Friday, June 26, 2009

Growing up old fashioned

I received an email today that seemed right on time. I was talking with a friend of mine (my grandfather's niece) who is a little younger than I am and has a daughter a few years younger than my youngest daughter so we got the two of them to play yesterday. We also got on the topic of how hard it was to raise our kids with people saying so often that we should have them doing all the activities available and things like that.

When my friend called to ask about getting the girls together, I had to holler down to the swing set in the back yard from my garden in the front yard. We were both outside, but my older two were off, one paint balling with her boyfriend and the other up at the college for a summer course she chose to take, so I had only one lonely child. We walked to get there and my friend walked her home.

I'm not a total stickler. We do have an X-box (not a 360) and a Play Station 2. We have a collection of DVDs and got a satellite dish about two years ago. The television wasn't on at all for the past two days except for the hour or so my husband watched it yesterday.

We keep busy with other things. My youngest helps with the dishes, takes care of all her animals and sweeps floors and helps sort and fold laundry. I also have her busy in the kitchen stirring what needs stirred and grabbing ingredients. My girls are not involved in sports or clubs or any summer programs to keep them busy. And they are not bored. I raise them like I was raised, kicking them out to play in the yard if they don't do it themselves, giving them things they must do - be responsible for - so they have a sense of accomplishment. I trust them to make their own decisions with me there keeping an eye on things, but not interfering unless I have to.

Now I hear "school all year round" and "summer school, why don't you have your daughter in it, it's a great program, you really SHOULD do it." And all I can think is "do not take my kids more than you already do!" and whatever happened to parents raising kids? What ever happened to letting a child learn how to occupy themselves? Game systems and televisions can all be unplugged and/or put off limits. But I'm very aware I live in a wonderful place, especially in this day and age. We're stuck in a time warp, changing only marginally from one decade to the next. This became very evident to me the day we had someone here from Harrisburg and they stared as if their eyes would pop out when I told my kids to go play outside. In our yard, the worst thing that might happen is they will get sprayed by a skunk.

So when this arrived in my email box today, it hit just the right note. I still raise my kids like I was raised in the 70s (and 80s but remember the time warp thing here) and everything here applies.

To Those of You Born 1930 - 1979

At the end of this email is a quote of the month by Jay Leno. If you don't read anything else, please read what he said.
Very well stated, Mr. Leno.

1930's, 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's!!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn't get tested for diabetes.
Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-base paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps not helmets on our heads.

As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes.

Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.
We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. (Oh YES, so very true. Now we "must" be strapped inside so we can't move more than a few inches and we ride along side motorcyclist who no longer have to wear helmets - someone please explain that one to me!)

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this.
We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And, we weren't overweight. WHY?

Because we were always outside playing...that's why!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were O.K. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Play stations, Nintendo's and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms. WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them! We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them. Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment.

Imagine that!! The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever.

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all. If YOU are one of them? CONGRATULATIONS! You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good. (I HEAR THAT LOUD AND CLEAR!)

While you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave and lucky their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it ? (Not really, but it makes me sick to see what our society has become.)

~ The quote of the month is by Jay Leno:

'With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of swine flu and terrorist attacks, are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?'

For those that prefer to think that God is not watching over us...go ahead and ignore this.. For the rest of us....pass this on.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Killing Characters

I have to ask myself why my characters seem to run full steam in demanding their stories be written when my life is getting ever busier. I have other things I need to do. Weeds need pulled from gardens and trimmed around trees. I have mulch to spread, meals to cook, and laundry to do but my characters don't care. They muddle my mind until I'm left with no choice but sitting down with my laptop and racing through chapters of scenes. I suppose that should be a good thing considering the book I was stuck on and seriously considered tossing in the trash is the very book I'm over half way through now.

At some point in reading through the books I have written, it occurred to me that I was avoiding writing Revenge of the Gods because of something that has to happen in it. In most of my books, the plot is open for twists and turns but in Revenge of the Gods, two major events have to happen to torture the main characters and put them on the paths that carry them into the books I have already written (book three and five of the series). My daughter convinced me not to ditch Revenge of the Gods saying that what happens in it is needed to make the following books even stronger. She isn't wrong. But I hate writing such painful scenes.

I had to create a character that becomes very important to a main character's personal growth. Without giving too much away, I'll say this: I had to create this character knowing the life would be short and have a very violent end. That is what held me up - I couldn't write a character I didn't like, but I didn't want to kill a character I did like. It's like killing off a dear pet, especially since this character and the story situation grew to bring up painful memories in my own "real" life. I didn't do that on purpose - not consciously at least - but that's how it happened. And for twenty-four hours after I wrote the terrible scene I felt lost and depressed just like my surviving main character. But I managed to wax my car while I tried to recover from the tragedy.

My best friend always told me I was good at getting into people's heads. To put it simply, I can empathize with people I meet and with the characters I create. I like to think that is what helps me make my characters so dynamic and likeable. But—darn—it kills me when I have to kill one of them. In the back of my mind I'm screaming - SAVE HIM - and I could easily do it, but then my main character wouldn't have a reason to dive down a completely different path she chooses because of it and the third book would make no sense.

So, tonight I will return to my laptop to write the final scenes of Revenge of the Gods knowing they'll be very hard and sad and I'm glad I'll be alone so no one will see me bawling. And I'm glad I'll be able to go right into proofreading Starlight and Judgment to pull the character and myself out of misery.

So there's your hint - I promise to try to get the two books out as close to each other as I can to ease the sorrow...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Setting Records

Over the past few weeks, I wrote a 99,000 word novel from beginning to end. That is a record for me. It started with two sentences that popped into my head one day and I had to type them out right away. It went like this:
The moment Tarenek sensed energy in the storm that had nothing at all to do with drumming thunder or slashing lightning, he knew his nightmares weren’t only dreams. No, this energy linked to a soul, the soul he killed every night moments before waking breathless in a sticky sweat.

Actually, the original didn't have Tarenek's name included. It was just a couple sentences about a "he" that I expected to stash away in my hard drive. Then I got bored one night and started drawing. Coralie Angenil (new) and Tarenek Brye Annis (all grown up from the first books of the Disillusionment series) came to life so easily that it was scary, and if I ever get my scanner out from under papers and manage to plug it back in again, I'll post them.

A little background: in Daughter of Gods, the parents, Tryn and Cedrik, are young and just meeting. In the second book, Revenge of the Gods, which includes their children Kira and Tarenek, the consequences of the first book come back to get them quite literally. I've yet to get it beyond page 55. In the third book, Starlight and Judgment, Kira is 23 and struggling to find her way. She manages in part because of 14 year old Tarenek. I wrote it in about 7 months and thought that was good. I enjoyed her character a lot too. In the 4th book, Curse of the Gods, Tarenek is the young age of 392.
That's not a typo. It's also not old for an immortal, is it? The fourth book skips about 150 years of Freedom Wars and a couple hundred years of peace. I started it somewhere at the beginning of May this year and finished the last chapter two days ago, June 3rd. I only wrote during the night, after 9 p.m. and I managed to snag a couple Saturdays.

From those first two sentences, the rest of the story unfolded as easily as thread unrolls from a bobbin. Emotionally wrenching and uplifting all in a few weeks - definitely a record for me and I loved every moment of it. The speed of it was due in part to returning characters (Kira who is 6 years older than her brother, but after 392 years, who's counting?). It was also due in part to my middle daughter having a photographic memory and what she learned in science class this past school year. I knew what Tarenek could do, what internal demons he constantly fought (it made him so very interesting to write), but I didn't know how to make it concrete. I expressed my concern about his abilities one night and she responded with a huff and: "Molecular combustion and molecular dispersion should take care of it all." Surprise! She was right, and all I had to do was ask her for explanations and review a bit of her notes.

When will it be released? Hmmm, well, Among the Ancients and Daughter of Gods come out this year, 2009. I'm hoping to have Revenge of the Gods complete for next year to put before Starlight and Judgment- then they will fall as they may so I hope to see Curse of the Gods in print by 2011. And to think, that used to feel like a long time into the future...ugh.

Till next time,