Sunday, December 16, 2018

Choose to Smile By Raquel Martina Martinez


 “. . . let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18 (NIV)

Every Christmas, I used to include myself in the purchase of gifts.  I’d often take advantage of the sales and bought myself a new car or the latest electronics.
One Christmas, however, what I needed the most could not be bought.  I felt an emptiness that affected everything around me. Nothing I could buy would assuage the pain. I needed to forgive the person who hurt me, and I needed to forgive myself for my part in that failed relationship.  
It wasn’t easy to let go of years of anger, so I started by verbally forgiving the person, and then, I forgave myself. My words became actions, and my actions transformed me.  
Last Christmas, I chose another such gift. I gave myself permission to walk away from vitriolic “friendships.” We may not have parted how I would have liked, but I am much happier without the constant bickering.  
We can choose to smile or frown, love or hate, honor or disrespect. We can choose to be humble or haughty, be polite or be vulgar, to share or to hoard.
Choice is a beautiful gift, and if done with a sincere heart, lots of practice, and dedicated follow through, the results might surprise us.  

Prayer: Lord, help me be more like you each day – showing love through my actions.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Raquel Martina Martinez: The Matriarch

Raquel Martina Martinez: The Matriarch: Bossy, intrepid, little girl All skinned knees and unkempt pony tail More afraid of being afraid than getting things done A thin, ...

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Matriarch


Bossy, intrepid, little girl
All skinned knees and unkempt pony tail
More afraid of being afraid than getting things done

A thin, teenaged beauty
A sweet siren smile and long, brown hair
Afraid she won’t have time to do things, see things, go places

A career woman, a wife, a mother
Youth a fading flower but a full life spreads out before her
Afraid of losing hold of her dreams

A grandmother wearing a silver crown
Gone are the days she conquered mountains and broke hearts
Her only fear – that of being forgotten


Friday, December 7, 2018

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Chicken or the Egg/The Book or the Movie


Our book club chooses one book every four to six weeks to be discussed at a later date.  When we get together, the six of us enjoy a lively discussion even though we each have differing opinions.
We are perfect examples of what is called reader-response theory.
Reader-response theory suggests that the written word’s (author’s) intention and what the reader understands are two different things. The good news, these two different views do meet somewhere in the middle.  Regardless what the author intended, the reader adds to what is on the page based on his or her own past experiences.
This happens with any created object. What the “artist” presents to the world is often seen and appreciated differently by the reader, the audience, or the consumer.
This often happens with movies. The director creates a movie, but the movie critic sees one thing, and the movie goer sees another. We each respond to the film based on our past experiences, our likes and dislikes.
Knowing this, which do you prefer to do first, read the book or watch the movie?
For those of us who read the book first, we form a solid mental picture of the characters, not just what they look like but also their inner workings, their motivation. Through the written word, we have been privy to inner thoughts, back stories, imagery, mood, and this ‘bias’ affects our expectations should “our” book become a movie.  
We balk when the characters do not look like we pictured them, and worse yet, if torrphey do not act and react like we expected.  We scrutinize the film, looking for the details we enjoyed in our reading – the inner dialogue, the back stories, the conflict. We are not forgiving should the setting, the imagery, the mood, or the pacing not jive with what we “pictured.”
We pretend expertise and become amateur filmmakers, looking for evidence to back our criticism - the use of sidekicks or confidants, camera pans, background music, and visual effects. We become film critics if our “favorite” scenes get written out of the scripts or end up on cutting room floors to fit budget restraints or maximum run times.
Book-first readers are merciless.
I know very few who see the movie first and then reach for the book. They would be surprised in the difference between the two presentations. On rare occasions, if I see the movie version first and it intrigues me, I’ve been known to buy the book.  

Afterthoughts:
·      In the movie How Stella Got Her Groove Back, the character played by Whoopi Goldberg was not a character in the book. She was added as a confidante into the movie to share Stella’s misgivings over dating a man many years younger than she was.
·      Characters have been added and deleted in series like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones in order to streamline the stories.
·      The movie character Lestat played by Tom Cruise in The Vampire Lestat looks nothing like the description the author portrayed in the book, though he did the part so well he won over its author Anne Rice.
·      Whole sections of the Harry Potter books were eliminated to fit into the maximum time frame allowed for a movie.
·      The beginning of the movie Jurassic Park is totally different than the book, but that scene was later incorporated into subsequent versions of the series.
·      Books like The Book Thief or Ready, Player One do not transfer well onto film even with the help of modern technology. Part of the charm and expertise of both books was allowing the reader to envision the wildly impossible.  
·      After I watched The Martian, The Descendants, and Waiting for a Dancer, I had to buy the books, and I am glad I did. I craved more details and understanding than what the movies provided, and the books supplied them.  

Monday, November 12, 2018

I Blame the Magi.


I blame the Magi.  They started this whole giving gifts at Christmas thing, but let me warn you, though I have no use for frankincense or myrrh, I could use some gold around this time of year.
Christmas giving can be expensive, so it is best to plan before you go shopping instead of spending your hard-earned cash on gifts that won’t be appreciated.   
When I was a preteen my mother gave me a present that still gives me nightmares, yet I am sure that was not her intention.  She gave me a Christmas outfit that she forced me to wear to midnight Mass.  It was a green, bonded knit skirt that came with a long sleeved, green and white, horizontal striped top. It wasn’t even Christmas green, but this garish lime green that next to my complexion made me look jaundiced.  It also gave me a skin rash, but Mother demanded I wear it because it was expensive. It wasn’t around for long, because, hey, how was I to know bonded knit wasn’t supposed to be ironed?
Her money would have been better spent if she had asked me what I wanted.  
Here we are decades later and I am still unappreciative when it comes to presents I do not need and or that require for me to dust.  I thank the giver profusely, display their gift for a respectable period of time, and then quietly get rid of it.  
Christmas gifts do not need to be expensive. I prefer a fun or useful present.  
Here’s my take on it:
Start with a list and decide on a reasonable budget. Find ways to give gifts without going into debt.   
I love to give fun presents like Santa hats or headbands, Christmas socks, tree decorations, candles.
I love swapping names, doing Secret Santa, maybe a White Elephant; and set a dollar limit to the gift. It’s more fun hunting for the One right gift than buying in multiples because you have so many people on your list. I actually have friends who have a ONE DOLLAR limit on their gift swap. Another friend participates in a gift swap where the present has to be a certain shape.  Last year, the present had to be round and under $20.00.  What fun.    
I love food gifts.  
My husband and his family are spread out all over two states, so we send each other packages of food.  It isn’t Christmas until HB sends everyone the Deluxe Sampler from the New Braunfels Smokehouse, and no one has forgiven my mother-in-law the one year she decided not to send everyone the No. 101 Fruitcake from the Collin Street Bakery.
And I love, love, love Cookie Exchanges. I’ve taken part in several and it is a great way to spend time together and then come home with an assortment of cookies.
I still miss my grandmother’s tamaladas where all the women in my family gathered together for one full day to make tamales and then we each got fresh, homemade dozens of tamales to take home to our families.   
As a grandmother of twelve, I came up with the Pajama Gramma Plan. Whether they like it or not, my grandchildren get pajamas for Christmas.  I skipped it last year and fielded complaints, so they are getting pajamas again this year.  They will also get a book or a video, something to eat or drink (popcorn, hot chocolate packet), and a small present (gift card, earbuds, phone charger, etc.) in their Christmas gift from Gramma.
I did the Advent Countdown Calendar with Books one year. I purchased thirty-one, inexpensive children’s’ books and wrapped each one individually in Christmas paper. I made two sets, one for each family with young children at that time. The child opened one book a night throughout the entire month of December and their parents read it to them at bedtime. It wasn’t as expensive as it sounds.  I bought my books at a second-hand bookstore. I bought sets of books by one author online, and  I bought books anywhere I could find a good book for under $5.00. It took some planning but I came in under budget when I did that. It might be time to try this again since those grands now have younger siblings.
Those gift-giving magi rubbed off on me but remember their gifts to the Baby had special meaning.  I hope you put as much thought into your gifts as well.  


Monday, November 5, 2018

Raquel Martina Martinez: The Eight Rules of Write Club/Critique Groups

Raquel Martina Martinez: The Eight Rules of Write Club/Critique Groups: 1.     You do not talk about write club. Oh, but you do.   You have to.   There are several things to consider when forming a critique...

The Eight Rules of Write Club/Critique Groups



1.    You do not talk about write club.
Oh, but you do.  You have to.  There are several things to consider when forming a critique group. It needs at least three members; otherwise, what you have is a critique partner. Right? A good group size is about six; any more members and adjustments to the work load have to be made.  
A good critique group should be divided into genres – fiction, non-fiction, short stories, novel-length work, poetry, children’s books, etc. Each genre has its own focus, rules, and expectations, and the members cannot be expected to be experts in each.
The group must decide when, where, and how often to meet.  Some critique groups work online only and others meet in person.  The best place for in-person critique groups is to meet in neutral zones, places without distractions, like a library meeting room or an office. Restaurants and private homes compromise the owners into hosting the event.
Also talk about how often the group will meet.  Once a week, once a month, twice a month?  And how long will the meeting last?  Time of day? In order to limit the focus and stick to the business a critique group, allot one or two hours per meeting and stick to the work at hand.  
2.     You DO NOT talk about write clubs.
We have to. Let’s talk about the task itself. Depending on the size of the group and the genre to be discussed, the group must agree on the number of pages each member is allowed to submit to be critiqued per meeting.  It makes sense that the number of pages a poetry group submits per session will differ than the number of pages a group reading each other’s novels will submit.
Decide how to share the pages to be critiqued so the group members have time to read and discuss them? Will these pages be posted online and critiqued on-line, or posted on line and discussed in person?  Will the author bring printed copies for everyone in the group and will it be read at the meeting or sent home to be read and returned at the following meeting? 
All work should be submitted according to the rules of traditional publishing: printed in 12-point font, Times New Roman, double-spaced, one-sided, with the author’s last name and title in the header, and pages numbered in the footer.
3.    Someone yell’s stop, goes limp, taps out, the fight is over. The focus of critiquing is easy: listen to what input the author wants from the group (edits, revisions, help with problems encountered) and stick to that objective, remembering that in the end, any changes to the manuscript belong to the author.
4.    Only two guys to a fight. Respect and share the time allotted so everyone gets to share and get input in the discussion of the group. Always keep to the rules and expectations set by the group.
5.    One fight at a time, fellas. Learn the rules.  Follow the rules.  No exceptions.  If the group starts to stray from its objective, take a break and revisit the rules and objectives. Remember a critique offers structural suggestions and a criticism looks for flaws and faults.
6.    No shirts; no shoes. Pages submitted for critiquing should stand alone without lengthy explanations from the author.  No long oral prologues and epilogues.  It it’s not on the page, it is not on the page.
7.    Fights will go on as long as they have to.  Go about it like professionals and come prepared. It is a two-way partnership. Both sides invest time and effort into the experience and should learn from each other. Stop repeating the same mistakes and the writing should improve from it  
8.    If this is the first time at Fight Club, you have to fight. This probably should be #1. Everyone in the critique group should bring pages to be critiqued, regardless of the writer’s level of expertise or need. A group member might be in a writing lull, and joins the group to get inspired or keep up with the group’s progress, but sooner than later, everyone has to submit pages to be critiqued.   

Monday, October 29, 2018

Raquel Martina Martinez: To Write, Perchance to Sleep

Raquel Martina Martinez: To Write, Perchance to Sleep: I’ve blogged nonstop once a week for the last seven years, and in that time, I’ve skipped that many blogs or less because of lack of tim...

To Write, Perchance to Sleep



I’ve blogged nonstop once a week for the last seven years, and in that time, I’ve skipped that many blogs or less because of lack of time. There are only so many hours in a day and sometimes other things happen.
Fellow writers sacrifice sleep, family, and other obligations because their writing commitments take precedence.  I admire them for that, but I can’t.
I get physically ill if I don’t get my sleep.  I never fought naptime as a child and have been this way all my life.  I can get by with five or six hours of sleep at night, but only if I get to nap sometime the next day.
My optimum writing time is in the early hours – morning through late afternoon, but come evening, my brain is fried and the quality of my writing starts to falter.  When that happens, it is best for me to set the alarm for an early hour and go to bed because nothing much is going to get done when I am physically tired.
My family are THE most important people in my life.  Helping them in an emergency comes first before my writing, and I let them know that this writing thing is not a hobby, but often, I get called away to help them and I sacrifice the things I had planned. This writing thing is my passion, my life force, so if they need me, it better be important and not just because they think I have loads of free time and have been waiting for them to call on me to fill it.
When I’ve skipped writing a blog or a chapter in my work-in-progress, it’s because I’ve had to put my needs and wants second to address a family emergency, a huge occasion, or a disruption in the force that requires me to forget everything else and roll up my sleeves and get dirty. It leaves me with no time for myself while I take care of what others need. These usually leaves me exhausted and unable to focus on anything else.
If I were like some of my other writer friends, I’d sacrifice sleep. I’d learn to say no.  I would carve out my needs first and forget everyone else, but like I’ve explained, this is not who I am. 
My body demands sleep as much as it needs to write, so here is my question. To sleep or not to write; to write or not to sleep?   

Monday, October 15, 2018

Post-Christmas Blues


As far back as I can remember, Christmas has been my favorite holiday. As soon as I could write, I’d pen my letter to Santa.  I’d start with all my merits – obedient, kind, star pupil – then, I would hit him with all the things I felt I deserved, my purchase order list of Christmas wants.
I’d direct him to the better buys, where he could get my toy at the best price, and if that didn’t work (I knew who the real Santa was), I’d leave catalogs lay about the house, opened to the page and with the item circled in ink pen. Sometimes, I’d sigh loudly and mention that the “Barbie I want is on page 362 of the Sears Catalog.”
In the twenty-two years I lived with my parents, I never once got anything I had asked from Santa.
I got stupid things like a pink teddy bear (pink?), a neon green outfit that enhanced my sallow skin (and I looked like I had jaundice), and a second-hand boy’s bike my parents found at a garage sale when I turned eighteen (I was past the bike stage and ready for a car).
Talk about suffering from the post-Christmas blues!
It didn’t get any better after I went out into the world. I was married to a husband who for the twenty-nine years we were together only saw as far as the end of his nose.
I learned a valuable lesson in the first half of my life, and I thank my parents and my ex-husband for it. 
Christmas isn’t about things.  It’s about acceptance, joy, and family. Christmas isn’t one day out of 365.  It’s with us all year long.
When I look at it from that perspective, I can look back at the pink teddy bear and the neon outfit and the second-hand boy’s bike and smile at the memories. I can look back at all those Christmases I spent alone (even when the ex was sitting in the chair next to me in the living room) while my husband spent it on the phone talking to “business partners” and realize his selfishness was his alone and not mine.
I do not have to depend on others or hype or things to celebrate Christmas. It starts within me.  Okay, before I end with the nanu-nanu song from the cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, let me clarify that.
Christmas is my favorite holiday because it reminds me to love one another, but especially to love myself. I can do all the trappings – the tree, the decorations, the baking – but unless I love and accept myself with the same fervor as our Creator does, it is all artificial, and it becomes about things instead of what really matters – acceptance, joy, and family.  
If God (this is GOD we are talking about, people) thought me worthy, maybe I should do the same.



Monday, October 8, 2018

Raquel Martina Martinez: Nothing Stops Me from Celebrating Christmas

Raquel Martina Martinez: Nothing Stops Me from Celebrating Christmas: One Christmas, my youngest son packed his torn-down Volkswagen into our two-car garage. Its motor took up one-fourth of one parking space,...

Nothing Stops Me from Celebrating Christmas


One Christmas, my youngest son packed his torn-down Volkswagen into our two-car garage. Its motor took up one-fourth of one parking space, and the body took up the whole other half of the garage. To fit everything into the limited space, he had to push it all up against the storage boxes that lined the front wall.
As Christmas neared, I was able to get to the Christmas tree and the Nativity set I always used but not the boxes and boxes of decorations. I complained to both the husband and the son, but neither had the time nor the inclination to move all that metal so I could get to my things.
We were going to have Christmas that year with presents around a bare tree, so two days before Christmas, I gave up on them and went in search of more decorations.  Everything was half-priced but it was also picked over. I bought lights and odds and ends, just enough to cover the tree and call it a go.
Nothing was going to stop me from celebrating Christmas.
             *     *     *
My husband and I sat in the living room watching the weather station.  It was going to be a very cold Christmas. He had his phone on the arm of his sofa chair because he had made his business partner promise to call him every thirty minutes as she drove home to North Texas.
It was Christmas Eve, and instead of the two of us enjoying our empty nest, his thoughts were with someone else. When I asked him to shut off his phone and talk to me, he yelled at me, called me cruel and unfeeling, and I took it as my cue to be quiet, so I went to bed and left him to his phone calls.  
The next morning the kids came over to open presents and he handed me a professionally wrapped present.  It was the merino shawl I wanted.  I smiled and thanked him but then he said she had helped choose it. She had wrapped it for me.
           *     *     *
The divorce had taken six months and it came through on a Thursday, one week before Christmas.  I hadn’t felt very holiday-ish but now it was time to look forward and count my blessings.  
I dragged out the old Christmas tree and ALL the decorations.  My ex was very picky and always dictated how I dressed the tree, so this was my declaration of freedom.  I opened every box, placed every sphere on the dining table, and decided every single one was going on the tree (with the exception of anything that had belonged to him – bad juju and all that).
Once done, I celebrated by going outside and starting a huge, roaring fire of thanksgiving in the barbeque grill.  I celebrated with a glass of wine and a Pop Tart and I burned a very expensive Merino shawl in offering.
Merry Christmas to me.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Raquel Martina Martinez: My Thoughts and Prayers

Raquel Martina Martinez: My Thoughts and Prayers: This phrase has come under scrutiny lately, called trite, overused, ineffective, insulting.  Yet, when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in A...

Monday, October 1, 2018

My Thoughts and Prayers


This phrase has come under scrutiny lately, called trite, overused, ineffective, insulting. 
Yet, when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in August 2017, there was little more most of us could do other than contribute money and goods, and offer our thoughts and prayers.
When the lone gunman killed all those innocent people while they attended Sunday services in November 2017, there was little most of us could do other than contribute money and goods, and offer our thoughts and prayers.
Very few of us are trained in rescue efforts or how to take down a shooter.  If we tried, we would slow the efforts of those who can, so we help in the best way we can.  We offer our sympathy and our prayers.
Instead of on our knees or offering sympathy, those who make fun demand instead that we should be on our feet, marching and demanding change. Their displaced anger blinds them to the fact that as human beings we need emotional and physical support as much as we need food, water, and safety/shelter.
My knees are not only on the ground, and my nose is not solely stuck inside my prayer book, I also keep abreast of the news.  I delve for facts.  I study the situation, what caused it, and what needs to be done.  And I work toward it.
When I offer my “thoughts,” they are not a vacant show of sympathy. I feel their sadness and trauma. I believe in empathy, agreement, consensus, human need.
When I offer my “prayers,” they do not come to an end with an “amen.” I believe in the power of prayer, spirituality and meditation, its comfort and direction.
People are not won over by bullying or denigration.  I will not be shamed into stopping from offering my thoughts and prayers. 
It takes all of us to offer the complete spectrum of needs that we require as humans.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Raquel Martina Martinez: Five Things I Hate About Badly Written Books

Raquel Martina Martinez: Five Things I Hate About Badly Written Books: For years I taught literature to secondary students. Most were reluctant readers so I would teach the elements of a novel or the short s...

Five Things I Hate About Badly Written Books



For years I taught literature to secondary students. Most were reluctant readers so I would teach the elements of a novel or the short story by comparing them to popular TV shows or movies. A sit-com is a three-act play compacted into thirty minutes, so there is a premise, a situation to be solved, and the ending or resolution. A movie is its longer cousin, so we’d discuss a popular movie and separated it into its three acts. Once we did that, we turned our focus on the short story or novel we were reading in class.
We all agreed a good story is a well-written story.
Nothing irks me more than to spend my hard-earned money or waste my precious time on a book that fails to keep its promise to the consumer. If it’s a mystery, I expect to be surprised.  If it’s a romance, I expect to see it develop.  If it’s an adventure, I expect to raft the rapids. But please do not promise me a date and then take me for a boring ride around the neighborhood.
I hate books that are badly written, badly plotted, or copy other books badly. I hate triteness and cliché. I often wonder how they got published and what Golden Goose they promised the people who gave those books high reviews?
I hate books that ride on the waves created by others and offer nothing new to the genre.  Instead of one more dystopian novel where a wholesome, spunky seventeen-year-old saves the world, I’m waiting for the one where a septuagenarian is chosen as the lithest in her yoga class and shows the world courage has no best-if-used-by date.
I hate books whose authors refused to take a creative writing course on editing or on how Show Not Tell manifests itself on paper.  A published book should not read like a C-minus, end-of-the-year, high school Creative Writing project.
Lastly, I hate books whose storytelling is so poor no one cares about the character once we are done with the book. One never forgets a well-developed character. Did Rhett Butler ever find a woman who loved him like he deserved? Did Hagrid stay on at Hogwarts? Did Skeeter live to old age?  What would they be doing now?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Raquel Martina Martinez: How to Raise a Child

Raquel Martina Martinez: How to Raise a Child: Several years ago, the mother of a newborn was suddenly overcome by the responsibility of raising a child, and she asked me how to go ab...

How to Raise a Child



Several years ago, the mother of a newborn was suddenly overcome by the responsibility of raising a child, and she asked me how to go about it.  
First off, I told her she was a good person and she would be a good mother, but a good compass is to think forward and decide what kind of grownup she wanted her baby to be one day.
If she wanted her child to be a kind adult, then train the child to be kind.  If she wanted her child to be intelligent, then teach the child to read and learn and be curious.  If she wanted her child to be polite, then teach the child manners. 
All of these traits have to be taught through example as well.
If she wanted her child to believe in God, then she had to go and take the child to church. She had to show and live a Godly life.  If she wanted her child not to use vulgar language or watch objectionable shows, then the mother could not prohibit the child and then use that language and watch those shows herself.
It’s the same with eating broccoli or learning to like the ends of a loaf of bread, exercising and learning how to say the Pledge of Allegiance.  Respect goes both ways; what is respectful for the parent is respectful for the child. A parent cannot say one thing and then do the opposite.
I did warn her that each child is born with their own personality, and there might be contradictory natures, especially when the child hits the stinky teenaged years, but if the parent starts with the first diaper change, she might have a fighting chance of leading the child in the right direction. Never forget, you are the parent and the child expects you to parent.
I asked her if this was helpful, and she nodded, a smile on her face. She asked me how I got to be so wise. I tried to teach my three to be truthful, so I had to be truthful to this young mom – trial and error.  Mostly trial and a little error.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Raquel Martina Martinez: The Insidious Abuse

Raquel Martina Martinez: The Insidious Abuse: There are moments in your life when you realize you’ve been walking around with your eyes half closed, seeing and feeling only what you wa...

The Insidious Abuse


There are moments in your life when you realize you’ve been walking around with your eyes half closed, seeing and feeling only what you want to admit to yourself.
Several years ago, I was sitting on my bed, watching a special on spousal physical and sexual abuse, feeling self-righteous that even though I had survived a terrible marriage, it wasn’t abusive.
Our divorce was taking twice as long to finalize than it should, but it gave me time to heal from the marriage and for the sadness to abate.   
As the show went to commercial, they announced the second half of the special would focus on emotional abuse, the one where the blows to the victim target the inside and not the skin.  
I considered turning the TV off; after all, it didn’t apply to me, but in my laziness, I didn’t get up in time. As I reached for the remote, it was like I had been sideswiped by an oncoming auto. It was like someone had turned the camera and was filming me.  With my finger on the off button, I realized they were talking about me.
I had survived a marriage rife with emotional abuse: the façade where the spouse charms the world and is the total opposite person at home with his wife, the need to subjugate a ‘strong’ woman and find her emotional weaknesses to whittle away at her self-esteem until she doubts her self-worth without him, the devious ways of confusing her reality and gaslighting her until she believes all their marital problems are her fault and his infidelities are his due.  
The list went on and on, and I started to bawl.  This was me.  
I escaped my hell only because he no longer needed me.  He had found someone else to “love.” Knowing it would only be a matter of time before she realized what he was truly like and send him packing, I prepared myself for the inevitable.  He would try me again; after all, I had believed his lies for twenty-nine years.
She did.  He tried me again, but by then, my eyes were wide open. I realized I wasn’t the bad person; he was, and he was not coming near me, ever again.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Raquel Martina Martinez: To a Humble Man

Raquel Martina Martinez: To a Humble Man: There are times when you don’t have anything to say.   There’s this blank page in your brain that refuses to light up with words.   Th...

To a Humble Man



There are times when you don’t have anything to say.  There’s this blank page in your brain that refuses to light up with words. 
This week was one of those days.
I lost a cousin last week.  His family kept his illness to themselves until they could no longer hide it.  It was time to tell the family that his days were few and we should prepare ourselves for his departure.
He was one of those kind people who always asked if he could help, always offered a smile or a joke, always stood in the background opening doors and allowing others to take center stage.
We depended on his unpretentiousness to make us feel important. When compared to him, we are nothing more than pompous, self-important fools.  Without him, we have no audience, no revelry, no wind to our sails.
He blended into the background and we took him for granted.  It took his death to make us realize how much we needed him cheering us on from backstage. He accomplished more in his short life than a dozen of us together will accomplish in ours. 
He lived life to the fullest, loving his wife and family with a full heart. He touched so many lives with his unassuming ways.
And he never once feared death; he died with courage, preferring the Lord pick him and not his wife and children. 
It is true that the meek shall inherit the earth for meekness does not mean being afraid to live life or to stand up to bullies.  Meekness means humility, modesty, freedom from pride, gentleness, and assurance that one’s value does not have to be shouted from mountaintops but by making others realize theirs.  

Raquel Martina Martinez: Using Scene Cards to Plot a Story

Raquel Martina Martinez: Using Scene Cards to Plot a Story: Writing for publication isn’t as easy as one thinks.   Some of us are naturals at this, but nothing about my learning process has ever c...

Monday, August 27, 2018

Using Scene Cards to Plot a Story



Writing for publication isn’t as easy as one thinks.  Some of us are naturals at this, but nothing about my learning process has ever come easily, still I love to learn and write.
When someone suggested I write a blog, I did my homework.  It was similar to a weekly column I wrote for three years, so I thought it would force me to keep deadlines and exercise my “voice.”  It’s been mildly successful.
I wrote two children’s stories and they both placed in the top ten in a national contest, so that gave me some encouragement. I dusted off a book I wrote that a publishing house rejected ten years ago, so I spent a year fixing it and pitched it again; this time to an agent. She not only rejected it; she trashed it. It sits in my office licking its wounds. Two other books are going through their fourth or fifth rewrites. I’ve lost count.
Most of my writer friends write straight into their laptops, no notes, no outlines.  They let “their characters lead the way.” They’re called pantsers because they write by the seat of their pants. My muses are more like lazy teenagers. They get up late, nap on the sofa all day, and whine when asked to do chores. My muses need a kick in the pants.
I tried being a pantser with Book One and regret taking that advice. When I started on Book Two (I’m writing a trilogy), I realized I couldn’t build a story out of that awful mess.
I am not a pantser.  I am field dependent; I have to see the whole before I can write the parts.  In other words, I am a plotter.  I need an outline, not necessarily the kind college professors require but a personalized, 3-D, GPS version.
I’ve read several books on how to plot a novel and my favorite is Super Structure by James Scott Bell. His book is excellent, but here is one of the things I took away from his book that changed my life.
1.    Count out fifty 5X8 cards and come up with fifty possible scenes that could happen in your story.  Each card is a scene not a chapter.  It can be brief or elaborate. Push yourself to fill all fifty cards.
2.    If you exhaust all the possible scenes but still have cards to fill, push yourself to do more.  Create a scene card for each of the following:
·      Open a dictionary to a random page and select one noun.  Create a possible scene using that noun as inspiration.
·      Come up with roadblocks or possible conflicts your protagonist might encounter.
·      Come up with “what if” scenes. The more ‘what iffy,’ the better.
·      Write the scenes introducing your important characters.
·      Take two existing scene cards and create a scene that segues one into the other.
·      Choose two characters and create a scene between those two, but remember it must move the plot forward.
·      Write a scene about what one of the secondary characters has been doing while the main characters were on center stage
·      Make sure you have scene cards for all the important plot points, like The Mirror Moment, or The Pet the Dog Scene, The Q Factor Scene (you’ll have to refer to his book for these, or you might be able to google it.)
3.    After you have exhausted all possible scenes, organize them by Acts and sequence. Sometimes this shows you where you might need to add a scene.
4.    One thing I like to do is to add a Johari Window on the back of scene cards where I introduce characters. I addressed that in a different blog, but I use the Johari Window to create in-depth character studies of each of my important characters.  It helps me stay true to their motivation.
When Book Two looked like it was headed in the same wrong direction as Book One, I went back and deconstructed Book One chapter by chapter and then sat down and created my fifty scene cards.  It helped me reorder my chapters, get rid of scenes that made no sense and come up with healthier scenes that should have happened.  It showed weak and strong chapters; some had to go but several were strong enough to stay. I found discrepancies and scenes so trite they made me wince. Since Book One is part of a trilogy, it also helped me strengthen characters who would later take center stage in Books Two and Three.
I envy those who can write straight into their laptops.  That isn’t me.  I’ve learned a lot in the past eight years about writing and how my brain creates stories, so none of this time has been wasted.  One day, I might go back to the book that has been rejected twice in its lifetime and use this method to restructure it, but for now, I am letting it heal while I work on Book Two and plan out Book Three.  

Monday, August 20, 2018

Raquel Martina Martinez: Those Who Can’t Teach

Raquel Martina Martinez: Those Who Can’t Teach: “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches .”  (George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman) Thanks, Bernard. What exactly were you saying with...

Those Who Can’t Teach


“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.”  (George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman)
Thanks, Bernard. What exactly were you saying with that? That anyone not good enough for any other job or profession, can always turn to the profession of teaching? If one cannot function in the real world, the teaching profession is always so dire for help, it will take all and any rejects?
“Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” (Woody Allen, Annie Hall)
Those who can’t what? Get a job anywhere else? Cannot face a job that demands long hours? Demands a persistent attitude working with a resistant client? Does not want to work under a stressful deadline?
Let’s try teaching!  They work short hours, have weekends and summers off, paid holidays.  They teach kids.  How hard can that be? Whee! 
Well, let me tell you, Bernie and Woody, teaching is a PROFESSION, one that demands more than any other job.  That 8 to 5, paid summers and holidays myth is a lie, and your cutesy, funny quote is an insult to those who teach.
A teacher has to love the act of learning so much they have to share that love of learning with others.  They know their subject matter so well, they can take it apart into its basic components and deliver it with finesse. Teachers keep a mental rolodex in their brains that almost instantly matches learning methods and materials to each student, so when a child “doesn’t get it” in one lesson, the teacher expertly tries it another way.
A teacher looks at each student as a client, a sometimes resistant, petulant, and angry client, but a client nonetheless. A teacher doesn’t have to love each student who walks into the classroom, but they have to like and care for the children who they serve.
A teacher works under a contract, one that demands certain outcomes for a set amount of pay, disregarding the long hours it takes for the teacher to deliver. They work evenings, weekends, holidays, and summers on their own nickel. These hours are not paid. Any other profession can bill for the time spent outside the time clock; teachers can’t. Any other profession can decline to serve certain clients; teachers can’t.  A recalcitrant student, an angry, demanding parent, a harsh public, the insulting myth that anyone can be a teacher – all of this makes it hard to choose the profession of teaching as a career.   
And those who can’t put up with all of these demands, can’t teach.


Friday, August 17, 2018

Raquel Martina Martinez: Leftovers

Raquel Martina Martinez: Leftovers: HoneyBunch and I come from families who do not believe in throwing away  food, ergo, The Leftover is sacred in our homes. Any little sc...

Monday, August 13, 2018

Leftovers


HoneyBunch and I come from families who do not believe in throwing away food, ergo, The Leftover is sacred in our homes.
Any little scrap of food goes into plastic containers with tight fitting lids or gets wrapped in plastic with the same reverence as an Egyptian mummy. It shows up at the next meal either in its original form or under a clever disguise.  Handfuls of leftover vegetables get thrown into stews or soups; old fries get scrambled into eggs, and though not much can be done for a leftover enchilada, smothering it with soupy beans can make it edible.
When my own kids were young, I “forced” a weekly clean-out-the-refrigerator buffet on them but gave them fair warning.  They knew when I called them to the table, they’d better hurry because it was first come, first served. The last one to the table ended up making do with The Leftover Leftover, usually something doubly unrecognizable and inedible.
HB is really big on not wasting food, but I do set limits.  In its original state, if it came out of a can, the frozen section of the grocery store or a drive-through take out, it never even makes it to the refrigerator. It is not worthy of being labeled The Leftover since I consider such food has been handled enough in its lifetime.  It goes straight into the trash can. If it is homemade from scratch, it can make it as far as a third curtain call before it goes into the trash can, but if it changes color, emits odor, or winks at me, it goes into the trash can immediately.
I am all for not wasting food, but I do have standards.
I WILL NOT give myself food poisoning and all the discomforts that entails over neon-colored ham slices, petrified pizza, or a recycled pork chop.


Monday, August 6, 2018

My Favorite Twelve Verses From Bible Study

One year ago, I was finishing a year’s study of the Holy Bible.  Month after month, we trekked our way from Old to New Testament.
I underlined one favorite verse in each chapter as I worked my way through each book, and from those verses, I chose the following twelve as my most favorite, one for each month.
Because of this study, I developed a better understanding of God’s connection and the promise he made to his people.
You probably have your own favorites but here are mine.  
# 1. The Lord is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.  The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.  Exodus 15: 2-3
#2. The Lord bless you and keep you.” Numbers 6:24
#3. You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all this is in them.  To all of the them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you.  Nehemiah 9:6
#4. O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wonderous deeds.  So even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me. Psalm 71:17-18
#5. Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name.  When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.  Psalm 91: 14-15
#6. I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121: 1-2
#7. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139: 13b
#8. For a child has been born to us, a son given to us . . . and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
 #9. Now the end is upon us, I will let lose my anger upon you; I will judge you according to your ways, I will punish you for all your abominations.  Ezekiel 7:3
#10. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy; your body is full of darkness. Luke 11:34
#11. I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  John 14:6
#12. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. 2Timothy 1: 7