Recovering From A Laptop Injury


It happened in Chicago on a cold November day.  Perhaps I was distracted by the snow falling or worried about getting to the train station on time.  It happened so fast, there was no time to avoid the crash.  The severity of the injuries did not surface until I was back in Missouri

The three day trip had been a success.  Locked away in a hotel room, diligently working on the final edits of my manuscript, I boasted to my friend that the changes would be finished by the end of November.  It had been a work-in-progress for three years and my goal to publish my first novel would be accomplished soon.

Secure in the warmth of my home, I turned on my laptop and waited patiently for Windows to load so that I could admire the progress made in recent months.  I waited and waited, and waited some more.  Perhaps if I turned it off and tried again. Nothing.  “Noooooooo!”

Images of the suitcase and travel bag tipping over before my departure flashed in my mind.  The unfortunate sound of the bag crashing to the floor echoed like a cry for help in a forsaken canyon.  I look at the blank screen and cover my mouth, stifling another moan.  The small flash drive, overlooked when I packed for my trip, snickered at me from the shelf nearby. Yes, it did.  It snickered as it taunted me, “You fool.  You fool.”

I rushed my beloved to the nearest emergency room and waited anxiously as the patient was examined.  The technician delivered the news.  The injury was not fatal, but the prognosis was not good.  It was a brain injury.  While it could be repaired, all memory of the last four years would be erased.  The black box would not longer recognize me nor all the hours we spent together.

The news sent me into a dark hole.  Devastated, depressed, hopeless.  For two months my fingers have been idle and my sole mate stashed away in the travel bag in a dark corner of a room, waiting for me to make a move.  Week after week, my husband passed me adds as a form of relief.  I tossed them aside.

I have considered my options.  Show support for my loyal friend and pay for a new engine, hoping that nothing else fails.  Trade it in for a newer model.  The decision pains me.  One side of my brain is enticed by the shiny new models that chant “Savvy touch screens, faster speeds, wealth of memory.  Try it, you’ll love it.” The other side screams back.  “Think about the cost,” The software’s in your drawer.  It can be reinstalled.  You recognize it; you’re familiar with it.  You don’t like change anyway.”

My tears have dried.  My mourning has turned into boredom.  My disappointment in myself for not securing my work has formed new resolutions.  So what is holding me back?  Fear.  What if I can’t find the words?  What if I can’t get the router and printer to recognize my companion?  What if I fail as a writer? What if no one cares if I ever write again?

I know the answer to the last one.  I must write.  As steady as the blood that runs through my veins, the urge to write beckons me.  I hear my lonesome pen call my name.  I caress it in my hand and then press it to the yellow pad of paper.  Words spill forth filling the once empty lines and my first post in many months comes to life.  Pen to paper, post to blog, short story to novel.  One step at a time. One foot in front of the other.  The journey continues.

Pen Pals in Today’s World


Computers rock! LaptopComputer
I can’t believe I just wrote that, but it is true. I’ve often written post in support of pen and paper (Rock, Paper, Laptop). Don’t get me wrong, they still occupy plenty of space in my home and always will. Yet, my appreciation and respect for my keyboard increased significantly during the past five weeks.

My daughter sent me a link, https://www.coursera.org/courses?stats=upcoming, because she knew I might be interested in taking a class that was being offered, Crafting an Effective Writer. Coursera is an education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. I’m all about learning and jumped at the chance to take a free class to update my grammar and punctuation skills. For the record, the site also offers many classes that have nothing to do with writing.

Besides refreshing my over 60 brain on the proper use of pronoun antecedent agreement and compound-complex sentences, it connected me to the rest of the world, much like pen pals could when I was young. Information shared in the discussion forums indicated 43,000 participants initially signed up for the class.
world-map[1]
Imagine my delight in communicating with students from Mongolia, Egypt, Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Ukraine, just to name a few, who all shared a similar interest in writing.

I gained a profound appreciation for my native tongue. For a large majority of the students, English was a second language. Having only taken Latin in high school, all of which I have since forgotten, I couldn’t imagine trying to achieve success in a challenging course written in another language. I admired and learned a great deal of humility from my fellow writers across the world. I also hope to take a second language as soon as the class becomes available.

One of the first expectations of the course was to record the weekly writing assignments in a blog, such as WordPress http://wordpress.com. My knowledge of this blog site, as limited as it is, helped me immensely and the weekly assignments gave me new ideas for my posts. What a win-win situation and I even gained quite a few new followers.

Yes, I can honestly proclaim, computers rock. Getting and giving immediate feedback is better than snail mail, especially when you are taking a five week course, but there is still something endearing about finding a handwritten letter in my mailbox from time to time.

Is it Really Quicksand????


Have you ever been mired in quicksand?

I remember the day I made my First Communion in the Catholic Church. I have a picture of myself in a white, frilly dress, wearing a veil and shiny patent leather shoes.  It was supposed to be a day that I would remember as a beginning of a new era in my life.

We went to visit my grandmother who lived next to a large field that led to a playground.  I begged my parents to let me walk with my brothers to the playground, promising not to get dirty or ruin my dress and shoes.  We had gone there before without any incident and I reassured mom and dad I could do it without any problem.  They finally relented and the three of us ran off to have some fun.

About half way to our destination, I became mired in quicksand, at least that is what my brothers called it.  I sank down to my knees in something muddy and deep.  The more I fought it, the worse it got.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not get out of the muck.

My brothers ran off to summon my father.  I still remember the feeling of desperation while I was immobile and alone.  The tears streamed down my cheeks as I stood in the middle of an open field embarrassed and wanting to disappear before my dad arrived.

My pain was not from the sting of the spanking I received for my mud-packed shoes, socks and dress.  It wasn’t from the cold water as dad hosed me off.  The look of anger and frustration on my parents face would have been enough, but I can still see my grandmother who wept at the sight of me.   It was the disappointment of not keeping my promise and for ending a special event on such a sour note.

Like many others, I dove into November by challenging myself to complete my second novel (50,000 words) in 30 days (NANOWRIMO).  I zoomed through the first 25,000 words and my novel came to an end.  I went back and tried to find places to add more words, but the story line was complete.

I got mired in quicksand.  I couldn’t move forward.  I pulled and tugged and wanted to cry when I realized I would not be successful in completing the NANOWRIMO challenge.  I stopped writing anything.

For the past 7 days, I have sat hopelessly in front of my laptop glaring at the computer screen.  I felt much like the five year old girl who could not move an inch without sinking further into the mud.  I could not seem to pull myself out.  I failed to live up to a commitment I made, one that probably means little to anyone except me, but feels much the same as.

Then I remembered, I’m not that five year old little girl and I’m not in quicksand.  Writing is more than a thirty day commitment.  I’ve printed out my manuscript and read it.  It needs work, but it is a beginning and today is a new day, worthy of a new beginning.

To all my fellow writers who think they are mired in quicksand, it’s probably not quicksand that is holding you back.  Write.  You’ll feel better soon!

Who’s in charge anyway?


“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”  Willa Cather

This quote was introduced to me during a class,  Creating Rich Characters, taught by the talented author and illistrator, Angela Sage Larsen.  Ms. Larsen is becoming a St. Louis icon who has published numerous children and young adult books.  You can check her out at AngelaSageLarsen.com

There is comfort in knowing that every story has the same infrastructure, a beginning, middle and end.  What makes the difference is the writer’s ability to develop interesting characters and present a plot that takes the reader on an unexpected journey.

There have been many posts in reference NANOWRIMO recently. One in particular that caught my eye dealt with whether or not to develop an outline before initiating a novel.

For me, I can live without an outiline, although I often scribble notes that come out looking like one.  It is more important to decide what my main character wants more than anything else.  There must be an objective, otherwise there is no need to write the book.

Once that is clear in my head, I need to know the obstacles that will create conflict for the character while in pursuit of the prize, otherwise the story is boring. Finally,I must decide whether or not the character will achieve his or her goal.

I tend to write stories where ultimate happiness or contentment is the goal.  There may be plenty of action to keep the reader interested, but I’m a sap for happy endings.

If I have done my homework in identifying what my character wants,  how he or she will react when challenged and how the story will end, the characters take it from there.  Some writers say it is best to write the ending first.  I haven’t attempted that yet, but I might some day.

What do you think?  Do your characters take charge?

The Right Words at the Right Time


One of the books I picked up recently at a used book sale is The RIGHT WORDS at the RIGHT TIME by Marlo Thomas  and Friends.  It was published more than a decade ago, yet the messages contained within the pages are timeless.  The amazing short stories, by well-known men and women, describe how something that someone said changed their lives forever.

I loved that I could pick up the book and read two or three stories when I had a few extra minutes.  Many of the messages were profound, some were surprising, a few were familiar.  Did you know that Dwight Eisenhower once said “Never question another man’s motive.  His wisdom, yes, but never his motives.”  Isn’t that thought provoking?

The only problem with the book is, it wasn’t enough.  I could have read two or three more volumes.

Words have a powerful impact on my life.  Many times someone has said something that stuck with me and helped me see a new angle on an issue.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could remember some of them now?  I could share them with other bloggers or start collecting them for future reference when  a senior moment sets in and stifles my attempt to write an interesting post.

Oooh, oooh, wait!  One truly inspirational thought comes to mind.  I’m going to start typing fast so I don’t forget it.

My brother Rob once told me “Problems are merely unresolved opportunities.”  That piece of advice helped me to focus on the result rather than be blocked by the challenge.  It helped me work through countless events at work and in my personal life.

OK, another one just flashed by, except I have no idea who said it and when I searched for the author on the internet, I got numerous unconfirmed responses.  Whereever you go, there you are.

Maybe you can help satisfy my need for more.  What right words were spoken to you or read at the right time?   Would you be willing to share?  I hope so.  My thirst for knowledge has not been satified.

Brain Power


The human mind amazes me.  As more gray hair finds it way onto my scalp, my brain continues to function in high gear with few failures and occasionally, almost by accident, I get a little wiser.

Before I retired two years ago, my ability to multi-task surprised even me.  I supervised an office staff of sixteen, prepared reports, served as Safety and Logistics Officer, resolved every personnel issue and equipment malfunction imaginable, and still found time to be a wife, caretaker, and volunteer facilitator.

Now that I am a woman of leisure, I often have to force myself to stifle my need to perform numerous functions at one time.  Take writing, for example.  I have four different projects open on the computer as I draft this blog.  I toggle back and forth frequently as needed.  My upcoming novel, Burning Embers, remains open on my laptop at all times as I work diligently on the rewrites.  At the rate I’m going, it should be completed by 2015.

In the past ten minutes, besides beginning this piece, I emptied the dishwasher, filled it again, prepared the coffee pot for the next brew, went outside and picked up the mail, began preparing lunch and referenced my thesaurus (which resides permanently next to my computer).  Mind you, I realize they are all unimportant, menial tasks, yet, not bad for a sixty-year old mind in a short period of time.

I once challenged myself to see if I could function with a solitary thought for more than five minutes.  The longest attempt neared forty-five seconds

In full disclosure, one of the items is not a writing assignment.  It is a game called FreeCell.  My husband and daughter think I am addicted to it.  I tell them I am trying to keep my brain cells active, which I am.  That appeases them briefly, but does not change their assumption.

This card game challenges the player to unscramble the order of the cards before running out of moves.  I am embarrassed to mention how many of these games I have played, but it has been two years and whenever I am bored or watching television, I am competing to raise my success score, which has been stuck at 65%.

I have proof that this hobby stimulates my brain.

One of the options on the game allows the player to undo the last move and try another.  I recently realized that if I utilize that function and repeat it multiple times, I can win nearly every game.  Once I opened my mind to the possibility, it changed my entire perspective about the game.  Instead of hitting the button that says, start a new game when I get stuck, I challenge myself to stick with each session until I succeed.  I have won all but one of the last twenty-five games.

One of the courses I facilitated for years included a poster that said CYA (check your assumptions).  I assumed that losing was a normal outcome of the game.  I wonder how many times in my life I have limited my success without realizing it.

Have any of you ever found that by changing their belief about something, it opened up new possibilities.  I’d love to hear from you about your challenge or Aha moment.