Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Writer's Space

What is your writing space like? This is a picture of mine. Sometimes I imagine it a hundred years from now, in the Jan Morrill Museum with a sign that reads:

This is where Jan Morrill wrote her seventeen bestselling novels.

Pardon this fiction-writer's escape into the realm of (very) creative non-fiction.

Things I love about my writing space:

1) It has most everything I need in a relatively small space - reference books, the Internet, a laptop, file drawers, a printer, pictures of loved ones, personal treasures, a bulletin board.

2) It has a great view of the Ozarks outside a window that is small enough not to be distracting while I write.

3) I have a comfortable chair from which to type or read . . . and re-read . . . and re-read my manuscripts.

Things I would change about my writing space:

1) I would put a door on it. Sometimes I am distracted - by the television, my dogs, my husband.

2) I wish the Internet was faster and more reliable - but then, I might not get as much writing done.

3) Since I am a writer and can create my own fantasy world, I wish my writer's space would clean and organize itself.

Tell me about your space - your likes and dislikes. Email a picture to me at and I'll post it on this blog!

Take a peek at other writers' spaces:

Dixie Ruth's writer's space shows plenty of inspiration for her books!
Click here to visit Dixie Ruth's blog

Everydayclimb shares her writing space with Henry-the-Cat.
Click here to go to everydayclimb's blog

Victor's space - a lot of potential for creativity!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Serendipity Strikes Again

I love when serendipity strikes: like last weekend, when I drove to Dallas with my daughter, Andrea, to celebrate Christmas with my son, Adam, and his wife, Emily. As many of my regular blog followers know, I am a fan of Fox News. Okay, I'm a Fox News junkie. And, my car is equipped with XM Radio, which allows me to feed my habit perhaps more often than I should -- admittedly, in true junkie fashion.

However, being of a different political persuasion, Andrea is NOT a fan of Fox News. So, though I clutched the steering wheel with white knuckles through my slow withdrawal, I compromised, and we listened to Christmas music. When we both tired of all the fa-la-la-la-las, we listened to NPR. My jitters simmered a little then -- at least it was talk radio.

We listened to the discussions of a variety of topics:

1) "e-polluting""The dirty little secret is that when you take [your electronic waste] to a recycler, instead of throwing it in a trashcan, about 80 percent of that material, very quickly, finds itself on a container ship going to a country like China, Nigeria, India, Vietnam, Pakistan — where very dirty things happen to it," says Jim Puckett, the executive director of the Basel Action Network, which works to keep toxic waste out of the environment.
NPR - What Happens to Electronic Waste

2) An Object of Beauty, by Steve Martin. Yes, that would be the comedian, Steve Martin. I didn't know he was an author. Well, this interview discussed the second half of his talented life - his life as an author. NPR - Steve Martin Finds his Muse in An Object of Beauty

3) The State of Kids - Highlights Magazine conducted their second annual survey of children between the ages of 5 and 13. The survey asked questions such as:

What do you like best about yourself?
According to the survey, more than twice as many girls than boys named a physical attribute. Hmmm . . .

If you could change one thing in the world, what would you change? Why?
I loved some of the answers provided by the children for this question:

"I would change cigarete factories into candy factories because cigarete factories are very, very bad for you and candy is sooo delishous."

"I would change the Statue of Liberty to a Godzilla statue because it will be my world.

What new inventions will happen in your lifetime?
Another great answer, perhaps by a future inventor?

"I want to invent a spoon that has 3 parts so you could eat 3 foods at once."

The honesty and imagination of children is fascinating to me. Read more at: The State of Kids Survey

As you can see, it was quite a medley of interesting subjects, and in the end, Andrea and I averted a political debate. I was happy and Andrea was happy.

I must admit, it does a soul good to de-tox every once in awhile.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Tears

Last night I laughed so hard I cried, while watching my grown son and daughter "hula-hoop" with the Wii my son received for Christmas. Later, as I lay in bed thinking of the day's events, I thought about other times in my life when I felt so happy I cried.

Of course, there was the birth of each my children. Within seconds after having them, I was struck by the overwhelming thought that suddenly there was a new soul in the room with us. A not-surprisingly-happy tear moment.

And there have been many other not-surprisingly-happy-tear moments: Andrea's and Adam's high school and college graduations, Adam's and Emily's wedding.

But what about those unexpected tears of happiness? The ones that catch you completely by surprise? I have been lucky enough to have many, but these are the ones that first came to mind.

When my husband, Stephen, took me to see my first Broadway play, The Lion King, the theater was beautiful, with velvet and guilded gold. I was thrilled to be there. But, when the lights dimmed and the music began to play - when the beautiful animal characters walked through the center aisle of the theater, I leaned over the side balcony and my throat tightened in that familiar way that precedes tears. The costumes were incredibly beautiful, and the music, powerful.

A few years later, Stephen and I were on a Mediterranean cruise. The whole trip was magnificent, but the highlight was when our ship pulled into the Grand Canal in Venice. I hurried to the top deck where Andrea Bocelli's voice boomed over the loudspeakers. Venice surrounded our ship, and smaller boats and gondolas swirled around us. I don't know what it was - Bocelli's voice serenading me in Venice, the beauty of the city around us, or simply the realization that I never thought I'd be there - but happy tears welled up in my eyes.

When I finished Broken Dolls, a book I've been working on for over three years, I was happy at my accomplishment. But, that happiness didn't compare to what I felt when an agent asked me to send him the full manuscript after reading the first four chapters. I literally wanted to do somersaults! There is something in the realization that someone likes a story you have written, and I saw his request for my manuscript as a positive step in the direction of fulfilling a life goal - to have a book published. As I told my husband of the good news over lunch, I choked up as I explained that it no longer seemed like just a fantasy - that maybe I really would have a book published one day.

Happy tears - droplets of water so tiny others may not even notice them. But to someone who experiences them, the happiness is so big and full it can't be contained.

Wishing you only happy tears!

Waiting for Emily to walk down the aisle - even Adam is crying happy tears.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Waiting for The Wish Book

Today I was Christmas shopping on the internet - so easy, so convenient, so fast. Yet, wonderful and efficient as this new technology makes gift-giving and wish list-making, I decided it lacks something.

I can't pinpoint what that something is, but today, shopping simply didn't have the same magic that shopping in the Sears Wish Book had. Is it a loss of the sensory pleasures? Maybe. Certainly tapping a few keys and clicking a button doesn't have the same feel as turning every page, listening to its crisp crackle and wondering what would be on the pages that followed. I'd fold down the corners of each page that had an item I wanted Santa Claus to bring that year, hoping somehow "Santa" would see it.

Then again, perhaps it's just a sentimental thing. There was such anticipation, even in waiting for the catalogs to arrive - a veritable fantasy world for a child.

Still, as I clicked and ordered today, I felt a thrill, hoping my loved one would like, whether I had chosen it from the paper page of a catalog or the screen of my computer. The anticipation of giving hasn't changed, thank goodness, even if technology has.

Happy shopping, happy giving and happy Christmas!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Day of Infamy

In memory of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, here is an excerpt from my manuscript, Broken Dolls. In this scene, it is December 8, 1941, the day after the bombing. Nobu, my 17-year old Japanese American protagonist, is in school, about to listen to the broadcast of President Roosevelt's speech:
     Third period arrived and Nobu walked into Mrs. Connelly’s Social Studies class. How was he supposed to sit through the President’s speech? The stares had become like bugs crawling all over him. He wanted to swat them away, squash them, but the creepy stares weren’t so easy to get rid of.
     Still, maybe he could scare one pest off.
     “What're you looking at?” he asked, getting in the face of a boy slumped at a desk in the front row.
     The kid snickered. Smug, he turned to look at the book in front of him.
     Mrs. Connelly rushed over to the boys. "Nobu! I’ll not have any of that in my class.”
     He dropped into a seat at the back of the room. At least there, it wouldn’t be so easy for his classmates to harass him.
     Returning to her desk, she continued to address her students. “Class, as you know, I brought my radio to class today for you to listen to the broadcast of President Roosevelt’s address to Congress.” She removed her glasses and clutched them in her hand. “The attack on Pearl Harbor has raised the emotions of many Americans, but as you listen, I expect you to conduct yourselves in a respectful manner to all students. Face forward during the speech. You may take notes, in fact, I expect you to take notes.” She smiled. “But no passing notes, especially during the broadcast.”
     Nobu took a deep breath. Thanks, Mrs. Connelly.
     When she turned the radio on, static crackled loudly, and she adjusted the volume.
     The class quieted at the sound of the President's words.
     Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives: yesterday, December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. . .

     Nobu’s pulse raced. His neck burned. He wiped his sweaty palms onto his jeans.

. . . The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost.

     Several classmates began to tap their pencils on desktops. Others’ knees jittered up and down. Some of these kids had fathers at Pearl Harbor.
     Nobu’s gut twisted and pinched.

. . . I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

     War. The United States . . . at war with Japan.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Five Questions for Dusty Richards, Western Novelist

********** NEWSFLASH! **************
Just received the news that Dusty was voted "Readers Choice Best Living Fiction Writer" by True West Magazine! Kudos, Dusty!
Prolific. Award-winning. Storyteller. Writing Coach. These are all words that describe Dusty Richards. A winner of two Spur Awards and a Western Heritage Award, he is one of the founding members of Northwest Arkansas Writers, a critique group in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Not only is he working on his 100th+ novel, he is also well-respected in the writing community for helping aspiring writers.

Recently, I rustled up an interview with Dusty.
Award Winning Western Novelist, Dusty Richards
1) When did you first decide you wanted to write Westerns? What prompted you?
I was a Saturday matinee fan of Gene, Roy and Hopalong on the silver screen. Then I began reading Will James. My mother was a good reader, so even though I could read them, I let her read them to me. That was pre-TV. She sat in the ring of light over the wingback chair in the living room and read Will James books to me. Will James wrote other books besides Smoky.

By high school, I progressed to paperbacks. They were a quarter a piece and lined book racks in the drug stores by the zillions. I read one a night. Then I scoured the libraries for Zane Grey, William Haycox and others. A book about Cochise, Blood Brother, sent me to research the Apache wars, since I lived in the middle of all that then. Another book by Tom Lea, The Wonderful Country, really impressed me. Then I found Will Henry's books--I could read them but never could see how he wrote them.

I wanted to write and so I did. I wrote my own books when I couldn't go buy one. I wrote them in long hand and knew they lacked whatever those selling writers had between the lines--I simply could not see what was missing. These were the books that my teenage daughters discovered and read, then told me to sell them. I stepped into the world of writing, dumb as a newborn duck. But somehow I wrote and sold three books to a small printer in Missouri. That encouraged me--but after two years and no published books, I severed that tie, or thought I did.

I learned twenty years later he printed them. But today, I can't find any copies. For awhile, they were on ebay. But before my daughter could find them to purchase, they were sold. My real success began when I met Dr. Frank Reuter at OWL – Ozarks Writers League. He critiqued a book I thought was ready. Oh my, after he finished with it, it was bloodied enough to fill the blood bank. But he encouraged me. I took all the things he said to do to that book and did them. Then, I sent him another and it he returned it - whole pages with no marks. Finally a third book went to him and he told me when I went to pick it up, "I was so busy reading the story I might not have critiqued it as hard as the others.”

I knew then I had a book and with the tenacity of a billy goat, I went out to sell it. It was Noble's Way and my first real sale of a book in New York.

Dusty and wife, Pat
2) You keep a busy schedule, with a variety of responsibilities. Tell us how you are able to maintain a writing schedule that has allowed you to write over one hundred novels.
I tell you what, my wife puts up with me--she encourages me even today. Back then, I had an old Commodore Computer and she pushed me into buying a Mac. I had not sold a book, but I saw what the Mac could do. I was impressed with the machine but had to think on the price. Pat said, "If it was a tractor and did all that, you'd already own it." I went out the door with it.

I write. Even when I worked for Tyson, did an hour anchoring TV show every morning, ran two ranches of my own, auctioneered and rode announcing--every night I was home and I typed from six until ten. At ten my wife came to get me to watch the news with her. Any rainy day, I wrote all day. I didn't know a sitcom on TV.

I never took "no" for an answer. In between books I wrote short stories. Personally, I think short stories are the best thing to practice on. You get results quickly and you learn to be sparse with words. What else can you do? These situations train you for writing scenes.

3) Not only are you well-known in the Western genre world, you are also well-known in the writing community as someone who has tirelessly mentored hundreds of writers. What is the best advice you’ve been given by a writer? Is that the same advice you’d give to new writers?
I would like to save any serious writer I meet from the tough trail I took to become a writer. Admittedly, I was hard headed, but once Reuter showed me the way, I flew. Some people I try to help only want praise. They don’t want to hear me tell them what they must do, so they don’t listen. I want to help that student that listens and learns, not the wanna-bes who don’t read. If you aren't a reader, don’t expect to become a writer.

I know there is a brain-to-finger connection and the only way you accomplish writing is to write. You will never have time to be a writer. You must steal it. You must learn to say no. You must make an obligation to your writing. Sure you will write crap and the real truth comes when you realize that. You have to have faith that your message is coming out. Learn from other writers, but don’t copy them. We don't talk like we write. The only way we get that writing voice is to write, free of concern that what we compose in the front of our brain is coming off in the style we want. Experience will build that in you.

My advice--don't fret about whether it is good enough while you're writing. Write the entire draft first. Then you will have an obligation to edit it and make a book out of it.

2010 Western Heritage Award Winner
 4) You’ve won several awards for your western novels: two Spur Awards and recently, the Western Heritage Award for your book, Sundown Chaser. These are great accomplishments for a Western writer. Any as-yet-unattained goals?
Of course, I would like one made into a movie; either a short story or a book. That will be hard, because they don't take much risk because movies are so expensive. That's why they go back to redo old ones with a proven track record.

2007 Spur Award Winner
5) If you could have a conversation with Louis L’Amour, or any other author, what would you like to talk about?
I read lots of Louie's books. He wrote some good ones and some that are so-so. I won't be critical of him here. I guess you could say the same thing about some of mine. I’ve been lucky to have had an evening with Charles Portis, author of True Grit and one with Larry McMurtey. Elmer Kelton was a dear friend and shared lots with me. Bill Gullic, who wrote Bend in the River, spent hours telling me tales of the days when the Saturday Evening Post paid him $12,000 for books they serialized,

I'd like to have talked to Will James for an evening, fished for trout in the White River with Zane Grey for a day, drank a few beers with Walter LeMay who wrote The Searchers. Then, I’d like to toss in a sunny afternoon visit with Will Henry, who I met but didn't get to speak to. I missed meeting Tom Lea of The Wonderful Country. We were in El Paso for WWA (Western Writers of America) and they went to see him. I missed that and have always regretted it. I met Jack Bickham at OWFI (Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc.) but was afraid I'd sound stupid and never asked him a thing. That was my mistake. And toss in the nice visit I had with Tony Hillerman, who writes about the Navajo Police out in New Mexico.

I have been blessed haven't I? But I am not through yet. I hope I didn't overdo my visits with those folks above, but they--like the Northwest Arkansas Writers where I’ve shared some of my work--are all part of what inspires me to write and why I help folks, wanted or not.
Be sure to post a comment by Monday, December 20 to be entered in a drawing for two of Dusty's books: Sundown Chaser and Writing the West. Drawing will be held on that date, and winner will be announced on this blog and on Facebook.

To learn more about Dusty Richards, visit him at:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Skipping Along the Path to Publication

The opening sentence of Broken Dolls: (That is, if I don't edit it again!)

Nobu knew everything had changed with those words: Japs attack Pearl Harbor. Now, it would be okay for everybody to hate the Japanese.

Yesterday, after working on Broken Dolls for three years, I held the spiral bound, completed manuscript in my hands! The weight of its 444 pages, hearing the binding crackle as I turned each page, seeing the words printed on paper rather than on a computer screen - all of it thrilled me. Most exciting was the clearer dream of seeing it published one day and the wondering of what would be on the cover.

Next comes the process of editing.

After that is completed, I have several wonderful friends and family members who have offered to read it - sleuths on a search for consistency or editing errors I may have missed in my 137 re-readings.

Then, the real fun begins - searching the crowded path for an agent. (Come out, come out, wherever you are!)

So, the work continues, but every step takes me closer toward my goal of publication.

See you at the finish line

Saturday, November 27, 2010

God Winked

Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I drove to the airport to pick up my daughter, my mind racing with a frenetic "To-Do" list for the coming days:

1) Pick up last minute, forgotten items at the grocery store. (I did this about four times.)
2) Go to the bakery to pick up birthday cake.
3) Purchase extra pillows for overnight guests.
5) Clean the toilets.

Faster than the miles that ticked on the odometer, I added new items to my list:

6) Pick up more candles.
7) Look for the tablecloths.
8) Buy pretty paper plates.

I changed stations on my XM Radio from Fox News Talk, to 60's music. I needed something upbeat, no arguing about the same old political stuff on that day! When I couldn't get into the song that played, I changed stations again, this time to Oprah Radio with Maya Angelou.

I cleared my mind of thoughts just long enough to hear her say, "I thank God for rainy days." She told the story of preparing for a large outdoor party, when suddenly, dark clouds began to form, and a downpour began. But she said she thanked God for that rain, because it gave her the opportunity to be more creative, and it made her thankful for the good friends she had who helped her pull the party together indoors.

Profound, yet so simple. What we count as our blessings is all a matter of perspective.

So, though Wednesday it was sunny and warm, a perfect day to sit outside around the fire pit, Thanksgiving Day had turned bitterly cold and rainy, with sleet and snow later in the afternoon. The weather kept my 22 guests locked up in the house with me as I chopped, stirred, slurped, sipped, and washed, and NOT outside enjoying cool, crisp autumn air near the fire pit scented by burning cedar.

But, it also allowed me to enjoy bits and pieces of everyone's conversation. It kept my sisters and children close by, constantly offering help in the kitchen.

Any time I felt the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving tightening in my back, I looked outside at the first snowfall of the season, even at the sleeting rain and thought to myself, "Thank God for rainy days." And looking around at the people I loved, I was reminded of all I have to be thankful for.

We really did forget to make the gravy! (And unfortunately, didn't take many pictures, either!)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Change of Heart

I was going to post a Thanksgiving blog today, but I learned a lesson that I thought important to write about, and in the end, it left me thankful.

As with most days, my morning started with sipping a cup of coffee as I flipped through various news channels. One story in particular caught my attention.

David and Susan Axelrod Put Up Fight Against Daughter's Epilepsy

The fact that I was not drawn to change the channel is a surprise in itself, because it was a story that involved David Axelrod, President Obama's senior advisor. Honestly, in the past it has not been unusual for me to flip to another channel or turn the news off completely when he has spoken. With all due respect, all I heard when he spoke was "blah, blah, blah." That will change after today.

The story was about how he and his wife, Susan, have been fighting a 29-year battle with their daughter's epilepsy. Strange, that seeing Mr. Axelrod as a loving father and husband came as a surprise to me, and I found it curious that all those times I watched him speaking on politics and policy I only saw him as another bloviating talking head.

It shouldn't have been such a lesson for me, as it is a subject that I often think about - learning about and respecting each other through open communication. I have even blogged about in the past:
Sister Left, Sister Right
Going Tapeless

I often miss a lot by turning the channel, or turning someone - anyone - "off" when I'm not interested in what they have to say. Perhaps it is a safety mechanism, so that I don't have to deal with that person as a multi-dimensional human being, only as a flat, one-sided person I can more easily disagree with.

But the story on the Axelrod family showed me - or perhaps reinforced to me - that every person is a multi-faceted human being, with unique triumphs and tragedies. If we open our hearts and learn from them, even those of us with differences might get along better.

And wouldn't that be something to be thankful for?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


"All of us can't stay in the [internment] camps until the end of the war. Some of us have to go to the front. Our record on the battlefield will determine when you will return and how you will be treated. I don't know if I'll make it back."
            -- Technical Sergeant Abraham Ohama, Company "F"
            442nd Regimental Combat Team, Killed in Action 10/20/1944

Since beginning work on my novel, Broken Dolls, (see synopsis), I have learned many new things, not only about the history of the internment of Japanese Americans, but also about the history of my own family. I always knew my mother and her family had been forced to sell their belongings before being relocated to Tule Lake Relocation Center. When Tule Lake became a high security segregation camp for those Japanese Americans deemed to be "disloyal," they were moved to Topaz Relocation Camp in Utah.
My Grandparents
My grandparents were from Japan - Issei, first generation. Due to the Naturalization Act of 1790, they were not allowed to become American citizens. However, my mother and her siblings were born in the United States - Nissei, second generation. Therefore, they were citizens of this country when they were relocated to internment camps.
My mother and her mother

What I didn't realize until recently, was that my Uncle Yoshio - my mother's oldest brother - fought in the United States Army while his family was interned in these camps. He was a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed entirely of Japanese American soldiers.  The 442nd became the most decorated unit in United States military history for its size and length of service.

442nd Regimental Combat Team Website

Even more amazing to me was something I learned just last week from my cousin, Uncle Yoshio's son: his dad, my uncle, my mother's brother, received the Bronze Star.
It's difficult for me to put into words how I feel when I think about these young men fighting - some even sacrificing their lives - for a country that put their families behind barbed wire. But, there were many stories like my uncle's. Many of these young Japanese Americans soldiers must have held the same sentiments Tech. Sgt. Ohama expressed in his words above:

"Our record on the battlefield will determine when you will return and how you will be treated."

This history is not something my mother or her family spoke about much. Perhaps many Japanese Americans are unnecessarily ashamed of this history, or it is too painful a period in their lives to re-live. Perhaps it is the philosophy of gaman - patience, endurance. Or, maybe it is the attitude of shikata ga nai - resigned acceptance.

I am Sansei, third generation. The more I have learned since beginning work on Broken Dolls, the more I realize this is history we should all remember. Most of all, I respect the honor and dignity of those who experienced it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Wonderful Years Between Two Yucky Events

It is with some trepidation, intimidation, indecision, embarrassment, and finally resolution, that I post this blog about my colonoscopies. But, after listening to Gayle King speak of her “event” last week, my feeling that we shouldn’t be embarrassed about such an important screening won the battle of “should I or shouldn’t I?”

It’s important, and we all need to get over the “yuck” factor. So, here I go . . . 

Sometime in 2001, after a close relative found he had colon cancer, I reluctantly made the decision to have a colonoscopy. (I was only 43 years old at the time.) Surprisingly, though I had no symptoms of any intestinal problems, the doctor found a couple of polyps. Fortunately, they were benign. However, it is within these polyps that colon cancer develops, so it is important to catch them in their early stages.

Because polyps were found, I had to have another colonoscopy in 2004. Nothing was found in that screening, and I didn’t have to have another one for five years.

I’ll admit, after my “clean bill of health,” I procrastinated going through “the event,” and did not schedule another colonoscopy until 2010 – last week, as a matter of fact. Once again, no polyps.

Okay, there’s no getting around the fact that a colonoscopy is UNPLEASANT, in other words, yucky. But, so is a mammogram or a pap smear. And though I have no experience with it, I suspect certain PSA screenings are no cup of tea either. But all are important screenings to detect cancer in the earliest stages possible.

The day before the screening is by far worse than the screening itself. First you flood your system with a variety of “preps,” as the medical community genteelly calls it. I would say the more graphic description is atomic laxatives. I took three different kinds – one harmless looking pop-sized bottle of a rather pleasant tasting lemon-lime carbonated liquid called Magnesium Citrate.

Hmmm . . . I thought. This isn’t so bad.

Next, I mixed powdered Miralax (238 grams) with 64 oz. of Crystal Light Lemonade, and had to drink an 8 oz. glass every 30 minutes. Initially, that didn’t seem so bad either. Until about the third glass. Between the frequent trips to the . . . well, you know . . . and the pewky sweet and sour taste of the concoction, I never want to taste another Crystal Light Lemonade again. And only five more glasses and umpteen trips to the . . . you know . . . to go.

Somewhere around the sixth glass, I was instructed to take four--yes, FOUR—Dulcolax laxative tablets. And there you have atomic.

This is all not to mention starving yourself the day before – not that you’d want to eat anything as you’re attempting to clean yourself out.

The next morning, feeling drained (literally,) we headed to the clinic at 6:45 a.m. for my procedure at 8:00. What a way to start the day. But, I was happy the whole thing would soon be over with.

The nurse explained to me that I would be given a sedative where I’d remain conscious, but that I wouldn’t remember anything. As I waited to meet the doctor, I scanned the room, wondering what all the pieces of equipment were for. To say the least, I was a little uncomfortable looking at the large flat screen TV in the corner of the room, knowing my innards would soon be flashed on the screen in all its HD glory. I hoped I wouldn’t be too conscious to experience that.

A rather handsome doctor came in, and the first thing I thought was, “How old are you, anyway?” He looked younger than my son.

I glanced back at the big screen TV and suddenly wanted out of there.

When the doctor left, the nurse came in to give me an IV. She told me to turn onto my left side. I remember staring at a poster on the wall, wondering when the words would start to get blurry. That was the last thing I remember before waking in the recovery room with my husband looking over me.

I felt a little queasy at first, certainly not hungry. I came home and slept for a couple of hours, then ate a few soda crackers, then some soup. For a couple of days, I felt a little “gurgly,” and didn’t have my normal appetite back, but after that, felt back to normal.

Not only was I thankful “the event” was over, I was thankful for the negative screening – one time when “negative” is a good thing. I couldn't help reflecting back to my colonoscopy in 2001, and wondered what might have happened to that benign polyp had the doctor not snipped the darn thing.

Here’s a list of the wonderful things that happened in between the two yucky events:

*  My daughter and son both graduated from college.
*  I got married.
*  I have traveled to many places around the world, including China, Japan, India, Turkey, Italy, France, Peru, Greece.
*  I have become an artist.
*  I am about to finish my first novel.
*  I’ve met wonderful new friends.

Had I not had the colonoscopy in 2001, had the doctor not found the polyps, maybe they would have continued to be benign, maybe not. But if not, think of all the good things I might have missed.

I don’t have to have another yucky procedure for another five years. I smile when I think of all the events I’ll experience in that time.

Note: The American Cancer Society recommends the following for screening of colorectal cancer and polyps:

Beginning at age 50, both men and women should follow one of these testing schedules:

Tests that find polyps and cancer:

• Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*, or
• Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
• Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years*, or
• CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years*

Tests that primarily find cancer:

• Yearly fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)**, or
• Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year**, or
• Stool DNA test (sDNA), interval uncertain**

* If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be done.

** The multiple stool take-home test should be used. One test done by the doctor in the office is not adequate for testing. A colonoscopy should be done if the test is positive.

The tests that are designed to find both early cancer and polyps are preferred if these tests are available to you and you are willing to have one of these more invasive tests. Talk to your doctor about which test is best for you.

The American Cancer Society recommends that some people be screened using a different schedule because of their personal history or family history. Talk with your doctor about your history and what colorectal cancer screening schedule is best for you. For more information on colorectal cancer screening, please call the American Cancer Society and ask for our document, Colorectal Cancer: Early Detection

Information taken from American Cancer Society website.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Recognizing Sacrifice

My father was a career Air Force officer, from approximately 1955 until 1975. I thought Veteran’s Day would be a good day to write about my memories of his time in the service and about being an “Air Force Brat.”

Most of all, I want to honor my father and all veterans.

My parents met in Hawaii, while Dad was stationed as a young Air Force pilot there. Mom was a stewardess with Pan American Airlines. They married, and before long, I entered the picture. Within five years, my arrival was followed by three sisters, and one brother.

Dad often had to be gone for long periods of time—sometimes up to six months or longer. As you might imagine, my mom sometimes had a difficult time raising five kids alone during his trips. I remember how empty the house felt when he was gone, but when he’d arrive home, our family finally seemed “normal” again.

At last, he’d walk in the front door, still wearing his flight suit, a khaki green one-piece zip-up, with zipper pockets all over. The five of us jumped and climbed all over him, and when he hugged and kissed us hello, I still remember how he smelled. I didn’t really know then what the scent was, but it meant he was home, and I loved it. Today, I suspect it was the smell of the cockpit of the C-141 he flew.

Some of my fondest memories are of the surprises he’d hide in those zipper pockets. After our hugs, we’d unzip and search them for our “goodies,” finding little trinkets from foreign places he’d visited. But, I think my favorite surprise was when he hid “Juicy Fruit” gum in his pockets. I always thought those striped pieces of gum looked like the stripes he wore on his uniform.

Throughout my school years, we were transferred to many different bases. I only recall one time when I had to leave in the middle of a school year, so I was lucky. We were stationed in California, Texas, Georgia, Bermuda, California again, Oklahoma, then once again to Travis A.F.B., California, where Dad retired in 1975.

Though I missed my father when he was away, I still remember the pride I felt when I told my friends and teachers he was in the Air Force. He looked handsome in his uniform, and I know I beamed every time he’d arrive to pick me up somewhere dressed in it. I’d watch the huge airplanes he flew in “formation,” in awe that my dad piloted one of those behemoths, and that such a monster-plane could even lift off the ground!

Today, it’s been 35 years since he retired. He rarely flies anymore, though he still trains in flight simulators. I know flight remains a passion in his life. We’ve had many conversations about his years in the Air Force since his retirement and I’ve learned what a sacrifice it was for him to be gone from his family. I know he doesn’t regret his time serving the country, but I also know he still misses the time he was away from us kids.
That’s why today and every day, I appreciate the service and sacrifice of my father, all veterans and current service men and women. And having been an “Air Force Brat,” I also want to thank the families of veterans. For the wives, sons and daughters, of our service men and women, it is also a huge sacrifice.

Monday, November 8, 2010

These Are a Few of My Favorite Words

I love words. When I write, they are like little treasures to me. Sometimes, I find them with hardly a search, and other times they are buried so deep, no amount of digging will uncover the prized and perfect word for which I search.

To me, some words seem to define themselves just by the how they sound when I say them. They elicit an image or a feeling simply by the way their syllables spring forth.

Here are a few of my favorites:

AZURE - az·ure
1. of or having a light, purplish shade of blue, like that of a clear and unclouded sky.

When I hear the word "azure" I am immediately taken to the bluest ocean. I can smell the sea breeze, hear the seagulls crying above me as I feel the sand between my toes.

BLOVIATE - blo·vi·ate
1. to speak pompously.

Maybe it's the beginning of the word - BLO - that told me what this word meant before I even knew the definition. But, it's one of my favorite words. It perfectly defines the communication style of too many in the media these days, and the "bloviating style" has trickled down to many of us.

SOUR - sour
1. having an acid taste, resembling that of vinegar, lemon juice, etc.; tart.

I can taste "sour" at the sound of this word. I've heard it's one of the worst things you can say to an opera singer, because it causes the back of throat to tingle and close up - do you feel it?
MEANDER  - me·an·der
1. to proceed by or take a winding or indirect course.

This is a rather boring definition of a word that elicits feelings of happy-go-lucky wandering and adventure. As soon as I hear the word, I think of a stream, winding through the mountains. Or a tree-lined path, speckled with sunlight.
And now, here is a word that DOES NOT bring to mind what it defines. Instead, its sound makes me think of an infected wound.
CREPUSCULAR - cre·pus·cu·lar
1. of, pertaining to, or resembling twilight; dim; indistinct.
I could continue to list more of my favorites, but for now, I think I'll meander through the woods to enjoy watching the crepuscular sky turn to azure blue. Instead of turning on the news to hear bloviating commentators that often leave me with a sour taste, I'll listen to birds sing.
Listen for words to see what feelings they bring out in you. I hope you'll share some them!
Note: All above definitions were found at:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Getting to Know Velda Brotherton

Writing has been Velda Brotherton’s passion for more than 25 years. She was born in Arkansas and has lived many places, including Kansas, Colorado, Missouri and New York. Velda and her husband now live in Arkansas in a home she designed and helped build. It sits on ten acres and to the north is the Ozark National Forest. They have two children, three grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Velda has been published in historical romance, regional non-fiction, articles in newspapers and magazines, short stories in anthologies and non-fiction in anthologies. Her book, Fly With the Mourning Dove was a Willa Award Finalist, and she was recently honored as Distinguished Citizen of 2010 by the Washington County Historical Society. Her latest books are The Boston Mountains – Lost in the Ozarks and Arkansas Meals and Memories.
She is a member of several writers’ organizations, including Women Writing the West, Ozarks Writers League, Northwest Arkansas Writers and Oklahoma Writers Federation.

Velda has been a writing mentor to hundreds of writers, sharing her knowledge of writing, marketing, blogging, publishing, and anything "writerly."
I hope you'll learn something new about Velda from the following interview:
Q. You’ve written several fiction (Images in Scarlet,) and non-fiction books (Fly With the Mourning Dove, Arkansas Meals and Memories, The Boston Mountains: Lost in the Ozarks.) Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction?

A. I am totally into writing fiction. It carries me away into the world I’m creating and it’s fun. However, writing and recording our history in nonfiction form is so enjoyable I have to continue doing it. I’m fascinated by the lives that went before us and the paths that were taken to make us who we are. So I guess I have to say I prefer writing period. Rather than say mowing grass, cleaning house, knitting, or the like.

Q. Do you have a single favorite book that you’ve written, and if so, why?

A. I can’t say I do. In the fiction books, I think the best one was Images In Scarlet, but I enjoyed writing them all and still enjoy remembering the stories. I think the Boston Mountain book is my best achievement in nonfiction. It’s the culmination of 20 years work and I’m very proud of it.

Q. I still remember the thrill of being notified of my first publication. In your career, you’ve been a Willa Finalist for Fly With the Mourning Dove, and you were recently designated as a Washington County Historical Society Distinguished Citizen. What has been your biggest thrill as a writer?

A. You know what? I so appreciate and am honored by the awards I’ve won, but my biggest thrill still today is being with other writers and sharing their expertise. So many wonderful writers have passed through my life, many I may never see again. But I’ll never forget a single one of them.

Q. Can you describe your typical writer’s day?

A. It begins after our mid-day meal. I’m not a morning person and can only manage things like cleaning or staring out the window at the valley below before noon. My brain kicks in after we eat and I’m in my office from 1 til 3 when hubby insists I get up a while and take a break. We chat for 15 minutes or so, then I’m back to work till anywhere from 4:30 to 6, depending on what I need to work on. I have a weekly schedule that I try to stick to except during emergencies. On Mondays I’m on the Internet promoting: Facebook, Twitter, website and other sites that need work; Tuesdays I work on articles on deadline for newspapers; Wednesday through Saturday I work on my WIP, which is usually works in progress because I often have a short story, a novel, and a nonfiction book underway at the same time. On Sunday that’s my day and I play. I don’t even like to take phone calls to do with the business of writing.

Q. For the last few decades, you have mentored hundreds of writers. I know I have learned so much from your classes, as well as our weekly critique group. With the wealth of information you’ve shared with writers, this may be a tough question, but can you summarize what you believe to be the most important thing a writer should know?

A. The craft of writing is important, of course, and polishing your work until it shines. That done, I believe once a writer has created her best work, the most important thing is perseverance. So many get a few rejections (100 or more) and they give up. I’ve seen writers give up when their first book doesn’t sell, and what a shame. Because it could be the third or tenth book that will be the one that sells.

Q. You’ve become very skilled in how to market your books. What do you think has been your most successful marketing technique?

A. I’m still trying to keep up with marketing online and have a lot to learn, but I’m working on it. I think personal contact with groups and word of mouth will ultimately sell more books for writers, but this is a difficult thing to achieve. I like marketing in small towns through libraries and independent bookstores because in most cases these people don’t have large book stores and welcome getting together with writers. Networking online gets the word out to more people, but when I’m marketing regional books it’s more important to remain within the area of highest interest in my product, so I concentrate on those places included in the book. It’s all a crap shoot, though. We do all we can to promote and market, and some things that work for me probably won’t work for others. Everyone needs to find their best promotional tools and stick with them. I’m going to speak on promotion and marketing of regional books at OWFI in May of 2011 and will do a lot of research this winter to find all the best ways.

Q. Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects?

A. Yes, I’m really excited about trying to break into Ebooks, but I’m still working on selling a women’s fiction to a New York House. I don’t think print books will be killed by Ebooks, but I think they will exist side by side, equally. I’m also working on a biography for Old American Publishing and I have a memoir that I write on when the mood strikes me, or I recall a vivid story I want to include. I also have a new women’s fiction underway about a woman whose past tragedy is recreated in the life of her granddaughter. She must choose between the ghost of her lost lover and this girl she raised.

Q. If you could “pick the brain” of any writer (or anyone) living or dead, who would it be and why?

A. Most writers would choose someone well known, someone who has created classics, but I’ve always been fascinated by Ayn Rand’s beliefs. They were so “out there” for the times and she was such a strong woman who had survived dreadful experiences. I think she’d be one of my top choices, though there might be others. I’ll stick to writers here, since there are many great people who have literally changed the world and who would be fascinating to spend time with. I’d like to know what makes writers like James Lee Burke tick. How he can see and present the world with such exquisite precision is entrancing. I’d like to ask him how he does it, but I’d bet he couldn’t tell me.

If you'd like to learn more about Velda, her at the following sites:

Leave a comment for a chance to win Velda's book, Fly With the Mourning Dove. Drawing will be held on Monday, November 15. Watch for winner notification on Facebook and on this blog. Good luck!