Thursday, February 23, 2023

On the road with an unexpected sidetrip . . .

 This month, we're snowbirds. We escaped Spokane's 20F weather to spend six weeks in New Mexico's sunshine. Yes, it was a long drive down, but we're grateful to have that car with us to explore the lovely nature preserves and those truly picturesque Organ Mountains just outside Las Cruces.

The desire to go birding got us into a little trouble. Well, really, it was Google's fault. We optimistically planned to join up with a 7:30am birding group at Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. Google mapped the way as we drove down a gravel road. Sadly, though, Google told us to turn left into an arroyo. We followed tire tracks left by others -- within minutes, we were stuck. Actually up to the hubcaps in sand. "No problem," we said. We'll just call AAA. Ha! No cell service.

We hiked up out of the arroyo to find two women walking their dogs in this isolated spot. Without any hesitation, they dove in to help us. Our new friends gave directions to AAA who said they would be right out. We set up our chairs by the gravel road; Sarah kept us company -- and brought us mandarin oranges for a snack. If you squint, you can see our car deep in the heart of the arroyo.

After a while, the man from AAA arrived to say, "No way can my truck go down that arroyo! I'll try to call someone for you." He left. Sarah said, "I think we can get you out." Within the next hour, about 8-10 people arrived to help. Randy brought shovels and boards. We dug out the car, and, amazingly, these kind neighbors pushed our car all the way back up out of the arroyo. What a relief after the stress of three-and-a-half hours! What amazing Good Samaritans!

But wait, there's more! We finally did make it to the information center at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park where we learned many others have gotten stuck in this particular arroyo. The ranger explained a wedding was planned this afternoon, so they were busy getting ready. We went on to lunch, so grateful to be back in the 'real' world. The man from AAA called, pleased to find we had gotten out. Then, Sarah called to alert us that the event truck for the wedding had gotten stuck in the same arroyo!

So, the lesson to this adventure? Don't go off a gravel road even if Google tells you this is the proper direction! Frankly, I'm a little reluctant to go down a gravel road now. 

Lesson #2 is simply that I'm more aware than ever of the kindness of others. Where would we be now without those Good Samaritans? How many such acts of kindness go unrecognized?

These last several years have been challenging for us all. How much have our close communities of family and friends made a difference. I hope that 2023 will be a good year for you.


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

WEP: Gone With The Wind


Write...Edit...Publish (also known as WEP), has given us their first writing challenge for 2023: To write a story inspired by that classic novel by Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind, which is set in the tumultuous times of the Civil War. My story takes a slightly different point of view.

Gone With The Wind

An Old Man remembers his life in the south.

The old man leaned back in his rocking chair. Lightning bugs flickered in the early dusk, little pinpoints of yellow light winking on and off. “Don’t know why you want to talk to me. Don’t like to remember the old days.” He folded his hands, work-grimed and gnarled with age. His lips twisted. “Don’t like to remember them days at all.”

The young reporter sat on the stoop of the small cabin. “They told me at the high school you are the only one left. I was hoping you’d tell me about those days for my paper.”

“You mean back before, when I was a slave?” He grunted. “Weren’t so bad most of the time.” He leaned over and coughed, a deep, hacking that came up from his bones. “They put us in the fields. Dawn to dark, we worked. I don’t know much about them coming over on the ships. That was way before my time. But I was told how it were. Dark and closed up in the holds. Not enough to eat. Then, they was put up on the market. Nobody knew what they was going to do. I didn’t come along until much later, but they told me not much has changed. We was slaves.” He fingered the Bible in his lap.

The girl waited, for any recollection he would share.

“I remember my wife like yesterday. She were so nice. They brought her in from another plantation. She were pregnant, but I didn’t care. We jumped over the broomstick, and the baby, he was mine.”

The old man was quiet for a bit. The rocking chair creaked as it swayed back and forth.

“They say we got beat. That happened. We all have scars of one kind or another. I never got to work in the big house. Cotton was my master. That and the overseer.” He held out his hands. Even in the failing light of dusk, she could see the marks on his hands.

“During harvest, we began at dawn and worked half the night, filling our bags and then toting them to be weighed. If we didn’t pick enough, we got whipped. If we picked too much, they wanted the same the next day.”

He cleared his throat. “Still, wasn’t the hardest. The hardest was when they took her away. Her and the boy, sold off somewheres. Don’t know why. For a while, I didn’t give a damn. Some of the boys, we run. Some got caught and hung up in a tree, but I made it. Found work here. Got this place after a while.” He shrugged. “The rest don’t matter. It’s all gone with the wind, but I still miss my Cherie. And my boy.”

455 words.

Full critique acceptable. 

AFTERWORD: I barely remember seeing the movie, Gone With the Wind, sometime in the early 1960’s, but I remember devouring the book back then and being enthralled by the love story of Rhett and Scarlett as well as appalled by the horrors of the Civil War and slavery. 

I prepped for writing this short story by finding a copy of GWTW. A prologue written by well-loved author Pat Conroy, reminded me that the love story was only part of Margaret Mitchell’s intention. Immediately controversial, GWTW was a barely concealed love story about the Old South itself, the way things were, and the way of life many white people in the South wanted back. Anger about the Civil War and the changes it brought resonates even today. 

I'm not quite ready to reread GWTW, but I hope my story  honors those who survived. Maybe there’s a different way to read Rhett Butler saying, “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.”

“No day dawns for the slave, nor is it looked for. It is all night — night forever.” Slavery in the American South. Constitutional Rights Foundation.

Write...Edit...Publish encourages writers to post in response to a prompt and to read what others have written. Sharing our writing and commenting helps us all grow as writers. To visit other WEP writers, here are your links:

Email Denise or another team member if you have more questions:
1. Denise Covey  6. J Lenni Dorner  11. Roland R Clarke  
2. Yolanda Renee  7. dolorah@booklover  12. Pat Garcia  
3. Nilanjana Bose  8. N. R. Williams  13. Damyanti Biswas  
4. Olga Godim  9. Jemi Fraser  14. Beth Camp  
5. Sonia Dogra  10. Roland Yeomans  

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

IWSG: Covers, Decisions, and More . . .

We're driving south from Spokane, all the way to Las Cruces, New Mexico, the car loaded with all we will need for the next two months. I can report that in the last week, I have survived the freeways of Los Angeles and Phoenix (7 lanes in one direction). Are you surprised that not much writing got done? We're one day away from peace and quiet in our temporary home. 

Meanwhile, that first Weds brings IWSG's challenge question:

February 1 question:  If you are an Indie author, do you make your own covers or purchase them? If you publish trad, how much input do you have about what goes on your cover? As a frugal indie writer, I can only report that I've experimented with making my own and purchasing them. I really do prefer making my own! Book Brush is currently my favorite and a very useful resource in making covers and marketing images. 

I began by studying best selling authors of historical fiction. For example, Edward Rutherfurd uses primarily landscapes in his best sellers. But, what truly appeals to readers? 

My current thinking is that even historical fiction is character driven. Despite the when and where, we want to find out what happens to those characters we fall in love with. So, as you can see from the header above, my historical fiction series features the faces of intrepid women.

I'm still undecided about which cover to use for that relatively new art crime mystery series. Should I use a cover that shows the main characters or one that links to the setting? 

The Seventh Tapestry begins with the discovery of a seventh tapestry that belongs to that very famous lady and the unicorn set of tapestries currently displayed at the Cluny Museum in Paris. Yet, once the tapestry goes missing, the story is about art crime and the two investigators who try to track down what's behind art thefts and a murder. 

So, currently, I'm undecided. Which book would you pick up in a bookstore or click on if you were online? And why? 

IWSG's question this month should lead to some interesting reading!

The purpose of the Insecure Writer's Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link your name to this page and display the IWSG badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

With special thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for starting IWSG and to the awesome co-hosts for the February 1 posting of the IWSG are Jacqui Murray, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Pat Garcia, and Gwen Gardner! 

Why not visit our hosts to see what they're up to this month!
And may February bring you many new words!