Monday, October 27, 2014

The Oldest

My brother was a year and nine months older than I was.  According to my parents he was supposed to be my playmate and my protector.  He considered me nothing more than his pesky younger sister whom he could blame whenever we got into trouble with the parents.
There were times his protective, big brother nature did prevail and he would rescue me from boyfriends who did not know how to take no for an answer, and I, in turn covered for him with our old-fashioned, unhip parents.
People often thought I was the oldest.  He was always so youthful looking and so handsome.  I looked mature at the age of twelve and never outgrew my bossiness.  
He went off to Vietnam and I went to college and that was where our paths started to go separate ways.  We both married within two years of each other. 
His life was fraught with pain, the after effects of Agent Orange and PTSD. He went through three marriages and struggled to win back the affection of his two sons.  My life was full with two divorces, a career, and three, amazing and forgiving children.
We resembled each other the most, even physically, so when he was diagnosed with Diabetes, I knew it would soon show up in my make up as well. His was more severe.  Like my mother and my other three siblings, he went straight into pills and injections, but from the very start, he stubbornly refused to care for himself. He had always been thin, so maybe he thought it would not affect him as much.
He went into a diabetic coma and died on December 26, 2012.  He was 64 years old and nine months old, and at the end of this month (October 2014), I will reach the same age - 64 years old and nine months. It still surprises me that he is gone.  He was my protector, my front line between me and mortality.

I will officially become the oldest among my siblings, but I would rather have my brother.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Horror Movies


I hate horror movies.  I was raised by a grandmother who scared us into obedience with tales of “monstruos, fantasmas, y cuyuis.” (That monsters, ghosts, and boogie men for those of you who do not speak Mexican grandmother.) One wrong move, one tiny bit of rebellion and . . . bam! . . . we were dead meat.  Literally. 
El Diablo was always waiting for disobedient children (like me) to make one wrong move so he could close the deal. I did my share of naughty stuff in the daytime to make me worry what might be waiting for my mortal soul at night.
There is a good reason I have always slept with a night light.  I was born with an overactive imagination and a lack of mental fortitude when it came to anything that lived and thrived in the dark.   
Things with big nasty claws (and in bad need of a manicure) waited for me to fall asleep so they could rip through my mattress and drag me off into . . . wherever spooky creatures drag off big, old marshmallows like me. Things lurked in the dark, waiting for Miss Cream Puff over here to fall asleep so they could PoUnCe on my juicy insides.
Knowing this, why would I want to watch a scary movie?
No, thank you.  I will be over here with all the windows and doors locked, all the lights on, watching It’s a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Our Trip to Bountiful

One phone call was all it took for us to change our plans last weekend.  We packed the car and off we went on a 1400 mile round-trip visit to the In-laws.  HoneyBunch’s mom was turning 86 and we wanted to celebrate with her.
For the last thirty-something years since HB left the state of Missouri, he has made very few trips “home,” so his parents made two or three car trips down every year to see him and his sons in Texas. They would come for his birthday, summertime, and over one of the winter holidays.  They would stay for weeks at a time when he was a bachelor.  My father-in-law would help in the wood shop and clean up the yard.  My mother-in-law would clean his house and bake and freeze food for him.  
Very few of those trips were ever by plane because my in-laws do not like to fly and because they needed a car for all the “stuff” and gifts they would bring to HB and all the stuff he would send back home with them.
Seven years ago, he married me, and I nosed around about his childhood.  I wanted to meet his extended family.  He talked about them with such love and such humor.  I wanted to put a face to the person.  I wanted to see where he grew up. I wanted to see his grandmother’s farm where he chased chickens and climbed trees.  I wanted to see his father’s land where he and Ed went hunting and fishing, and where they ate frogs for dinner they cooked over a campfire.
I have never lived any further than 300 miles from the very spot where I was born, so it intrigued me why my husband would leave his birthplace and why he refused to visit? It sounded like a wonderful place.
According to my MIL, HB has made more visits home in the last seven years than in the 35 since he moved away. She is counting on this now that her age and her health impede any more visits south and especially when she announced last November she can no longer make the trip.

We went home for her birthday.  Maybe we will make it up there for one of the winter holidays, then there is always next summer.  HB can do the yard and I can bake and freeze for my dear in-laws.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

THE HEAVY LIFTING OF A BEST SELLER


Nothing done well is done quickly. Or cheaply. Or rashly. Or naively.

I have learned this as I struggle to become a published writer.  I started on this adventure four years ago and am still a novice, but I have learned some things along the way through experience. (Cue: It’s a Hard Knock Life)

1.    Never trust anyone who tells you they too have “written” a book over the course of
A.   the drive home from Grandma’s
B.   a weekend of feverish inspiration
C.    a dream they had where God and/or His angels came to them with a command to do so.
Even the best and the most prolific writers have to roll up their sleeves and put in time and effort into their writing.

2.    A memoir is not a chronological, birth to death (or birth to epiphany) biography of a person’s life. A memoir has purpose and a theme. It’s a postage stamp of a moment in a person’s life; a biography is the US Postal Service – large, boring, and archaic. 
Other than to record an amazing experience or an amazing life, why else would anyone want to read a memoir or a biography?

3.    Just because a person can write a good sentence and knows how to punctuate it well, it does not mean a series of well written sentences makes a good book. (This blog post is an example of that.) 
How many books have you bought off the shelf or because they made a best selling list and you have wondered at the quality of the writing or of the plot? Yet, you cannot find fault in any of the individual sentences.

4.    There is a huge difference between how one writes non-fiction and how one writes fiction, and it is not in the number of passive and active verbs. It is not in the “showing and telling.” 
Michener comes to mind. I’ve read three of his books lately and there is a huge change in his writing when he moves from stating historical facts and waxing poetic when he switches to story.

5.    Self publishing works best for those who have already published under traditional methods. One, they have built an audience.  Two, they have been through the publishing process where several professional eyes have guided them through revisions and editions, so they know (or should know) the weaknesses in their process.

After you sell copies to family and friends, you are done for, but if you have established a readership or a fandom, self-publishing might be the ticket.