I’m daydreaming, I catch myself staring out the window, watching the birds on that table.
That photo on the right….that’s what it looks like in the snow. You can see a bird feeder hanging from a hook behind the table, but there’s nothing in it. That’s the picnic table there in the foreground, and another small table we put out if the little birds are getting bullied.
Yes, we’re suckers. And that’s okay with us.
Bandits and Buddies, do you like birds? (I know a few people who don’t like birds at all.)
If you do like birds, what kind is your favorite?
When I go to big cities, I’m irresistibly drawn to the pigeons, even though I know they’re a nuisance. I always want to buy food for them. (Told you I was a sucker.) Anybody else out there who likes pigeons?
Does your city allow you to feed them?
That’s our cats on the left, by the way. They’re sitting in the window, watching the feeders. Obviously, they are also quite concerned with the welfare of the birds in our yard. This concern for birds must run in the family. *grin*
What kinds of birds come to the feeders in your area?
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