Journeys of the Heart

An author's journey

Auld Lang Syne

2009 is fast fading away into memories past.  Mostly it was a good year—great conferences, a trip to Florida with my husband, my third book in print, graduations, interesting Civil War events, an engagement, a wedding and the completion of my 4th book.  Still, I’ll shed a few tears as I listen to the familiar words of Auld Land Syne and watch the ball drop in Times Square.

2010 is full of promise.  As the New Year begins I have a short story, another book and a workshop idea in the works.  This will be the year of celebrating my 40th wedding anniversary, getting a passport, signing up for social security and flying to Las Vegas for my son’s wedding.  My only real resolution is to get on a plane (first time in 20 years since I’ve been on one) and I really, really hate to fly. 

As midnight approaches on December 31, 2009, I’ll lift my glass to all the wonderful memories you’ve helped me make this past year and wish you all the best in the new one. 

Happy New Year!

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December 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Few of My Favorite Things

Whiskers on kittens and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string…so the song goes.  Add to that list anything having to do with Christmas—the music, the food, the scent of fresh greens, candles in the window, Christmas trees with their sparkling lights, spending time with friends and family. Did I mention the food? 

 As a former school librarian, this was the time of year for my students to research holiday customs from around the world.  Here are a few of my favorites that my students shared with me:

 Spider Ornaments – Normally I’m not a fan of the members of the arachnid family, but I love this custom that is based on a tale about a poor woman who brings in a tree for her children but then has nothing to decorate it with.  Later, that night a kindly spider hiding in the corner, spins a web over the tree.   The weather was so cold frost covered the strands. In the morning, the woman and her children wake to the wonder of their tiny tree covered with glistening silver threads.  Hence the tradition that brings us tinsel. 

Sheaf of Grain for the birds – In Scandinavian countries, families set out a sheave of grain for the birds during this time of the year.   The Christmas feast is eaten after the birds are fed. 

Holly and Ivy – Using these greens goes back to pagan England.  When Christianity came to the isle they were transformed into new symbols.  The holly’s jagged edges represent the crown of thorns Christ is fated to wear, the berries represent his blood and the clinging ivy represents unswerving faith and fidelity. 

Burning the greens – The 12 days of Christmas officially end on Epiphany, January 6, also known as 12th Night.  In Medieval England, the revelry ended at midnight when all the greens in the castle, manor or home were gathered and burned for luck in the New Year. 

Whatever holiday you celebrate, may you and yours enjoy all of your favorite things.  Oh, and a quick reminder.  The Solstice edition of my newsletter, Hopeless Romantic is now available.  For more interesting customs and a fabulous recipe for plum pudding, subscribe at groups.yahoo.com/group/Hopelessromanticnewsletter/

December 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Endings

2009 is almost at an end. This past weekend my Civil War unit held their last event of the season at the Daniel Lady farm in Gettysburg, PA.  We do Christmas of 1863 in the beautifully restored farmhouse that historians are just beginning to discover played a pivotal role during the battle in July of 1863.  I’ve done all my Christmas cards and shopping. And final edits on Palace of Dreams, my first erotic futuristic romance are almost complete.  Lots of endings. 

Book endings in particular can be pesky things.  Nothing is more disappointing to readers than to follow characters and their story for several hundred pages only to get to a resolution that either leaves them with a flat feeling, or worse yet, causes them to fling the book at the wall while cursing the author for wasting their time.  It’s important to construct your plot so that all its conflicts, both inner and outer converge at the same time and place.  As the big black moment is faced, the protagonist must choose to act or not act so that the conflict is resolved and the character’s growth is revealed, leaving the reader to sigh with contentment at the satisfying conclusion. 

So imagine my dismay, when I thought the first draft of Palace of Dreams was complete, to discover (thanks to a conversation with fellow author, Chris Anson, on the way to RomantiCon in October) I had to rethink the entire ending.)  Somehow I had allowed another character resolve my female protagonist’s external conflict.  Wow, couldn’t believe I missed that one. 

Fixed now, so “all’s well that ends well.” Hope all of your endings are as satisfying.

December 14, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Word Clouds

Thanks to a recent blog by fellow author, Terry O’dell, I’ve discovered word clouds. If you already know and use them, you can skip the rest. For those of you who’ve never heard of them, by now you’re probably scratching your head and asking, so what is a word cloud and what can one do for me? 

Word clouds are a toy or a tool, depending upon how you want to use them.  There are several internet sites where they can be generated, but the one Terry recommended, and which I used, is http://www.wordle.net.  The site is fun and easy to navigate, both important criteria for those of us who remain computer challenged.  The purpose of Wordle and similar sites is to create a cloud(visual diagram) using a section of text that is copied and pasted into the indicated box.  The more frequently a word is used, the larger and bolder it will appear in the cloud. Many bloggers use them as a fun visual.  I wanted to display mine here, but due to technical difficulties it refused to load.

The truly exciting part about this site is its potential as a tool to use in editing.  I pasted the first two scenes of my wip into Wordle (the source of my word cloud) and before my eyes, my oft repeated word choices bloomed like weeds in my garden (to use a simile from Terry).  In minutes, I was plucking those nasty weeds. 

Now, not all of my words are weeds, some are necessary additions to my garden.  My characters’ names for one and some key words that let me know my conflict is showing up right at the start of the story.  Some are commonly used by most of the other authors I read and to find an uncommon word replacement could create more of a problem. Readers tend to flow over the words they know, but they might get hung up on an unfamiliar term.  Sometimes a less familiar replacement is just plain awkward. 

Check out the site when you have time to play and create your own cloud.  Whether you are simply looking to amaze your friends or want to use the site for editing, it won’t be a waste of time.

December 8, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments