Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Introverts and Other Shy People

I’ve read a lot lately about being introverts and how it affects a person’s life, namely needing time alone to recharge. But the other day I saw this title: “Leave me alone, but I also want to be included”, and it instantly reminded me of something that happened to me.

I was finally getting over a cold, no longer contagious, but couldn’t go more than a few hours without a nebulizing treatment. There was a family activity at church, involving board games. All my kids wanted to go and my husband talked me into it, after all, churches have electricity and my nebulizer was portable.

Once there, I sat, near an outlet. I thought it was a good spot, near the door, where everyone coming in would see me and with several fun games in front of me, I figured someone would join me as soon as things got started.

It was held in a large gym and I knew it would be difficult to hear my quiet voice if everyone was socializing. Also, as shy as I am, starting any conversations was out of the question. Besides, I couldn’t wander around because of my asthma and my bad back, aggravated by my excess weight.

Then people started coming in and mingling.

I’m not saying no one talked to me. Several people said hi as they brushed past me, but that was about the extent of it. Not one person sat down and offered to play even one game, except my own family.

For nearly an hour.

Not even the friendliest people there.

After being pretty much ignored by everyone else, I asked my husband to take me home.

Anyway, I thought of all of this and wondered how often we as writers think about why a character sits quietly in a corner.

Are they shy or an introvert? Or is it health reasons? Or, like me, a combination of all three.

Do we consider how these people feel about being left by themselves? Do the others around them even notice that they are there or when they leave?

I once had a lady enthusiastically tell me about a recent party, and something funny that happened at it, saying I’d missed the fun and I should make the next one.

All well and good, except I’d been beside her when the funny event occurred. Yeah, I walked out early, because no one was talking to me anyway, but I’d still been there.

Do you have characters who experience that?

When Bonnie needs to write the shy characters she comes to me precisely because I understand them so well.

Now the outgoing, extroverts, I have to ask Bonnie though I suppose I could ask my oldest daughter. She gets that sort too.

Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Birthdays and Holidays

This past Sunday morning started out like any other day. I went through the same routine I always do, but things were a bit different when my computer informed me that my twin had finally connected to the internet, which isn’t unusual in itself, its just generally when this happens each morning, we either exchange hello’s or good morning’s. This past Sunday morning we each said, happy birthday.

Again, nothing spectacular, it’s not as if we’re going to forget when each other’s birthday is. But I thought it was kind of funny when over hour after we exchanged this greeting, Facebook saw fit to send me an email reminding me that it was Konnie Enos’ birthday. Duh!

I think Konnie put it best in her Facebook post later that day:
Thanks Facebook for reminding me that today was Bonnie Le Hamilton's birthday, I might have forgotten otherwise. I mean it's not like we didn't share a womb for eight months or celebrate the last past 52 years in some fashion together so I'm bound to forget that today marks one more year we've both lived on this planet. Not that I've ever forgotten it's my birthday. All that ruckus people make the night before the big day makes sure I never forget.
Happy Birthday America. I love July.

As for all that ruckus the night before, I can remember a time when we thought all that ruckus was for us. Of course, kids are self-centered by nature, but we grew up. We do know better, however, having the fifth of July for a birthday can be fun sometimes, or down right annoying.

Growing up, our mother often mentioned that the year we were born with the first boom of the fireworks display that July 4th her contractions started, a month early. Our parents left the display and hurried to the hospital, and Konnie and I came into world the next evening. And mother spent the rest of her life complaining about it. J

And then there was the year I took a summer band class, the summer of our bicentennial. That year The 4th fell on Sunday and our hometown planned to have the parade on Saturday. My band class was going to march in that parade, but my problems started when my fellow clarinet players learned two things, first I’d never been on the receiving end of any birthday spankings, in part because my birthday is in the middle of the summer, and that my birthday was on Monday.

The girls in the class, which was all but one of my classmates, decided my height deficiency was due at least in part to the fact I’d never received a pinch to grow an inch. So they were going to make sure they each gave me my birthday spanking, and a pinch to grow an inch. A terrifying prospect considering the number of girls involved and how old I was going to be.

Then we marched in the parade. When we reached the end, our bandleader announced to the whole group that there would be no classes on Monday. While the rest of the band cheered, our bandleader stared dumbfounded at the clarinet section where all but one of the girls responded in some form of, “Uh darn!” and the remaining girl sighed and sank to the ground in shear relief!

Do any of your characters have a birthday on or near a major holiday? How does it affect their life or their attitude? Do you show this in your story? It could be happy, sad, anything. Birthday’s happen in real life, why not in our character’s lives? Think about it.

Happy writing, everyone. J

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


This past week while I’ve made maddening efforts to keep ahead of the bills and try to maintain some semblance of order in my house while still putting in a great deal of time with my writing. (Yes, I’ve actually been working on my opus all week), I learned something.

Well, I’ve actually known this little tidbit for some time, but this last week the realization hit home.

For Bonnie and I, writing is in our genes. Our parents both wrote. Our paternal grandmother wrote. We’ve got aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and siblings, who write.

But it really struck me this last week when Bonnie was struggling with her story and needed to brainstorm. Something we always do for each other. The problem was, I wasn’t available.

At the time, I, being the mom, was running people hither and thither for doctors’ appointments and whatever else I had to do. By the time I got home and could even think about addressing her problem, she’d solved it, with her new brainstorming partner.

I was just a bit amazed and awed at how quickly she took care of it, but not by who she turned to for assistance. Mainly because her story has a young leading lady and her new brainstorming partner knows 19 year olds really well, being one herself.

I’ve used this young lady’s insight a time or two myself, after all I do have some 19 year olds in my opus.

But she also knows about telling, echo, redundancies and passive voice. She’s a whiz at spelling and grammar. She’ll be reading over my shoulder and point to the screen making some comment like that’s spelled wrong, or you need, or don’t need, a comma there. (I’m horrible with commas.)

I actually hate people reading over my shoulder and she tends to be the most annoying, simply because she will point out problems, and she reads faster than I do and she’s always complaining about me not scrolling fast enough.

So this week I was looking at this poised, slender, and (well for me tall), intelligent young lady and it occurred to me that she is destined for great things.

She has clear goals, and plans so she can accomplish them. She’s also talented, having inherited not only the writing gene, but a photographer’s eye, and she has the will and determination to develop both talents while still pursuing her other talent. She’s a born animal whisperer, so future veterinarian.

As you can tell, I love this young lady. She grew under my heart for nine months. And I’m proud of the young woman she is today.

My daughter, one of the greatest joys in my life. (Yes, she knows which one I’m talking about.)

I realize this is a bit late, but my excuse is I was writing.

Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


As you know, Konnie and I are writers, and quite a few of our fellow authors have suggested that we should collaborate on a story. Others have been surprised we haven’t even considered such a thing. Then the other day Konnie, her youngest daughter, and I were all on Skype together. It all started with me asking Konnie for some help with a scene I was writing, which just wasn’t coming out right.

Konnie didn’t have a solution, but, considering the age of the character, suggested I asked her youngest daughter. Long story short, we ended up in a three-way chat to solve my problem, then Konnie came upon a passage she was having trouble with in her WIP, and finally her daughter brought up her own writing conundrum.

We were all working on our own stories while also online helping the other two.

Did it faze us? Did we even find it unusual? Cripes no. Adding in one of Konnie’s daughters is a bit uncommon, but Konnie and I do that constantly. If we’re both writing, we’re both online, and inevitably, we’d end up brainstorming. And both us at some time or another have helped her daughters.

And this isn’t the only way we instigate a brainstorming session. Sometimes, it starts with one of us emailing an excerpt, or even the whole file to date, to the other with a notation of, “Help,” or variations of thereof.

Generally speaking, I send her a scene saying I still don’t like how this is reading, asking for help, then we discuss it and hammer out a much better scene.

In fact, when it comes to writing a story, Konnie doesn’t always get the male characters right. Something I seem to be able to do automatically. I can’t tell you how many times she’s sent me a scene, asking if it works.

It usually doesn’t, not in the least bit. I can always tell why. It’s either that guys in general, or that character particularly, wouldn’t respond or react that way.

As I said, Konnie doesn’t always get it right. But she has enough brains to know when a scene isn’t quite right, and sense enough to ask me for help.

On the converse, I’m not all that good with shy characters, on top of that, I can handle a character with a phobia (unfortunately, I know how that works all too well) but I’m at loss with characters which are a bit jumpy for some reason or another.

As much I correct her male characters, she corrects my characters on the above points. Without her assistance, some of my stories wouldn’t ring true, and the same goes with her stories without my help.

So, in a sense, we do collaborate. I certainly know her stories as well as she knows mine, but the result is our own work, individually.

No matter how many times we concoct scenes suggestions for each other, the wording and phrasing, in the final version is always the author’s language choice. Suggestions are just that, suggestion.
And personally, I think having a brainstorming partner, is the best way to collaborate.

What do you think?

Happy writing, everyone. J

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Excuses, Excuses

One of the first thoughts I had this morning was I’d spent most of the previous day actually working on my opus.

And I didn’t actually write anything.

No, this isn’t one more excuse. I did work on my opus.

You see I’d been working on my opus the night before and in writing the scene I realized I couldn’t remember if a certain character had died in a battle or not. (They are at war.)

If he hadn’t died, I was fine, I could use him.

If he had died, I had a problem. Not because I couldn’t use him again, but because I hadn’t addressed his death.

So of course, I had to check.

Finding the correct scene wasn’t too difficult. However, it showed that the character in question had died. So I had to figure out how to address it.

But realizing this wasn’t the only time I’d forgotten a detail in my rather large opus, I thought it would be helpful if I had a complete list of all the characters which included any details about them, like being killed, so that I had an easy reference to refresh my memory when I needed it.

First I required a complete list.

So I started on page one and carefully combed through for all such details.

So far I have three and a half pages of names and I’m less than forty-five percent of the way through it. And I basically worked on it from the time I got up until I went to bed with few interruptions. (I told you it was an opus.)

I ate and even helped Bonnie and my daughter with their stories while still working on mine.

While I had been rather proud of myself for concentrating on my writing for so long, my next thought was that I hadn’t done a whole list of chores like balancing checkbooks, paying bills, dishes, laundry.

You get the idea.

The whole thing actually bummed me out. I had wanted to continue my search so I could address the issue of the characters death and finish the scene that had set the whole thing off. But, of course, I knew it would take a good part of the day to get my to-do list knocked down.

Then as I went over the things I was supposed to have done yesterday one particular item jumped out at me and I couldn’t help but laugh.

Usually I use my to-do list, and the many interruptions from my family, as an excuse for not writing. So I find it rather amusing that working on my opus was my excuse for not doing one very important thing on the top of my to-do list.

Write my blog post.

Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Writing Every Day

“Write every day.” That’s advice I’ve heard in writing chats since the very first one I attended way back in 2000. For years I viewed the statement on the same lines as the one about outlining before writing — one big load of not for me.

Of course, way back then, writing every day wasn’t for me, because I don’t write on Sundays. I absolutely refuse to write on that sacred day. (In my church, we call it the Sabbath and there is after all the fourth commandment. Exodus 20:8 - 11)

Hey, I may not be to the point of earning money doing this, but writing is work, a lot of work. More importantly, it’s my work, so not on the Sabbath. Anyway, the adage didn’t work for me, until I realized one thing.

The advice isn’t about work ethic as much as it’s about keeping in the habit it’s about not waiting for the muse to hit, and just about being in your writing place ready to write at a certain time. 

Meaning it doesn’t have to be every day, if it works better for your schedule and lifestyle to write only every other day, than do it. If some days of the week it’s easier to write first thing in the morning while others, it’s easier to write later in the day than do it.

The point isn’t to write every day, it is to write CONSISTENTLY. It’s about forming a habit that will help the muse know when it’s a good time to catch you ready willing and able.

But even the best-laid plans can get sidetracked. Konnie would be able to present more examples of that, but then Konnie’s writing plans tend to get sidetracked on a daily basis. She has too many people living in her house wanting her attention and time, and none seem to realize how much of time they hog collectively.

Since I live alone, I don’t have as many distractions, and I have in fact gotten in the habit of writing every morning except Sunday. So much so that I have trouble changing the time of day I write.

If I can’t write during the hours between breakfast and lunch, I may not get any writing done that day, and Monday was one day when I wasn’t able to write at all, no time. Busy all day. Tuesday, I did manage to open my WIP up last night. I wrote one paragraph. That’s all.  

Sometimes life does just does that to all of us.

I know what obstacles Konnie faces every day. I can name all six of them. J  What kind of obstacles do the rest of you face? I’m guessing its family and friends, both of which got in my way this week, and all of which gets in Konnie’s way daily. So name who make its hard for you to write every day, and maybe let them know if it will help.

Happy writing everyone. J

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Family Ties

Look at a Norman Rockwell picture and you’ll see multigenerational families gathered together enjoying one another’s company, a big family meal to celebrate a birthday or a kid’s birth, or the occasional holiday.

I can remember some similar experiences growing up, spending time with extended family. But because of time and distance, my boys have little or no memory of such multigenerational gatherings and considering their complete lack of living grandparents and great grandparents, a difficult thing to do.

It leaves me wondering if families are even close like Rockwell depicted anymore.

How many families do you know where all the adult kids live within the same city? County? State? How many extended families do you know who gather more often than once a year to celebrate anything or spend time with aunts, uncles and cousins?

My mother’s siblings all live in the same state we all grew up in, but the last two times I know they all gathered in one place were for my mom’s and her mom’s funerals.

My father’s siblings also all live in the same state, and technically their grandfather’s family has a reunion every year in Idaho Falls, though I haven’t heard about for the last few years. And Great-Great Grandpa Westover’s descendants have a reunion every year on the family ranch. Though I’ve heard attendance is falling and I have only been once, when my girls were young, before the boys were born.

I have a general idea where all my aunts and uncles are, but my husband isn’t even sure all of his are alive. We found one within the last ten years, but the others we have no contact with.

I can remember someone taking a five generation picture shortly after my niece was born, with said niece, my sister, my mom, my maternal grandmother and my mom’s maternal grandfather. I’ve never had the opportunity to form such a picture. And considering my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, etc. are all dead, to form one now I’d have to be the great-grandparent in it. So I’ll probably in my 90’s.

My oldest son can’t tell me even how many kids two of my brothers have, let alone genders, or names. He barely knows how many kids my youngest brother has. I’m sure his brother is even more clueless.

I had ties to my grandparents and cousins growing up. I still have contact with some of them. I remember my grandparents. My kids are missing that.

My second oldest is delving into family history with a fervor, finding stories where she can about her ancestors. And maybe that’s why she does it, to feel the bond with her family she doesn’t have here on earth.

But how do I help my kids create those bonds with their cousins?

How do you give your kids close ties to their extended family when they don’t see them, don’t know them, have never met them? How do you give your kids the feeling of loving grandparents when their grandparents are all dead? How do you create bonds with cousins your kids never get to see?

I know I’m failing. I feel bad becauase my kids don’t have that kind of extended family.