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My friends call me Elldee. And breaking the half century mark has been highly motivating: happy wife, mother, writer, teacher, day dreamer.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Focus on the details of living

Well, Christmas is here, so enjoy your time with family and friends.  Soak it all in.  Bits of it will foster your writing, and all of it will grow your relationship with family.  So I hope you haven't been hanging out on the internet reading this blog and my prompt yesterday (for if you had then you would have noticed I was late in posting my writing prompt, too busy soaking in the family).

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #53 2012

Write about a Christmas moment.  Keep it tightly focused:  green and red sparks twinkle on a round blue ornament, drizzled in gold glitter.  On the lower half of the roundness, where less of the glitter crusted, reflect the curved images of two children in red pajamas pulling aside bright wrapping paper.  The background soft chimes of Christmas music take back stage to the delighted "thank you's" as some are shouted out in inattentive abandon while others are whispered in glorious wonder.

Or write about a birthday, if you are commercial Christmassed out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My favorite student Christmas gifts

Over the years my students have on occasion brought me Christmas gifts. Now when I taught middle school, I received lots of gifts, mostly tree ornaments, but it was cute. When I moved up to the high school, the gifts dropped off considerably.  That was okay. I don't teach because I get Christmas presents.  But when I do get a gift from a high school student, there is evidence of real thought. These are the best gifts I have received over the years.
  • a compact flashlight that fits easily in my purse: sturdy, bright and very reliable
  • a Barnes & Nobel gift certificate: I bought books
  • a silver spoon key chain (the spoon is bent into a hook that catches on the top edge of my purse which makes it easy to find): teachers have lots of keys, and it's pretty. (Teachers also get lots of key chains, but this one is unique and does not have a teaching slogan on it or some teaching logo)
  • a nail file and clipper.  Teachers have lots of things to catch on their nails
  • small zippered bag.  I use it to hold my ear phones and charger.
  • a slick staple remover that slides under the staple and removes it in one quick move.
We teachers don't mind at all if we don't get any gifts.  But when we do, the ones that were given a little thought connect the student and that gift forever in our minds.  I like to think that twenty years down the road, I am going to reach for my keys, think of Mia and smile at her thoughtfulness.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #52 2012

Success going up the ladder
Choose an idea: happiness, success, despair, governance, laziness or....  Give it human qualities (yes, personification) and let it wander through a room or down a road, take a seat at a desk or settle in comfortably against a tree along a byway.  Describe it thoroughly from the button on the top of its cap to the nails in the soles of its shoes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Appearances are important to characterization

Recently some of my students have been following the "scene" mode of styling their hair. I don't fully understand the term, but it appears to be a kinder, gentler version of emo, not dark or requiring heavy makeup or dyed hair.  But it does create a look that tends to ride the edge of the norm.  So I was thinking how one day a student can look like the average girl next door, reliable, kind, quiet.  The next day she walks in and a statement is made that marks her as not one of the group, not the girl next door but the one across the street that people make up rumors about.  The girl that is not "bad" but is not greeted by everyone.

That is what characterization is.  Small shifts from the norm that make the character stand out with a certain image immediately created by a part in the hair made so far to the left that the bangs must lay low across the forehead. The long hair is all brought forward to the front, so a split occurs in the back at the neck line, as though the person only has a front she shows to everyone, the back similar to the facade of a building put up for a movie set.  The front looks real enough, but the back lacks all the depth of a real building.  This can be used to create character.  Certainly the real live girl, has depth, but in the novel or short story, such a "front" can act as a thin veneer hiding the reality within.  It builds mystery, which one might believe is the purpose of the "scene" image for these teenage girls I teach.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #51 2012

For today's prompt, go a little Gothic.  Poem or short story, throw in some mystery, a dash of ghostly visitations, a good dollop of stormy weather, a secret and for the climax, conflagration.  If it helps, add some heavy eyeliner to put yourself in the mood.  Think dark, stormy and someone hiding in the attic.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My internal critic knows no bounderies

I have only been writing to publish for about a year and a half.  But in that time, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon:  My internal critic is after everybody.  In the past, when I was just thinking about writing but not really giving it much of my time, I could just sit back and enjoy reading a book. Sure some books disappointed me, but they were few and far between, and the writer really had to falter in some way.  But now that I am writing my books and putting them out there for others to read, it seems I have become a lot more alert to slipping plots, weak dialogue or dropped details that seemed important but never grew into anything.  I wonder if those same books would have been a fun reading experience if I wasn't so often editing my own work and developing my internal critic to pick up my own slipping plots, weak dialogue, dropped details or undeveloped characters and scenes. 

Have I grown an eye that cannot discern between my own work and others?  It is an interesting dilemma because I don't want to be less alert in my own work, yet I do want to enjoy what I read.  I imagine being an English teacher isn't giving this attentive critic any rest either or training it to take a temporary vacation.  I am reviewing some form of writing pretty much daily.  My colleagues are known to come up to me and ask if I would look over their aunt's autobiography that she has been working on for years. Truly, I say, "No, thank you.  I have more than enough on my plate to go through."  And I am talking about student work and have not said a single word about my own efforts to publish.   I really haven't put out any signs saying, "Feed my obsession for editing."  Is this a common ailment of writers?  Am I doomed to examine the bones of every book I read?

It's one thing when I am reading A Tale of Two Cities; that one demands a deep read, but I read books just as often for entertainment at the skin deep level. In fact, I know my books are not for x-ray examination, just a sit back and take a break from reality read is what I am going for.

Writers out there, have you run into this same issue?  Is there a cure that won't wipe out that needed critic when my own work is before me?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #50 2012

perfume
Think of an odor, a sensation, and an article of clothing.  Write out for each a detailed description.  Once you have each one well developed, combine them in a short scene or poem.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What a writer needs along with time to write, redraft and edit:


  • sufficient daily exercise to keep muscle mass and tone up to snuff
  • relaxed meals which don't require a person to determine if ten minutes is enough time to eat adequately
  • time with the people he/she loves, making sure they know they are loved
  • a chance to read a book for fun
  • opportunity to get well
  • some off time with friends, and no time limit
  • less guilt 
  • more sleep
  • a computer that behaves itself and will print when required
  • space on the desktop (one with wooden legs and drawers)
  • a pen that is not running out of ink
  • ideas sooner than just when sitting down to write a post
  • not having to schedule in a chance to brush the dog
  • more than a few minutes to play with his/her child
  • a clean house
  • writer friends
  • readers
  • less work to do after work
  • win a little lottery (a lot would just create new problems)
  • a chance to visit mom and dad
  • not feeling like one must multitask at all times (sleeping and cleaning just don't mix)
What would you add?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #49 2012

Write in a gender different from your own and an age past your own (add or subtract about 20 years).  In this voice write about some thing of particular concern: global warming, retirement income, home loans, pet care, hair dye.  Keep it in first person and work on creating a distinct voice for your character.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Advice: A Writer Needs Feedback

Every writer knows that the only way to get that book, story, poem, etc., done is to write. We also know that the only way to improve is to get feedback, honest, no holds barred feedback.  I teach creative writing, and I tell my new students every year that I will be considerate but honest.  They will know what the strengths were in the piece as much as where growth is occurring and where it is needed.  Every writer needs this and for some, like myself, it is hard to come by.

I am a teacher, and since I want my students focusing on what I am teaching them and not on me, I don't advertise that I am a indie writer.  I have told only a couple people in my family and just one friend.  I know they'll keep my writing activities secret.  But where does that leave me for feedback: well in a very limited space.  I have become friends with several writers, and those connections has been helpful because they know what I mean when I say tell me everything so I can get better.  They want honest feedback from me, and I want the same from them.  And it has been worth any uncomfortable feeling I might get from seeing the flaws pointed out in what I thought was a pretty thorough job (repeated numerous times)at line and context editing.  I grow as a writer each time they supply feedback and each time I give feedback.  It would have taken me years of personal distance to be able to give that kind of critique myself.  I don't want to imagine waiting five years to be able to look at my own work with the necessary distance and increased knowledge in editing, drafting, plotting, etc. needed to actually see what needs to be improved.  That's five years of embarrassment of having my work out there that I would get all in one fell swoop that could have been avoided by getting straight feedback from another writer or a professional editor when the work was "finished."

So sure a writer writes, but a WRITER GETS FEEDBACK is even more important.  I published my first book with minimal feedback (those two family members).  It wasn't long before I had a nagging feeling that perhaps I had overlooked aspects of the story or not edited as well as I thought (even an English teacher needs an editor, nobody can look at their own work without bias, certainly not after reading it one hundred times).  So I took it off publication, sent it to a writer friend (she sent me hers as well) and we traded feedback.  I am still working on it and hope by Christmas to have it back published again.

All this post really is saying is writers need feedback.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #47 2012

Write about appreciation.  Not just appreciating any old thing, but about appreciating the people in your life. Imagine what it would be like to go through tomorrow without them.

This evening I was driving into town along dark roads, tightened by a serious case of forever road construction, to pick up my daughter at school.  We hadn't been sure when she would be done with her practice, so we had waited for her call telling us she would be hanging out in the parking lot of the school. So as I drove I thought for just a moment what I would do if I arrived and she wasn't there.  I wasn't really worried as I knew she was waiting with friends who lived close by the school, but all the same, for a moment I thought about her and how much I do appreciate her giggly hello, the way she jumps into the passenger seat as though we were off to some wild, long-awaited adventure, and the habitual slamming of the door, eliciting my usual rebuke about killing our old car.  My daughter has a habit of starting off her tales of the day with, "Guess what?"  I can never guess, but I usually supply her with some sort of outrageous, impossible event:  giant ants carried off Coach Fisher or Mindy has dyed her hair florescent pink, again, by accident.  She gives me her usual rolled eye glance, slowly shaking head of exasperation, followed by the true life events that colored her evening.  Yes, I want tomorrow to contain the giggle, the bounce, slam, "Guess what?, rolling eyes, shaking head and a new set of teenage angst stories, and the day after, too.  I would appreciate that.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Blogger Award: The Liebster!




I have been named for the Liebster Award (liebster is German for favorite) which goes to bloggers with less than 200 followers. Well, I certainly qualify for that.

First, I must name who named me:  Katherine Amabel of Beyond the Hourglass.  Thank you for nominating me.

Second, I must answer the eleven questions she posted on her blog.

1. Can you tongue roll, cross eye, ear wiggle or perform any other feats of physics?  (And you can’t say getting motion sick at the slightest provocation, because I call dibs on that).
I do a really prime Spock-like raised left eyebrow.
   
2. Would you rather watch that video from The Ring, or start up a nice, family-friendly game of Jumanji?
Jumanji, however that would require I purchase the game, and the choice shows just how much I don’t like scary movies because I don’t much like games either.

3. If you could be any book character, who would you be and why?  
Most any dragon rider in Anne McCaffery’s Dragonriders of Pern series.  So I could ride a dragon, of course.

 4. What fantasy invention do you most wish was real? e.g. Light sabres… invisibility cloaks… or those completely innocent and in no way drug riddled potions from Alice In Wonderland…   
Friendly dragons that can go between and time it.  If I can't have that, then I want a flying car that takes verbal instructions.
  
5. Name one habit you’re trying to break.
Asking my daughter if she has done her homework.  I don’t ever remember my parents asking me.  It was my responsibility.  It should be hers.

6. What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read? (Because I feel like sleeping with the light on for a month).
But I don’t read scary books.

7. What was the first job you ever wanted?
Being the tour guide on a bus that traveled though downtown San Diego and telling interesting stories about the sights.  I drove the wrong way on a one-way street, got lost on the way to the interview, arrived late and was utterly unimpressive.  Did not get the job.

8. What was the first job you ever had? (Sorry!)
Summer job as an inventory clerk at an engineering company.  I literally counted widgets, and circuits, nuts and screws.

9. If you had to live in any time period, past or present, other than now, what would you choose?  

The future is a little too unknown for me (Ha, I’m a science fiction writer), so if I can go back in time and still have the knowledge I have now, I’ll take the 1950s.

10. What’s the most exotic place you’ve ever been?
Tijuana, Mexico, or Victoria, Canada.  I got to get out more.

11. Finally, if you could apparate, where in the world would be your favourite spot to take your lunch breaks?
The Lifeline CafĂ© in La Grande, Oregon.  Razzle Dazzle, I hear you calling for me.  And the wraps, scrumpscious. 

I am also required to name 11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers.  I am still working on this.  So here are the first three that came to mind.
Here goes:

Quick list of the books I have recommended on my blog

I have posted about many of the books I consider useful.  So this post is sort of a gathering of those posts in one place.  Now you don't have to search about for them.

Grammar and revision:
Eats, Shoots and Leaves

A Writer's Reference
Spell Friendly Dictionaries

Creative inspiration:
A Writer's Book of Days
Lu Chi's Wen Fu
Lu Chi's Wen Fu 2
The Worst Case Scenario 

Good books to read:
The Catcher in the Rye
Tale of Two Cities
You've Got to Read This

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #46 2012

What's upstairs?  Take your reader up those stairs, barefoot.  Let them feel every creak, rough edge, small nail poking up.  Make each step an adventure in itself.  Then show them what is on the second floor (or third floor, or in the attic).  But make is a slow trip where every word is ultimately connected to the object or place you will take them to. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sometimes the liars reveal the most truth: Holden Caulfield, Salinger's Monster

I recently started rereading Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.  Even though I know where Holden Caulfield is in his journey of self-deception and punishment, I still get caught up with the slow reveal of his anger.  Salinger in the first three sentences tells the reader exactly where Caulfield is and how he has yet to find balance. Still, I find myself walking along beside this struggling character, listening to what he hates in his effort to avoid what he loves.  That ongoing chatter the first person narrative provides that begins so truly as teenage angst before it begins its slow, slick slide into, well read and see for yourself.

Every writer should read it for the lesson alone of how to create a character that tells all while he thinks he has hidden all his best secrets, the quintessential unreliable narrator.  Every reader over the age of 15 should read this book.  It's makes one grin at first hearing him say all the things every polite individual wishes he could belt out so unconsciously and honestly.  Somewhere along the line, the reader comes to a realization: Holden is not chatting at length for every teenager who wishes he could speak his mind so easily, but for his own salvation, his own need to divorce himself from his shortcomings, his desire for forgiveness, presumably from the reader, but in reality from himself.  Reader or writer, read it, read it more than once.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Writers need to be readers: suggested read

You've Got To Read This is an anthology supplying short stories that are the favorite reads of some of the finest writers of the 20th century.  Every writer should be reading, especially the most exemplary works of well-written prose.  "Goodbye, My Brother" by John Cheever is one of my favorites due to the family dynamics it portrays with simple, straightforward narration, and it is introduced by Allan Gurganus.

This book, though not a recent publication, is a great start for the writers looking to learn by reading.  The short introductions given by the author that selected each piece adds to the reading of each work.  Not only do I get to read a great short story, but I also get to understood what drew the accomplished writer to be moved by the work and name it as one of his or her favorites.

So track down this text and sit down for that occasional short read that you can examine both for the writing skill itself as well as for what  an establish writer might find worthwhile in it.

As said in Lu Chi's Wen Fu, "When cutting an axe handle with an axe,
surely the model is at hand."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #44 2012

Think about a dream you had recently (if you remember your dreams).  What about it carried the strongest emotional tug.  Focus in on that and describe it with as much detail as you can.  Try to recapture everything that carried emotion, evoked emotion or still creates a stir in your mind.  If you are not a person who remembers your dreams, how about a day dream?  The main point is to locate the strongest point of emotion and put that across.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How far will "they" go to increase sales: cold in my head

Have you noticed that tissue boxes have become decorator accents?  I only mention this as I have spent the past three days nearly married to my tissue box due to a cold/flu hybrid determined to leave me bed bound.  I've been free to ponder the workings of the evolution of sales and the degree to which various necessities (yes, I consider the tissue to be a necessity) have taken to increase their profit.  I am on the verge of believing that all these colds are merely the production of some very inventive advertising:  minions (possible students earning money for college anyway they can) out wiping cold germs on any and all frequently touched surfaces.  Herbert's The White Plague comes to mind.  I never will look at paper money the same way after reading that book.
Blurry tissue box.

Okay, I am tired and working with a throbbing headache that has partially convinced me that I am on my way to a sinus infection.  I am following my usual combative measures against the complete overthrow of my sinus system: vitamin C, Cold Ease cherry flavored cough drops every six hours, a Reliv shake twice a day, lots of sleep, and most emphatically, absolutely no grading or lesson planning allowed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: #43 2012

Dig out an old photo of when you were a kid.  Write about the moment it was taken. Imagine the image in black and white whether it is or not.  Keep your descriptions of colors in the grey scale. Go for the shadows, the bright spots; enrich your description by looking at the sharpness of the lines, the feelings the picture evokes and the story it is ready to tell.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Advice: the value of external hard drives

I have spoken before about backing up one's computer regularly (post Back up Your Computer). I have four of a seven book series drafted on my computer, so not doing an occasional back up would be downright silly of me.  However, for convenience sake, I also keep my documents on an external hard drive.  The drive that is inside my computer case only holds my programs.  But the external drive has my documents.  My father, who was an electrical engineer and computer builder in his retirement, felt this was essential to increase security, so I have been in the habit for a long time of keeping these two items separate in case of a computer virus or crash.  (In the early days of computer ownership, I had to partition my hard drive to create this kind of separateness.  I like an external drive much better for the reasons I mention below.)
Internal drive in external case
Well, that habit paid off recently when my all-in-one computer's monitor began to fail.  Sure my files are saved, but if I can't see them, what good are they?  I can't even run a back up or open them up and print them if the monitor won't display.  When my daughter's computer suffered this same problem a couple years back, I had to open the computer up, pull the hard drive and insert it into an external drive case. Sure this is no big deal (though it took me some time I didn't have handy to pull the drive, order the drive case and get them together), but when my computer began to falter, all I had to do was unplug the external drive full of my work and plug it into my laptop.  Bingo, complete access to all my work, which, of course, is also backed up on my WD storage drive.

I suppose one could say I am a bit over cautious, but I'll get the last laugh later.

Another advantage: you know that silly question about what do you grab if your house is on fire?  Well, chances are I can grab an external drive faster than I can carry out a computer or even a laptop.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #42 2012

Red flowers to right.
Open a fiction book to somewhere in the middle.  Pick a page.  The first image you find is the starting image in your writing. Take it from there.

If nothing inspires you, start with the red flowers to the right.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

non-linear plot imbedded in linear plot: not intending to confuse the reader

As I have mentioned before, I am working on a revision of the first novel in my Students of Jump. One of the changes I am making is running the two timelines (1979 & 2275) adjacent to each other. I am in the middle of a decision.  Should both run chronologically or should one (the 1979 timeline) run chronological, while the future timeline runs non-linear, different scenes appearing based on a commonality.  I like how a feature in common brings in a future event that the earlier time event is a result of.  At the same time, I worry about my reader getting confused because the events in the future do not run consecutively.  Maybe I can explain it like this:

Basic linear plot: Boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, gets girl, looses girl, gets girl back, they live happily ever after. (Let this be the chronological 1979 timeline.)

Non-linear plot:  Boy loses car keys, Boy needs to take car downtown, Boy cartwheels over sleeping dog, boy grabs keys off counter, boy must find another way to get to town, boy buys new car, Boy needs new pair of pants.  (non-consecutive 2275 and happens both in the future and before the 1979 events would occur.)

With one linear and one non-linear, they might look like this.

Boy loses car keys,  Boy meets girl, boy needs to take car downtown, boy falls for girl, boy cartwheels over sleeping dog, boy gets girl, boy grabs keys off counter, boy loses girl , boy must find another way to get to town, boy gets girl back, boy buys new car, they live happily ever after, boy needs new pair of pants.

In order to get the girl, the boy must need a pair of pants and must lose his keys, but these events do not occur in the same time period. One entirely precedes the other.

Is this confusing?  Would it make for a confusing novel?  You see my dilemma.  I won't know the answer until I put it completely together.  Revise that, it is currently in this form.  It is me that is confused.

Also note, these are not the actual plots of my novel.  Hmmm.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: #41 2012

Go find a hat, either one you have not worn for a very long time or one that belongs to someone else.  This is a magic hat.  Put it on and sit until you feel the magic vibrate around and through you.  Give it color, sensation, dimension; imagine that magic flowing into you, inspiring you.  Sit until you can feel the flow.  Then hold on to your bootstraps (figuratively, of course) and write.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

WordPerfect: my kind of word processing program

I am fully aware that the most popular word processing program out there is Microsoft Word, but my loyalty goes to Corel WordPerfect.  I like the way the program is laid out and some features just simply don't exist in the same way in Word.  Reveal codes, for example: I love being able to look at each code spelled out and easy to read and delete as I please or not (a simple toggle switch).  I can change formats without finding myself suddenly back in a particular format when I was certain I had changed from outline to word processing or from columns to no column. 

The two programs did become very similar over the years (though my favorite features never left WP); however, the version I have now in WP is far different from the new Word which I am still figuring out.  I have used both for nearly the same length of time:  close to thirty years.  But when I work in WP (which I do for everything personal and most especially for my fiction writing), I just sit easy.  If I am not familiar with some feature, I can figure it out because I understand WP's logic. This is not the same with Word, which, though I said I have been using it for years at work, still makes me stumble about. 

Recently, my WP began freezing every time I saved my work.  I would write a thousand words, go to save and find myself in permanent freeze and no access to all I had written.  Heartbreaking, as it happened repeatedly, though I did get smart and save after each page, so I could at least see what I had written and could hand copy it.  After a few days I switched my files over to Word so I could work on my book, but I wasn't happy about it.  I assumed it was an update to my computer operating software (Vista) that brought about the problem and since my version of WP was at least ten years old, I thought it was time to up grade.  I ordered WordPerfect X5 and couldn't wait for it to arrive.  Now I am not so sure I had the source of the problem correct as the new version suffered from the same problem. 

So there were a few days that I was quite frustrated.  I tried looking for updates, I researched on the web finding the problem actually began back in 2006, though it did not hit me until this past September.  I found suggested solutions, but none worked. Then, a few days ago, I decided to try again.  I experimented and used "save as" instead of the icon for "save."  It worked just fine. And two days ago an update came through for WP X5.  Now I am back to saving using the icon without freezing.  Now that is a quick fix.  I love WordPerfect.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #40 2012

Today you will write about discomfort.  What does it feel like?  Get real descriptive.  Most importantly, get uncomfortable.  Sit on your seat awkwardly, twist your body around and hold it in place until you are uncomfortable.  Don't eat if your hungry. Hold your arm straight up from your shoulder until it cramps, and then write about how it feels.  Don't imagine; use your own experience to get into the details.  If you already have a cold, flu, arthritis, backache, then you are ahead of the game (for once it brings you benefits). Go for the sensation, the imagery of pain, stuffy headedness, tight muscles, stiffness, a sinus headache. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Advice: DVD stuck in TS-T632A ATA drive

I know this little bit of advice is going to have a very small audience, but when I consider that just a couple of days ago I spent considerable time searching for the answer which this advice would have provided, I think it is worth my effort and your time.  It would have saved me considerable frustration.


CD/DVD slot
Let me begin with a little back story:  My computer has a built in CD/DVD drive like most computers.  However, mine is one of those slot drives which has no cover or eject button and only the slot is visible.  Now imagine my consternation when I put a brand new program DVD into this drive and my computer did not recognize either the drive or the disc.  As a result, I could not eject it and try another drive.

My device manager stated that the drive was not functioning properly, but that was the only part of my computer that admitted that I did have a CD/DVD drive.  I spent about one hour searching for an updated driver for the unit and confirming that no such update existed.  There were plenty of trails to lead me to believe there was a newer driver than the 2006 version I was currently using (or not using depending on how you view a situation when the computer does not know the drive exists in the first place), but it turned out not to be the case.

I spent another hour trying to find out if there was a manual eject.  I am very familiar with computer components as my father was a fiddler of electronic things (engineer) and I inherited this vice (but am not an engineer).  I expected there to be a manual means of removing this disc. But all my searching only provided me with three options.
  1. Use the software eject.  Open My Computer, right click on the drive, and click eject.  This was not a viable option.  Remember my computer is not recognizing the drive, so it was not showing up on My Computer.
  2. Use the built-in keyboard eject button.  Would you believe I never noticed this before?  It did not work, no matter how many times I pressed it.
  3. Take the back off the computer, remove the shroud underneath, remove the CD/DVD drive, remove its cover and then remove the DVD.  What?! You want me to open a CD/DVD drive, completely exposing its delicate innards?  YIKES!  I went looking for more options.
I know that most (all?) such drives have a tiny hole in which one can insert a wire (modified paper clip) and like magic (with a little pressure applied) activate the mechanism that will eject the CD. This drive did not appear to have one.  Some will hide it inside the slot up high or way low.  So I tried inserting the wire and working by feel to find this mechanism without result.  I spent the better part of an hour muttering about the engineer who designed this particular drive.  We were never going to be friends.

I gave up my fruitless search for answers on the Web and carried my computer to the kitchen table.  The back came off easily.  I complimented the engineer.  The shroud also came off with amazing ease.  I complimented this engineer also.  The drive slid out of its bay like it was greased.  I really liked this engineer.  My husband stood by encouraging my efforts.  (He will take apart anything from remote control boats to shotguns, but not a computer.)  I was explaining how any intelligent engineer will supply a manual means to remove a disc from a drive.  At this point I leaned over and looked at the drive's slot edge-on now that the shroud no longer hid everything but the slot.  A tiny hole about an inch and half from the top of the drive caught my eye.  I ran for my modified paper clip.  Feeling much like a safe cracker, I eased the wire in, applied gentle pressure and out popped my DVD.  I could have done it without removing the drive from its bay, but could not have done it with the shroud and cover in place.

Moral of this story:  I am going to assume every drive has that manual means of ejecting discs.  I am very glad I did not take the drive apart.  The computer was well-designed for easy access.  Accept for the manual release being hidden when the computer is all together, the engineer was not so bad after all.  So always check for the manual eject hole and keep a paper clip close by.  Chances are 100% likely (or nearly so) that the drive does somewhere have a manual means of ejection.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #39 2012

Write about a dream, but not just any dream.  Pick one of those that kept sliding into odd, even unrelated scenes that as the dreamer you just accepted.  Explore the strangeness of this dream following all its remembered impressions, actions and reactions. 

Write the twisty dream.
If you don't recall all the details, let your mind slide around what you do remember and pull at it until you have seized everything you can from the dream. 

If you are one of those who don't remember your dreams, imagine an image and carry into some foggy focus, let it slip into another image and then another as you track each flight of fancy. 

The one thing I ask that you do different with your dream is create a string of connections that holds each event to the next, smooth out the quirky, extra-stair-steps startle effect of the twisting dream.  Let take on a sort of logic of its own that may not have been there when you actually dreamed it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Inspiration is all about the lean

On Tuesdays I post a writing prompt because I have had students that have trouble coming up with things to write.  They need a direction, an arrow pointing off into the distance, a gentle push into forward motion, a leaning, and they just start walking that way.  They haven't learned to trust their own inspiration.  "Give me direction!" is their cry. (Though I don't do this anymore, the prompts still reside on my blog and can be used repeatedly.)

I think inspiration to write is much easier than they realize and is about being willing to lean toward any little thing that sways your attention.

"Tree."  What does a person see with just this one word?  Something will come to mind even if it is a sapling, twisted and nearly barren of leaves, a Whovian cluster of green hopeful growth at the tippy top of its highest reaching twig; two asymmetrical arm-like branches crook downwards at odds with the upward desire.  Mature oaks garbed in rough bark stand imposingly by, gruff opposers of any young upstarts grasping at the stabbing sunlight, great spears of dancing photosynthesis, splashes on last fall's dry castaways.  In the breezy rustle that sallies down the stiff elder oaks, there marches the firm argument that supplying a cart load of seed is not a promise to provide a place to root.  The sapling quivers its reply, a sithering shuffle of curled, mint-green locks straining to rub together a complaint for air, water and light.

Just lean, all it takes is a little bit of lean.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #38 2012

Find two very different images that you wouldn't normally imagine together, such as done with the movie Cowboys and Alien.

Prompt
Once you have the two ideas, imagine them together.  For example, alligators and song birds don't at first seem to belong in the same closed space, but they certainly bring to mind a quick image, perhaps one with the alligators eating songbirds, their feathers strewn about in the mayhem of the gory scene.  On the other hand, it could be paradise if these two could reside in close company.  Maybe you would prefer unicorns and moles.  At first I thought of moles as little furry animals underground, but what if they were actual moles on the skin that would erupt and destroy the pristine white coat of the unicorn, a symptom of a serious disease.

Use whatever images you bring together to inspire you to create a scene or event.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Multitasking: My ideas occur when I can't put them in writing

Memo: Got your ideas right here
Other than when reading, I never have the time to give one task all my attention.  During this time of year, it is especially difficult.  Until school ends, I simply must be doing more than one thing at a time (and actually several things at once):  emailing a colleague about a meeting, sorting assignments, prepping one computer for presentation while I am waiting for a program to install on another, getting items together to discuss with a student.  Sometimes the thing I am trying to do in tandem with other tasks is related to writing when I don't have access to a computer.  While I shower, I work through scenes I want to draft or redraft, but my shower is not computer friendly.  As soon as I am out, I do nothing but worry about losing all my ideas before I can find the time to write them down because more than likely I am getting ready for school or for bed and no time is available.  So while my brain was busy planning that amazing plot twist or clarifying a character's motives, it was doing so with the sure danger that I will not be able to write it down and even worse won't get the chance until after I get back from work.  I often review my ideas over and over hoping to imbed the kernels of particular value while I am blow drying my hair, putting on makeup and getting dressed, but it never works.  Faint echoes are all I am left with when I am finally able to seize the moment to jot them down.

Yesterday, I was getting ready and began thinking through two scenes I need to add to the first novel in my Students of Jump series.  One can't type with wet hands, and it would be tough in the bathroom even it I tried.  However, there on the counter was my iPhone.  It has the app Dragon Dictation, but I haven't made an effort to use it.  Knowing I was going to lose all my fast approaching ideas, I grabbed the phone and activated that app.  I dictated about a paragraph, took a glance at it through somewhat soapy eyes only to find it had only caught the first six words which did not include "entropy scram" (In this scene...).  I tried three more times without any worthwhile results.  Out went that idea.  I think the exhaust fan combined with running water just did not work well with this app.  But iPhones come with a voice memo app.  I gave that a try.  And two scenes later all my meteoric flashes of insight and inspiration were recorded and easy to access.  What was especially nice was I stopped more than once to think a bit, pausing the recording, and when I had my idea ready, I was able to return to recording.  I did that at least three times.  Four minutes of notes on my next two scenes all tied up and clearly enunciated rather than my scribbled writing.

Ahh, but then another flash of inspiration came to me.  I have two blogs to write and since I am feeling creative... So on went that little app again which shortly recorded two blog post ideas and my new writing prompt for the week. I knew I would not be writing them for at least another day and, of course, would not remember the details my mind was so rich with at that time.  Even when I do find a moment to write a note, I tend to just jot down a sentence or two rather than the long list of points I wanted to make.  But every word that came to me as the muse whispered in my ear was on that recording, no recall necessary.  I didn't even have to consider if I would be able to make out my writing which becomes quite messy when I am hurried. This very post was the first of the two ideas I dictated. 

Alright, this is not a genius idea.  Many people employ a recorder for catching To Do's or notes to the secretary or self.  But I haven't.  So for those who have this method available to them and often don't have the time to sit down and do the work when they think about it, try it.  I am sold.  My ideas are not going to drift out of my memory or be scribbled on a tablet leaving me wondering what I was so excited about.  My stream of thought was flowing, and the app was busy recording: nothing between me and my inspiration.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #37 2012

Today you are going to need a little help with this prompt.
  • Locate a bag, one preferably that is not clear, so a paper bag or a solid colored plastic shopping bag.  
  • Now locate a person, someone who has a mischievous nature or quirky way of looking at things would be helpful.  
  • Hand this person the bag and tell them to place something unusual in it.  The item can be as simple as a tiny rolled up piece of paper, a screw that fell out of something and is laying in the corner, a picture, figurine, whatever.  Make it easy on them and leave the room or even the house for a bit so they have time to really look around at what is available. 
  • Once the bag has the object in it, get it back from the person and take it to where you write.  
  • Write about it:  describe it and tell the story of its use or how it was created; or make up how a person felt when they first saw it, or bought it, or gave it away to another person. 

That's your prompt. Get busy.

Friday, September 7, 2012

In Times Passed: under reconstruction

I thought I should mention that I have pulled my first book (In Times Passed) from publication because I feel it needs redrafting.  Certainly, I did not have it in mind to publish my book and then remove it, but as time went by, I began to feel that the whole story was not there.  So, as noted on my Books & Projects page, it is back in edit, under remodel, reconstruction, etc.

A fellow author agreed that sometimes this is necessary, and she encouraged me to feel good about my choice.  She found herself making a similar decision some time back regarding one of her books.  Like me, she wanted her work to be at its best.  So the first in my series of Students of Jump books is on temporary hold.  Likely, the second in the series will hit publication shortly after this first gets back on the e-book shelf.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fingers tapping, program frozen, time for an update

Recently, while writing a scene that I had been thinking about quite a bit (fiddling with the details, what I wanted revealed and what I wanted to just hint at), I came to a stopping point and rolled down to the end of the page so only a portion of my hour's writing was visible.  I was still thinking through what I had typed and thought it a good time to save before I made any more changes.  I gave a quick roll of the mouse and a click on save.  The program froze with a hand tapping its fingers on my screen just above the save button.  I waited several moments, left my desk and returned to find those tiny fingers still tapping.  Ultimately, I had to force-close the program and accept that my recent work was gone.  I restarted, began the scene again having convinced myself that most of what I had written was still clear in my mind, my work at phrasing things just so still drifting before my writer's eye.  I wrote a while, moving through the scene quicker than the first time.  It didn't feel that I had caught all that I had worked so hard to recapture, but it was not bad.  Again, a roll of the mouse and a click.  The hand appeared, fingers tick, ticking along.  Frozen again.  I waited an hour in the hope it would come to whatever conclusion it was set on, but no luck.  This time I had not rolled the page down, so all of what I had written was still on screen.  I pulled out a sheet of my daughter's line paper and copied.  It took a while, but I had my work written down at least.

I have pondered the problem a bit.  I use WordPerfect and have for more than 30 years. This particular version of the program is more than eight years old and does not work well with Vista unless it is set up to be run as an older version program set for Windows XP.  It has not been a problem as I set it up properly years ago.  However, Windows keeps updating, and I think my poor old version of WP has finally met the point where it cannot function with my Vista.  I tested it repeatedly, causing the program to freeze every time.  I even reset it again as an old version program, but the problem persists.  So for a week now I have not been able to write, which is frustrating as this will probably be the last couple weeks that teaching doesn't take up all my time.

Some time next week my Vista compatible version of WordPerfect will arrive.  In the meantime, I ponder the next scenes I hope to get down and will be ready when my chance to write comes again.  I know I could hand write, but I have become so comfortable with the ease of editing in mid-stride that the thought cramps my thoughts up too tight for such slow drafting.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #36 2012

Pick a co-worker you don't know well but have observed.  (You can exchange co-worker with club member or any large group you are involved with.) Describe that individual.  As you do, you will find the main feature about that person that stands out to you because you will focus in on it without realizing it.  This practice (maybe do two or three) is useful because you will be describing real people who have qualities that you have unconsciously connected with.  Collecting idiosyncrasies from real individuals you know and using them in your writing will add a naturalness to your characters and help your readers to identify them individually, especially when there is a large cast. 

Writers select only a few qualities to attach to a character, main or minor.  Hair and eyes are popular features, but there are so many other qualities that can help define a character as unique and help a reader connect with that individual no matter how short the involvement with the individual is in the reading.

Examples:
  • Glasses that slide down the nose or enlarge the eyes when lenses are looked through directly by other characters.
  • Profuse sweating:  sweaty hands, beading above the lip.
  • Feet that slap the floor with every step.
  • A habit of rubbing an ear or stroking a brow.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I turn yet again to Lu Chi's Wen Fu

There is a reason why writers must read from the genre that they wish to write in.  They must know what others are producing and most importantly how they are going about it.  It is necessary to examine the art to grow into the artist, to watch the masters to learn to master the craft.

Lu Chi said it best.

When cutting an axe handle with an axe,
   surely the model is at hand.
      (Lu Chi's Wen FuThe Art of Writing, Translated by Sam Hill)

These words are so apropos.  It is not the plot, the setting or the characters used.  It is how the plot is imbedded in the story and how the characters are designed and put into motion.  It is the choice of the right word and the reason why it is right.  It is the reader crying even when the character's eyes are dry. 

Writers must apprentice themselves to the masters.  We must look closely in the same manner that the jeweler puts on his magnifying lens so he can evaluate the emerald and its unique setting.  Do the same as the farmer who runs the soil through her hands, or the wine maker sniffs the wine.  We must understand the process and product of the art of writing.  We must read closely the models at hand.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #35 2012

face on the wall
Find a face in your house that does not belong to a living being (no animals, no people).  Imagine it speaking and telling you its favorite moment. Give the voice emotion, specific diction and a degree of movement or expression.  Write the length of a page or two.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Writers are collectors

You may not find a series of shelves massed with tiny figurines or thirty-odd tennis racquets mounted on the wall and never used, but we're collectors.  We keep scraps of images, places, phrases, and emotions.  Some of us organize them in neat rows on revolving memories deep in our subconscious while others of us let them tumble about getting stuck together, so we can just reach in and grab a clump.  But we are constantly collecting from the world of experience around us.

pine resin, cool breeze, the heavy alarm of cicadas
I have lived all over the US, visited abroad a few times, and I can smell and hear these places no matter what current place is about me. In my mind the Narraganset trail lays out before me, twisting eagerly toward the Oregon Trail which I also know well in parts.  Standing on the deck of a ferry moving between Seattle, Washington, and Victoria, Canada, I can feel the rumble beneath my feet, the stiff breeze dragging at my ponytailed hair, the stacks of tandem bicycles filling the lower deck, row after row of them.  I can still see the riders standing about chatting in their matching jerseys and riding shoes that clicked in awkward careful steps that seemed to lean the riders slightly back on their heals.

I recall the day I moved into a new house when I was nine years old.  We moved often, and I had formed the habit of running outside to check out the neighborhood the moment I was excused by my parents.  I would peer up and down the street searching for children near my size and age.  This day I looked beyond the cul-de-sac I lived in, across the connecting main road into another cul-de-sac.  Three little girls were playing in the street.  I don't remember how I introduced myself, but I do remember they greeted me warmly, and we played until twilight and the street lights began to flicker on, which was my signal to return home.  We agreed to play again the next day, to be life long friends.  Just as I was about to head home, one girl asked me if I was Catholic.  I admitted that I was Lutheran.  Suddenly, the girls became a wall, shoulder to shoulder in front of me.  One girl stated quite dismissively that they were not to play with children who were not Catholic.  They left me standing in the middle of that cul-de-sac watching their stiff little backs as they strode away.

I didn't go home despondent; I was confused.  We had had a lovely day playing together, and one word had changed everything.  The next day I met two girls who lived several blocks away but were far more willing to enjoy lovely days with me regardless of my faith.  All six of us took the same bus, but I don't think I ever talked or even glanced at those three cul-de-sac girls again.  I wasn't hurt, I wasn't angry.  But that moment of separation is saved inside me.

We writers gather these moments, and somehow they grow into stories, poems, essays, novels, and histories because we never stop looking at them, turning them about in our minds, viewing them from different angles, remembering tastes, textures, sensations of the moment.  We are connoisseurs of memory and experience.

What have you collected recently?

#writers
#memories

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #34 2012

This prompt requires you apply your imagination to something that already exits.  I have one example that will be looked at two different ways.  Recently a tree branch fell from one of the large city trees planted on the other side of our sidewalk.  From one angle it looked to me like a big spider and from another angle it reminded me of the flying predators (Ikran) from the movie Avatar.
Avatar Ikran

Big, ugly spider
So find an object that could be viewed as something else and write about it wandering the neighborhood, city, countryside or where ever. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Building a positive writing community

When I started on my journey as a writer just one year ago, I decided that I wanted to build slowly.  That is how I build friendships, and mine tend to last.  I want my involvement in writing to be one that carries a positive polish.  So I carry that philosophy into my approach to building a platform and making writing connections. I don't see the positive in the flash-in-the-pan way of doing things.  So I have published my books (two so far at Smashwords.com) and I have taken part in discussions on Goodreads and this past summer, I began tweeting (which definitely reduced my Goodreads activities).  I have met some writers at both venues that I have built a sense of connection to.  Marcy Peska and L. A. Hilden have been the two that I have recently made friends with.  They are enthusiastic writers and have been most welcoming to me.

Marcy and I have begun a peer feedback process for each other's books.  I cannot explain how exciting it was to find someone to share my exuberance for completing a writing goal and the desire to write well.  Marcy and I have started to tweet #confettitweets to each other as we share our writing achievements.  I don't know about Marcy, but I don't have anyone who understands what it means to write and get to the end of a chapter or a tough go at 2047 words after several hours of typing, rereading, redrafting and sighing.  So getting those #confettitweets and giving them as well has been a treat.  We hope to expand our range of flying confetti to other authors who do their goal dances by themselves before diving back into their creative muse.

L. A. Hilden and I have traded approaches to using time travel in our books, and it is intriguing to talk about why we chose the means we did.  I have already read Hilden's London's Quest (a well-written Regency Romance) and am getting a sneak peak of Marcy's book Magic All Around (a modern lady comes to grips with the magic she never noticed before).  I am fortunate to have met these two talented writers.


Denise Baer is another author and blogger that I have met.  She has begun a Pay It Forward program on her blog meant to showcase indie authors as well as encourage the review of indie author works.  I participated and am happy to find another author who wants to bring positive action to the indie author publishing effort.

Nick Bost is a book reviewer I met on Goodreads.  He regularly reviews books and as a young reviewer with a good sense of what makes a good read, he is making his mark as well.  I have enjoyed talking about the review process with him.

Today, I just wanted to mark my year of publishing by recognizing the fine people I have met during this part of my journey as an author.  I thank each of them for adding to my slow immersion plan of joining this positive writing community.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #33 2012

Today you'll practice settings. Choose two opposing settings, such as a beach and mountainous area.  Think of a specific place and don't pick the obvious time of year. Winter on the Atlantic Seaboard leaves the beach looking far different than summer.  The waves on a particularly chilly day can actually become frozen mid-crest coming in to shore. It looks like an ice sculpture all along the beach edge thawing out as the ocean keeps rolling in, but the frozen crust of a frigid crest remains in place.  The sand crunches like broken glass, and the salt air stings your face.  As for mountains, the Cuyamaca Mountains in California are far different from the Blue Mountains of western Oregon which have a tint of blue gray vagueness and a sense of just being dropped in place without warning or preamble of foothills.  Pick a specific setting, detail it out and then switch to the other.  Flex your descriptive muscles as you change between your chosen dramatic scenes.

One Lovely Blog Award

I have received the One Lovely Blog Award.  Sunni of blog Surviving Life named me as one of her chosen eleven blogs that she felt fit this award.  There are some rules: Post the award on your blog, thank the person who named you, share seven facts about yourself, and name eleven blogs for this award and notify them of this award.

Publicly:  Thank you, Sunni. (But I'll send her a thank you, too.)

Seven facts
  1. I don't drink coffee or soda.  It's water and juice for me.  I think it started when I began running in junior college. The coach was a stickler for a proper diet.  I stopped drinking milk then, too and never returned to it.
  2. I love technology.  I have two computers, my phone, ereader and iPad within easy reach at this very moment.
  3. I value friendship and have several friends from childhood I still maintain contact with.  It is funny to look over at pictures on my desk and see myself at eight years old standing next to my long time friend, Anne.  We live many states apart these days, but not long ago, we visited, so now I have a picture of the two of us as adults.   Things change/things stay the same.
  4. Before I decided to publish my writing, I used email and snail mail as my primary electronic connection to the world.  After a year, I have a blog, Goodreads, Google+, Indie Writer's Network, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook (which I never use), Linkedin, and a Smashwords author page.  It's hard to get to them all and participate, and I am learning as I go.
  5. I love old furniture.  My desk used to belong to a gentleman who ran a shoe repair shop.  Made of oak, it has a heavy duty, built-in pull-out table for a typewriter which works nicely for my all-in-one computer.  My husband does not like it because it is so heavy, and he's always the one that has to move the desk from place to place.  He talks about replacing it with something better, but I love this old thing.  It has some sort of black finish on the top which reminds me of slate, but it is not a hard surface, and that shoemaker left cup rings and other unusual marks on it. 
  6. I am a dog lover and have two lovely, well-mannered ladies who live with my husband, daughter and me.  They are best friends, but given a choice, one prefers to sit next to me with her head on my leg and the other worships my daughter.  My husband is leader of the pack, and they are ever on the alert for his sneaky, playful antics.
  7. I was worried that I would not come up with seven things to mention.  So my seventh thing is sometimes I worry I might not have something to say about myself.  I teach, and for some reason at teacher training, they always want us to introduce ourselves and share something unique.  I work so hard on this I never get to hear the other introductions.  Ridiculous.

ELEVEN Lovely Blogs  (I'll do my best.)
Marcy Peska at Magic All Around
L. A. Hilden at Lori Hilden
Denise Baer at "Skipping Stone" Memories
Nic Bast at Bookmark Reviews

I am going to keep adding to this.  I am having a blogger's block. 


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Advice: Another grammar resource (requires experience)

Last week I suggested A Writer's Reference as an important resource to have as it contains just about every grammar, vocabulary & formatting issue likely to be run into by a writer (from student to professional), but this week I offer up a text that is geared entirely to the well-seasoned grammarian.

There is humor, sarcasm and clear cut demonstration of the rules of punctuation and sentence structure.  But you won't laugh if you are a beginner because all Lynne Truss's references require that you at least appreciate that there are rules and know quite a number of them.  If you don't know most of them, you won't appreciate the humor in her refining your understanding.  The title is a perfect example, though one of the simplest she provides:  Eats, Shoots & Leaves or if you prefer Eats Shoots & Leaves.  There is a distinct difference.  First off, imagine a panda bear.  He eats, shoots and leaves (which requires he has a license to bear arms or at least can hold a gun) or he eats shoots and leaves (which only requires he stick to his diet).  The title alone makes me giggle, but if you don't get it yet, don't purchase this book until you feel good about your use of grammar and punctuation.  If you are intrigued already, this is definitely the text for you.

It is important to note that Truss is English, but she kindly shows where the British vary from the Americans in grammar.  So do not fear you will refine your understanding only to find you will only be accepted by the British as knowing what you are doing all the time.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #32 2012

Design something that does not exist.  Here are some items to choose from.
  • a creature
  • a tool that can be used for painting
  • material for use as road surface
  • compact nutrient replacement food or drink
  • a better mouse trap (or moose trap)
  • transportation
  • a political faction
  • pet
  • truth serum/detector
  • medical treatment
Once you have selected what you are going to create, describe it being used as a routine item or concern in a character's life.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Married for 30 years: How did that happen?

Keep as much as you can in common
When I look back at all my husband and I have done in our lives together, it is not so hard to understand how we could be married for more than 30 years.  Rather than go into the specifics of all those adventures, I  am going to supply a list of general rules that we follow that I feel are the reasons we are together and are planning on staying that way.
  • We recognize that we have many dissimilar interests, so while we respect those differences we encourage those interests we have in common.  We both love to waterski.
  • When we have disagreements, we work on the premise that everything we say should be geared towards working it out. 
  • I cannot read his mind nor he mine, but we have had plenty of time to learn to read the body language we use.  Given that, we make every effort to keep the lines of communication open.  Sometimes that means taking some time to figure out what it is we want the other person to know, whether he/she "should have figured" it out or not.
  • We don't say anything negative about each other to other people.  We don't argue in public.  We do say positive things about each other to other people.
  • When it comes to spending a large sum of money on something, we both have to agree.
  • We have a designated bill payer, designated lawn care person, designated kitchen cleaner, etc., but the other person is welcome to help anytime and does. 
  • One of us is always better at something than the other, so we always help each other.
  • We don't make the other person feel uncomfortable.
  • We happen to have the same occupation, but we go about our jobs differently.  So we know there is more than one way to do something and still do it right.  That means we can learn from each other, even when we are already experts.
  • We don't love each other despite or in spite of our flaws.  We love each other because of all we are: flaws and finer qualities together.
  • There are some things neither of us like to do, but they have to be done.  So we make sure we do them together.
  • Most importantly: We like each other.
We do mess up on occasion, but we always come back to one thing:  underneath the problem is the promise that we love each other.