Not #Bloganuary Day 16, But Answering the Question, Sort Of

What is a cause you’re passionate about and why?

I didn’t write the post for Bloganuary Day 16 because I felt passionate that day about absolutely nothing except not writing the post. It happens.

Tomorrow I shall be passionate about the weather.

It was 77(F) degrees today. Tomorrow morning, it will be 33(F) degrees. Or 27(F), depending on which website you’re looking at. There will be light precipitation, possibly sleet, or not. Streets might be icy or might not. The high will be 39(F) or 40(F) or something like that.

My husband and I have appointments for our second Covid booster at 10:00 a.m. I’m hoping for non-icy streets, because I’d really like to get that booster.

Yesterday and today I went outside wearing shorts and a tee-shirt. Tonight I went through my closet looking for the warmest clothes I have. I planned to wear a sleeveless cotton shell under a long-sleeved shirt, something from which I could easily produce a bare arm–this is a drive-through booster.

The closet wasn’t promising. When I downsized before the last move, a lot of clothes went to the Salvation Army. I bought several pairs of wool slacks when we drove to New York City the Christmas of 2000, but got rid of them after a few warm winters. The heaviest slacks I have aren’t really heavy and may be too long–as in, I’m going to take these somewhere and have them hemmed up--but that was before Covid hit and I retreated into my cave.

At this point I don’t care how long the slacks are. I’ll roll the cuffs if necessary. I may wear my sweats over them.

I have sweaters–I love sweaters–plus a heavy, baggy chenille thing I wear over light sweaters. And I have my old Denali sweatshirt. But how many layers can a needle get through before it reaches skin? And how many layers can I divest myself of while waiting in line?

Some (many) people who are used to below-zero cold laugh at Texans’ inability to deal with above-zero (what we consider cold) weather, ice, and snow.

It isn’t the cold per se that we get wound up about. It’s the rapid drop in temperature.

And the icy streets and bridges. We’re not equipped with sand and salt to keep cars from sliding into objects they shouldn’t slide into. Nor do we know how to drive in those conditions. There’s an art to it.

I don’t possess the art. The one time I tried it, I slid off the highway and ended up in a ditch facing the wrong direction. Across from my father’s place of work. So embarrassing. He was stationed in Pennsylvania for a while during World War II and then drove across Northern Europe. He knew what to do. He drove the car out of the ditch and took me to the university, which is what he’d wanted to do in the first place. (“Don’t worry. I can drive myself.”)

Fortunately, my husband comes from cold country and has experience in getting around. I put my nose in a book and try not to think about it.

Well, whatever. This isn’t new. Sometimes, as my mother said, there’s nothing between us and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence.

And it’s common knowledge that if you don’t like Texas weather, just wait a while.

***

P.S. If this turns out to be like last February’s storm, when my neighborhood was selected for a power outage that lasted six days, and my husband went to Lowe’s every morning to buy ten 2x4s to burn in a fireplace designed to look charming rather than to emit heat, I shall not say Whatever. I shall pack my bags and move to El Paso, where a connection to the New Mexico power grid keeps the lights on. Or so I’ve heard. There’s only so much John Wayne-Rugged Individualism that this native Texan can take.

***

Image by Claudia Trapp from Pixabay

#Bloganuary Day 15

What is a life lesson you feel everyone can benefit from learning?

The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.” ~ Wade Davis

Related: Other individuals are not failed attempts at being you.

*

Quotation from https://www.morefamousquotes.com/quotes/3850022-the-world-in-which-you-were-born-is-just.html

#Bloganuary Day 14

Write about a challenge you faced and overcame.

I’ve faced a number of challenges and overcome (most of) them, or faced up to not overcoming them. But the important ones aren’t fodder for this blog.

A minor challenge that comes to mind:

Two summers after receiving my B.A. with a minor in biology, I returned to college to take an undergraduate course in microbiology. I thought it would be fun.

I had not taken the prerequisite chemistry courses—organic chemistry and biochemistry, if I remember correctly—but nobody at the registration table asked, and I didn’t volunteer the information. I guess they assumed I’d read the requirements in the catalog. I assumed that what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.

I spent the next five weeks growing, staining, and identifying bacteria.

I also spent five weeks memorizing where and at what angles to hang little H’s and O’s and N’s and other letters from little C’s, over and over and over, so I could draw the metabolic processes of bacterium after bacterium after bacterium on exams.

That was the prerequisite part. My fellow students already knew what those compounds looked like.

But I persisted—lecture and lab during the day, little C’s and H’s and O’s at night.

Things went well. That was back when my brain had space in which to stuff all those letters and the ability to spill them out into the right places on test papers.

When I turned in my final exam, I told the professor (a) I’d enjoyed the class; (b) I hadn’t had the prerequisites; and (c) good-bye.

It was a fascinating course. I’ve never regretted taking it.

But that was a long time ago. I’ve since altered my definition of fun.

***

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Image of D-glucose by Ben; Yikrazuul, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

#Bloganuary Day 13

What does your ideal day look like?

Scrap the walker, the mask, and everything related to Covid, including Covid

Eat breakfast

Walk a mile or two or three

Drive—not be driven, but drive—downtown

Philkon Phil Konstantin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sit in a bookstore coffeeshop—BookPeople would do—drink coffee with cream and sugar, and write

Leave the bookstore with a stack of books—mine, all mine

Have lunch at a cafe; the Magnolia would do

Go to the mall, buy clothes that fit and shoes that feel good

Drive some more, nowhere in particular, just drive

See Greater Tuna with the original cast at the Paramount Theater

Have dinner at a restaurant; the Magnolia would do—they’re open 24/8

Come home, get a good night’s sleep, and do the same thing tomorrow

IN OTHER WORDS

Do things I haven’t done for the past two years. Add to the list, See family and friends close up, travel more than thirty miles from home, and . . . 

***

When I began this post, I didn’t have a specific theater production in mind; I just wanted to sit in a theater with a crowd of unmasked people and not have to worry about being coughed on. And then it happened—an idea!—I really, really want to see Joe Sears and Jaston Williams in Greater Tuna. Again. For the umpteenth time. And then A Tuna Christmas. Again. Also for the umpteenth time. I can’t get enough of those shows.

But Sears and Williams are no longer acting in them. Since they started in 1981, I guess that’s reasonable. Still, I can’t imagine the play without them. Or as a film production. Half the fun is sitting in the audience, watching two men play twenty characters, change costumes and personas in seconds without a hitch.

Anyway, Tuna hijacked the post. So here are some links to Youtube.

 

#Bloganuary Day 12

What emoji(s) do you like to use?

The question should be, What emoji(s) do you use?

🙂

Rarely. And I make it with the keyboard.

And

💋💖💗💙💘🐱

I use the above in emails to my husband. I send him grocery requests. He picks up at curbside. I also send requests to print. His computer is connected to the printer.

I don’t know how to make those emojis. I copied them from gmail and pasted here. I also don’t know what all the hearts mean. That blue one might be saying something I don’t want to say.

I could copy and paste from some website. That’s how I get this WordPress template to make an em dash (—) instead of a hyphen (-).* Sad  😣 . I usually like to be correct, but I don’t always feel like making the effort.

I think WP has a plugin—or something—where I can find emojis, but I haven’t gone hunting for it. I don’t even use the new and improved Block Editor if I can help it.

I suppose I would use emojis more if I cared enough. But I don’t. 😑 I type Sigh. Or Haha.

Old-fashioned. Or just plain lazy.

On the other hand, here’s an emoji I’d like to use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Originally I wrote dash. I meant hyphen. But I fixed it. As I said, I like to be correct. And not embarrassed.

***

Image by iXimus from Pixabay

 

#Bloganuary Day 10

5 Things I’m Grateful For Today

 

My husband

Being alive six years after the doctor said the maximum would probably be three

Repeat

Repeat

Repeat

***

This post was written on the 10th, but I went to bed at 7:00 p.m. and, although I remembered, I didn’t have the gumption to get up before midnight to post. So I’m predating and pretending. As I wrote in an earlier post, perfection is overrated. As someone else said, Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Pre-dating didn’t work. Small stuff.

*

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

#Bloganuary Day 9

What do people incorrectly assume about me?

I wrote a brief post answering the question above.

But then found a better answer at The Sound of One Hand Typing, which references Kaye Spencer’s blog.

I have always cared too much about what other people assume. These bloggers have a healthier attitude.

So I refer readers to them.

***

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

 

 

#Bloganuary Day 8

What do you like most about your writing?

I like that some of my work makes people laugh.

I like writing dialogue. I hear characters talking while I write. Sometimes I hear them talking when I’m trying to go to sleep; I don’t like that.

The critics

I like building plots, getting the structure right. There’s a line from a high school literary magazine I read a million years ago when I was teaching–I don’t remember the author’s name: “Poetry is geometry exploded.” It’s also an algebraic equation. When I get a turn in the middle, and the two halves balanced, the solution found, I’m happy.

I like writing parodies. Here’s a link to a verse based on Leigh Hunt’s “Jenny Kissed Me.”

I like blogging because I can go back and fix errors in both grammar and judgment, and I can write whatever I want and not care what people think. (Yeah, right.)

I like best when I have written. And revised. And revised. And written. And edited. And proofed. And finally given up and let it go.

#Bloganuary Day 6

Who is someone who inspires you?

Many people inspire me for many reasons, but the one who comes to mind right now is Tony Hillerman.

When I began writing mystery and suspense fiction, I thought I had to know the whole story before I started. It’s like what they teach in English class–first you outline, then you write.*

Good mystery plots are tight. They’re puzzles; everything has to fit. Clues have to be planted in the right places. Events have to happen at the right time and in the right order. Red herrings have to be put in specific places. Advance plotting makes sense.

I admire Ruth Rendell, whose novels are, as far as I’m concerned, perfectly plotted. At the end, the puzzle has been solved. Then, in the last chapter, sometimes on the last page, she slides one more bolt into place. How could she do that without knowing everything from the beginning?

There are a zillion books on how to write, so I read several whose authors stated that plots have to be carefully thought out. One author said every scene must be sketched out in advance on a note card, and always in sequence–never jump ahead.

I was working on a novel. At the time, I knew only the first five or six scenes, and I believed note cards would help me progress. So I bought note cards–and more note cards–and sketched out the same scenes, over and over. Sounds stupid and it was.

I pretended to be writing a novel but my brain was empty. I met with my critique group every week but submitted nothing, and wondered when they were going to kick me out. The other members tolerated me because, first, they were nice people, and, I think, they liked my comments on their manuscripts. I can offer decent criticism. I drank a lot of coffee and enjoyed their company and read some great writing.

Then I came across an essay by Tony Hillerman describing his writing process. He would start a book with a vague idea of where he was going but no set plot. Once, he said, a dog appeared–he didn’t know why, but he wrote the dog into his draft; later, the dog played an important part in the story. He gave a number of similar examples. At the outset, Hillerman said, he didn’t know exactly where he was going, but he got there in the end.

In fact, he said the only book he plotted out in detail before writing turned out to be the worst book he ever published.

That essay gave me hope. I usually begin with a character and a line and a vague idea of what happens next–but not necessarily what happens after that. I’ve published short stories, and every one began that way.

I’m not a plotter. I’m a pantser. I write by the seat of my pants.

My novel is still in partial draft form (Hillerman’s essay didn’t inspire me to get down to business and finish the thing). But I have written a lot more than five or six scenes and have even jumped ahead and drafted the ending. I’ve figured out what characters will do, and when–maybe–but they sometimes surprise me. Their ideas are often better than mine, so I let them lead. I’ve relaxed. Mysteries do have to be tightly plotted, but not from page #1 of draft #1.

E. L. Doctorow, author of Ragtime, said “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go …It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

I don’t know whether Doctorow was talking about pantsing, but his definition of writing as exploration fits with Hillerman’s description of his process.

So. That’s how I learned I’m a pantser.

I learned something else, too: When authors say, “This is the only way you can write fiction”–what they’re really saying is, “This is the only way I can write fiction.”

We all have to find our own way.

***

*If they’re still teaching to outline in detail first, they shouldn’t be. If you can outline an essay, you’ve already written it in your head. Sometimes students’ heads are empty, and they have to start writing to find out what they know about the topic. Then, when they have some ideas on paper, they can organize them. In the words of E. M. Forster, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”

Further note: I taught English and for the first years told students to outline before writing their essays. It had never worked for me, but that’s what I’d been taught, so I passed the word along. Participation in a seminar following guidelines of the Bay Area Writing Project gave me a new perspective, and I gave students a break–write first, outline later.

***

Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

Image by Gentle07 from Pixabay

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

#Bloganuary Day 5

Something I wish I knew how to do

I’d like to be fluent in Spanish: read, write, converse.

If I’d applied myself in college–found someone to speak with–I could be. I could read and write it and had a good accent. One of my professors suggested a major.

But I didn’t develop an ear for the spoken language and had visions of failing every upper-level course I took.

I didn’t believe in myself.

Confidence–a severe lack of–made the difference.

Book Review: Benjamin Capps’ The Heirs of Franklin Woodstock

from Ink-Stained Wretches and Austin Mystery Writers

Austin Mystery Writers

by Kathy Waller

George Woodstock received the peculiar phone call on his sixty-sixth birthday. . . He let the phone ring twice, then answered, “Woodstock Machine Shop.”

It was Helen’s voice. “Clara called, George.”

“Where is she?” 

“Your sister. She’s out at Woodstock where she always is. Your papa has escaped from the nursing home.” . . . 

“What in the hell does escaped mean? Did you ask any questions? . . .  Have they put up a fence for patients to climb over? Or did he tunnel out? Did he wound any guards? I thought Papa was in a nursing facility.”

“Please don’t be snotty, George. I’m only telling you what Clara said. I said you’d call back.”

According to Best Mystery Novels, mysteries must meet certain criteria: there must be a puzzle; a detective or protagonist who sets out to solve the puzzle; suspects; clues; red…

View original post 1,563 more words

#Bloganuary Day 4

What was your favorite toy as a child?

All of them, but the one that stands out is the hula hoop.

Girl twirling a hula hoop, 1958, by BeenAroundAWhile, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Via Wikipedia.

My mother brought one home from a shopping trip in Austin. A surprise. I worked until I got it operating correctly.

I never managed to keep several hoops going at once, or to twirl the small hoops, a surprise gift from my father, with my arms while twirling the large one around my waist.

I don’t know what happened to the hula hoop. Maybe it was lost in a move a couple of years later, maybe stolen from the back porch. I missed it, but by then the fad was past.

When I was in my fifties, I bought another one, lighter weight, which made it harder to control, and loud–a formerly perfect toy re-designed to be annoying.

And I couldn’t make it work, in part because of the light weight, in part because I wasn’t willing to put in the time and effort. It kept falling down, and I got tired of picking it up.

But I failed mainly because I no longer have the straight-up-and-down body of a seven-year-old. Hula hooping is difficult when the user is lumpy.

If I’d never stopped using one, however, all those lumps would now be in the right places.

#Bloganuary Day 3

When was the last time you left your comfort zone?

I last left my comfort zone yesterday when I started writing my post for Ink-Stained Wretches, in which I argue that Benjamin Capps’ The Heirs of Franklin Woodstock is not only literary fiction but also a mystery novel.

Argue is too strong a word, but I’m too tired to think of a better one.

I published it just minutes ago, less than an hour past due. I’m late with this, too, but I’m going to pre-date it.

Anyway, that’s when I left my comfort zone. Writing about literature is always difficult for me.

I have an M.A. in English.