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What To Do with all Your Isolated Time? Journaling

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Journaling. Do you journal already?  Have you ever thought of journaling? 

The freedom journaling allows you is exhilarating. You can write anything!  Your thoughts for the day. Your fears (about this terrible virus) that you don’t want to share with your family. After all, you’re the strong one, right?  You can make up recipes that you want to try. You can make an outline for a story you want to write. You can try your hand at a little poetry. See? Anything. 

If you’re new at writing, begin by writing your thoughts down. Don’t be judgey. No one’s going to see what you write. Write a story based upon a story from your grandmother or dad. If you’re a new writer, it’s probably going to be bad. You’re not alone. My first stage play that I wrote was pretty awful. My first draft of my first novel was way bad. 

But practice truly does make perfect.  Editing and rewriting and the delete key are really what makes your writing good if you are trying your hand at creative writing. 

If you are journaling in the real sense then there is no “bad”.  Everything you write is good because it comes from you. It frequently takes a load off your mind and your heart.  Write a little something every day. It frees you to express yourself in a safe place that no one sees unless you want to share.

Note to self: Don’t leave your journal laying around if you live with other people. Find a nice safe hiding place for the most private book that you own.

This is a series of three posts about your isolated time and how to fill it. Click here

I have created a series of Journals for different kinds of writing. Click here
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

 

What To Do with Isolated Time. Write a Short Story

I hope you and your loved ones are still staying at home; the best way to avoid catching the virus or spreading it unintentionally. I know it’s boring and scary but we must do it to stem the transmission of this horror virus.

Now about writing; you’ve maybe pictured yourself as one of those who will write a novel “when you find the time”. I know many people who have said this to me when they find out I’m a published writer. I believe that every one has at least one story in them. 
The buyer of a book (in the store or online) take three steps to determine to buy or pass.  They see the cover…hmm..this looks interesting. They flip to the back cover where there is most likely a synopsis of the story. Then the buyer flips to the first page of the story. IT BETTER BE GOOD!  Because that’s your last chance to make them buy your book. The first line of your story needs to grab them. Here’s a list of examples, using all genres. 

‘As I crossed the street I didn’t see the bus bearing down on me. I heard someone scream.’

‘I sat in the prison waiting room about to interview a convicted killer. What would he say to me? More importantly what would I say to him. I’d never met a murderer before. 

“Slow down, Al,” Vi screamed and laughed from the back seat. “You’re gonna kill us.”

‘My first audition since I hit Hollywood and what if I fail?’ Cold sweat slid down my spine. My eye twitched. ‘Next!’ A hard voice called out. 

‘The teacher grabbed my math work book and, marching to the front of the room, read my poetry aloud.’

‘As the saloon doors creaked back and forth, the trail weary cowboys backed away when they saw him saunter in.’

“Mother must be spinning in her grave,” Kitty muttered, as her chauffeur drove up the long driveway to the main entrance of the State Prison.

‘A large scaly head rose out of the muck. Dirty algae hung from the mouth, caught in its large teeth. A single cold,  green eye with dirty yellow flecks in it, stared at me.’ 

Excerpt from Winter of Murder  ©  (first page of the new mystery; I think it grabs the reader.)

“What?” Stella gasped.
“Where?” Raul, her husband, demanded.
“Alaska.” R.J., their first born had just informed his parents that he was going to Alaska for six months. Maybe longer.
“It’s a great opportunity, Dad. Not many internships are offered by this company, especially when I’m not going for a major in geology but to study the impact the mining industry has on spawning salmon.”
“My God. Alaska.” Stella whispered. Being a murder cop in New York City she was not shocked by much but this had certainly knocked her back. “So far.”
“How are you going to live? I hear it’s expensive up there.”
“I get a stipend. Meager but it will buy my necessities. Room and board are provided.”
“I guess we could find the money for your airfare.” Raul always supported his sons in everything they did.
“Not a problem, Dad. I’ve been saving and I’ve already purchased my ticket.”
“R.J! You’re going regardless of what we might have said?”
“Mi amor, R.J.’s a young man now, not your little boy. He’s of age and can go anywhere he can afford to go.” Raul kissed his wife’s temple.
“But, Alaska. And to a rough mining camp? I don’t like this.”
“Mom, it’s no rougher than some of the streets right here in Queens. And look what you do. I’ve spent my whole life wondering if you would be coming home each night.”
“Did you? Wonder? Oh R.J., we tried so hard to insulate you boys from the dangers of my job.”
“We weren’t stupid, Mom. Robbie and I both knew some crackhead could kill you.”
Stella eyes filled with tears. Partly for what her son was disclosing but partly because this beautiful, tall, lean young man before her was her son. And he was leaving for Alaska.
“Mi mujer Policía, it will be fine. Now that I think about it, it is a rare opportunity. To study his beloved sea creatures far inland. I hear the scenery is spectacular.
“When do you go?” Stella asked.
“Next week.”
“So soon.”
“Yes. But, I’ll be back before you know it, Mom. It’s only six months. The time will fly.”
“For you maybe.” Stella sighed. 

The same rules apply here, you have to create rich characters, an arch to the story and a resolution. With a short or long story, you have the liberty to write description for pages and pages. That’s not my favorite type of book; I much prefer snappy dialogue. But that’s probably because I write more dialogue than description. A story does not have the ‘time’ limitations that a stage play has. 

I write out of sequence frequently when writing fiction.  I may be in the middle of the book when the concluding chapters come to me. Especially the Epilogue. So I write it. Why not? I can always edit it. 
Example: (The chapter title lets me know that I created this chapter but won’t be certain where it fits in the story, if I use it at all.)

Sample: New Chapter ??? (c)

Gwendolyn Baxter sat at her desk, her chin in her hand. She had been the student counselor at Bayard for the past eight years. She listened attentively to the woes of a fifteen year old teen seated across from her. Her parents were stupid. Her teacher didn’t understand her. She couldn’t get a boyfriend. She knew her lover would love the looks of this girl. Tall, willowy, blond. Olivia.
“I know how it is with parents. Always on your back about something. Right?”
“You don’t know the half of it.” Olivia sneered. “If it isn’t my grades it’s the length of my skirt. Jeez.”
“Do both your parents work, Olivia?”
“Yes. Sometimes my mom doesn’t get home until late. I have to cook my own supper.” She sighed.
“How are your grades?”
“Average of a B minus. But that’s not good enough for them.”
“That’s pretty good. What’s their problem?”
“Who knows?” Another deep sigh.“Listen, a friend of mine and I are having a little afternoon get-together today. Why don’t you come? His house is just blocks from here.
“Oh, I don’t know⸺”Olivia hesitated.
“He’s very rich and always has gifts for his guests. It’s so lit. Grace is coming.”
“Grace Stern?”
“Yes.”
“We’re friends.”
“She always has a good time. Last week Geoff gave her some Gucci sneakers.”
“Really? That’s straight fire.”

Tune in for Thursday’s post, How To Journal
Did you miss part 1 of this series?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

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Self-Isolated. What Do You Do with All this Time?

First of all…how are you all doing?  I’m thinking of my readers during this terrible, scary time. The safest thing for you all to do is self-isolate. That’s what I’m doing….I’ve been in my house for three weeks, seeing no one, going nowhere. My groceries are delivered…I spray them down before I touch them or put them away. 

FACT: Refrigeration doesn’t kill the virus.  Did you know the coronavirus can live in your freezer for two years?

What can you do with all of this time that you suddenly have?  Maybe start to write that short play or story that you have rattling around in your head. Now you have the time and quiet to begin writing.  Or perhaps you received a journal, as a gift, and never started writing in it. 
Here are some fun (and helpful, I hope) tips on how to BEGIN.

How To Write A Short Play
Picture walking into a room with three to five people. They are talking and you are walking into the middle of that conversation. That’s how you write a ten minute play or a short play.  You should know these people, how they express themselves, what they’re passionate about.  
Example: 

                                                     GWEN (Whispers.)  © 
Here she comes now.

                                                       SUE
 Look at her…she’s so stuck up.

                                                        GWEN
Who does she think she is?

                                                        SUE (Sarcastic.)  
Big shot on campus…just because she was first draft at the cheerleading try-outs.  I heard she was on the competition team at her last school. Took state.

                                                        GWEN
That’s just a rumor.  I personally don’t think she’s all that good.

                         (BRIDGETTE has gotten close enough to the girls to smile.  HER smile dies when SHE realizes that THEY are talking about HER. SHE                                    averts  her head and walks on by. The GIRLS whisper  just loud enough to be heard.) 

                                                           SUE 
Ice Queen! 

                                                         GWEN 
Like, so cold. The blond ice berg.

                                                          SUE
Look at her….she thinks she’s all that.

(Now. For this exercise, you, the writer, are Amanda. You walk into the middle of a conversation.)

                                                         AMANDA (Entering.)
Hi. What’re you talking about?

                                              SUE
That new girl…Bridgette. She’s so stuck-up. 

                                             GWEN
So stuck up, I can’t believe it. She’s not even pretty.

                                              AMANDA
Well, I wouldn’t say…

                                                     SUE (Cutting her off.)
You know, Debbie lost her spot on the team because of that (Aiming the word at Bridgette.)  beee-ach!

                                                             GWEN (Slightly shocked) 
Sue!

                                                               SUE
Well, she did.  And Debbie’s my friend and I don’t appreciate someone nobody even knows, ruining Debbie’s chances to cheer this year. 

                       (BRIDGETTE continues past, and at a  
                         fast walk, exits. The
GIRLS’ voices  follow HER.)

                                                             GWEN
She’s got no friends. 

                                                              SUE
Well, duh, she’s stuck up.  Doesn’t talk to anyone.

                                                        AMANDA
I’ve talked to….

                                                  GWEN (Interrupting.)
Just ‘cause she’s tall and blond and skinny doesn’t give her the right to look down on all of us.

                                                                SUE
Yeah, who does she think she is anyway?
                                                                                                       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I can almost promise you that your characters and their dialogue will sweep you down the river of words. It happens to me all the time.  Your ten minute play can go over (12-15 minutes) without much complaint from anyone. You must have an arch and a resolution even though it’s very short. If you find you cannot do this you can create a one act play. About 40 pages.  This excerpt is from a best selling (ten minute) play of mine titled Mean Girls. The play is basically about a form of bullying.  The arch occurs when the mean girls allow Bridgette a chance to join them. The resolution (and end) is they find that Bridgette is not stuck up at all but just very, very shy. 

Tune in for more about writing short stories, journaling and being creative during this stressful time.  Tuesday I’ll blog about writing a short story and Thursday I’ll write about journaling.
Note: I apologize. Word Press doesn’t always hold my formatting. I’m looking into it.  
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
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Book Review ~~ A Woman of True Honor

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing             5 out of 5 quills    ~~ Book Review 

Delicious! For fans of this genre, that is historic romances, A Woman of True Honor is a must read. Book #8 in this series, Emily Pepper is a merchant’s daughter and an heiress. She has narrowly escaped several fortune hunters trying to woo not her, but her money. And try as her family might, she has not entirely escaped ‘the stench of the shop’. 

Enter Valerian Dorning (of the True Gentlemen series) penniless, but charming and industrious, a true gentleman. He doesn’t have many prospects as a younger son of an earl because titled families are not allowed in be involved in ‘commerce’.  His book is probably not going to be a commercial success, much less read by many. 

How can an heiress and a younger son with pockets to let find their way to happily ever after.  And this is exactly where ‘delicious’ comes in. I LOVE Grace Burrowes’ style of writing and her effortless storytelling. This one is not to be missed. 

Did you miss my interview with this author?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

 

Interview with Author, Olivia Hawker (part 2)

TS. ‘Many years ago I began receiving INTERVIEWS with other authors, famous and not so famous. My goal, at the time, was to discover what processes other authors were using when writing. When I started posting these interviews I had no idea the range of methods I would discover. I wanted my interviews to be intimate; to uncover not only the author’s practices but to hopefully have the author share confidences with us. Olivia Hawker is one such author. Not in my wildest dreams would I have believed that the authors would be so generous with me and my readers.’

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

OH. Oh my goodness, that’s a fraught question for me. I won’t tell you why. I’ll just primly state that yes, I do have special rituals for my writing.
Some of the rituals I’ll tell you about include making play lists that suit the mood of whichever book I’m working on. But I can’t listen to any music while I’m writing—that weird sound-processing issue again—so instead I listen before I sit down to write for the day. Sometimes I’ll go for a drive around the island listening to my playlist, and then head back home and go up into the loft and start writing before the day gets away from me.
Another ritual I’m comfortable sharing is to check in frequently with my instincts and then TRUST THEM. I take intentional pauses in my work to really deeply inquire of myself whether this piece feels like it’s headed in the right direction, whether it’s doing the job I want it to do and sharing the specific message I want to share with the world. And whenever I get the slightest idea that this aspect or that isn’t quite right, or when I feel like something needs to be added—even if I don’t know WHY just yet—I trust that instinct and I do what my gut dictates. I don’t use beta readers. In my opinion, they aren’t really necessary for any author—though beta readers certainly can help you learn how to improve your work faster than you might learn on your own, and that’s tremendously valuable. Betas can also teach you how to take a critique and how to apply criticism to your writing: Also an extremely valuable skill. But I’ve seen too many fellow authors get so hung up on their own insecurities that they can’t do anything without the approval of a beta or two. They become so dependent on external feedback that they never learn how to listen to internal feedback—and then, I believe, there’s a real danger of losing that author’s unique, individual voice. So that’s why I trust my gut, why listening to my instincts and trusting myself are actually parts of my writing rituals.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

 OH.  I could tell you just about anything and it would be something people don’t know! I’m not a well-known author yet, though I’m successful in my profession.

 I’m comfortably mid-listing at the moment, about as far as you can get from being the kind of author about whom things are known.  But I’m very happy with that; it’s absolute bliss to get to write full-time and share my stories with the world. I suppose I can tell you that I really love spinning wool and weaving—it’s such a meditative hobby, great for chilling out—so fiber prep, spinning, and weaving usually sneak into my writing one way or another. I also love collecting antique pottery and china, and those are also things that tip-toe into many of my stories. I’m learning how to throw pottery on a wheel at present. I’m not very good at it yet!

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

OH. Most days, I write from about 7 – 11 am. Those are the hours when my brain seems to work best. But when I’m under a tight deadline, anything goes. I’ve pulled 14-hour days in the past. I don’t recommend it.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

View from my desk

OH. Stop procrastinating! Okay, serious answer: Remind yourself that your book isn’t going to write itself. It doesn’t do you any good to sit around dreaming up every single detail of your plot and all the action and every line of dialogue. You’ll forget most of what you dream up, anyway, unless you write it down, and if you’re going to write down notes, you might as well just write the damn story.

And the advice to interview your character or to make lengthy dossiers that include everything about your character’s past and present and future… Bah! It drives me nuts when I see people recommending such things to struggling writers. It won’t help, because most of what you cook up during exercises like these are irrelevant details that will have no bearing whatsoever on the actual story you’re trying to tell. You’re only wasting your time, and odds are good that you don’t have a lot of time to waste—you probably work a day job and/or have kids or other relatives to care for, or myriad other obligations. It’s hard to carve out time to write. Don’t squander it on something that won’t make you a better writer. Ultimately, at the end of all these various procrastinations, you’re still going to be looking at a blank screen. Fill the screen with words. Don’t be afraid of your own words. They’re yours; you’re in control. Usually writers stall this way because they know, either consciously or subconsciously, that what they’re going to write isn’t going to live up to the vision they have in their heads. Their stab at a scene or a chapter or an entire book is going to fall woefully short of what they’re picturing the final product will be. And whatever they produce will certainly not be as good as all the writing out there that they admire so much—the published works they’ve read, written by their favorite authors.
Well, of course your writing is going to suck! That’s fine! If you could see the unfinished works and the rough drafts your most-admired authors produce, you’d faint from shock; they’re terrible. The final products we see when we hold a print book in our hands, or when we open a favorite book on our e-readers or listen to a favorite audio book… those are FINAL products. They have been refined considerably by several rounds of edits with professional editors. There was probably also a whole swath of time where the author didn’t look at that book at all for weeks or months or years, and then came back to it with fresh eyes so they could see where to make improvements. I promise you, the first version is always awful… for everybody. And even if some other author’s first version of a manuscript is, like, ten thousand times better than what you can write at present, I guarantee you, that author looks at their first draft and says, “Yikes. Well… it’s good enough for now.”
My best-selling book so far, The Ragged Edge of Night, hit a couple of bestseller lists and was optioned for film and nominated for a few important awards and has been praised by many generous and lovely readers as a fine piece of writing. If you could have seen the first version I turned into my publisher…! The final two chapters were real pieces of poo, and I knew it. I actually included a little note to my acquisitions editor that said, “Listen, I know the last two chapters are just flat-out terrible. But at least you can see the broad strokes of how the story ends. We can fix those last two chapters in dev edits.”
So believe me, O Ye Procrastinating Writer, what you’re going to write is going to suck, and WELCOME… welcome to the brotherhood/sisterhood of Real Writers. Maybe you think Real Writers never struggle or doubt themselves, and definitely never say “Fudge it” and turn in total garbage. But we do all of those things, all the time. It’s okay that your work isn’t perfect yet. It’s okay that it might take a while and lots more practice for your work to get a little bit closer to perfect. The only way to start moving in that direction is to practice, so type one terrible sentence and then type another terrible sentence, and just keep going until the terrible recedes and you can start to see some good stuff emerging. It will emerge, if you put words on the screen. But it can’t emerge until you actually do the work and WRITE.

Q. You mentioned, in your bio, that your novels were inspired by ‘true stories from your family tree.’ Can you tell us about that?

Don’t miss Olivia’s answer in Part 3 of this insightful interview March 13th.
Read my review of “One for the Blackbird…”.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

 

Celebrating Black History Month!

Billie Holiday, black history month, African-American, people of colorBillie Holiday, jazz singer,one woman cast,segregation      A Tribute to Billie Holiday, in celebration of Black History Month.  It’s always a joy to hear Billie’s music again.

Scent of Magnolia” by Trisha Sugarek.……’tells the story of a young woman who rose above poverty, rape, bigotry, prostitution and imprisonment to become one of the most memorable and celebrated artists of the twentieth century. The one woman show portrays the life of a black jazz singer in America during the 30’s. The script does not dwell on the sensationalism of her addiction to alcohol and drugs but chooses, rather, to celebrate the whole woman and her music.

Billie tells not only her story, but our nation’s story. She interjects her tale with her most famous music as well as some of her more obscure songs. In her own words, she talks about her struggle to succeed in spite of the segregation of that time and the billie Holiday, black singers, musicians, jazz,difficulties she experienced singing with the great bands, most of which were white musicians. Without self-pity , she talks about the

(Note: Original song written by Gary Swindell, for this stage play.) daily slings and arrows that are a part of bigotry. Billie takes complete responsibility for her life, her choices, and her actions. Her triumph was her music and her songs that will live on forever.’                                          

Billie Holiday, jazz, stage play, one act play,

Latrelle Bright as Billie – 2004

black history month, billie Holiday, people of color,…….Ben Rafuse as the ‘piano man’

 

We have much to celebrate this year with people of color serving our country in the   military abroad, serving the community and nation in the political arena.  The many musicians who gave ‘birth to the blues’.

The giants and philosophers, playwrights and politicians…..authors, writers, Walter Mosley

It’s taken us over eighty years to evolve to this point, t williamssince Billie Holiday struggled as a black woman to survive in this country. …….we still have a way to go but we, as a nation, have much to be proud of. Did you miss the post about Savannah’s black orphan kids

James Baldwin, writers, authors

(Hank Aaron,  Kamala Harris, Corey Booker,

Tennessee Williams, Walter Mosley,Martin Luther King, Jr., Spike Lee,   James Baldwin, ) and thousands of others who fill our world and our history. 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~black musicians, jazz, Billie Holiday, music

 

Start your month off right!! DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS. “The Writer’s Corner” INTERVIEWS with other best-selling AUTHORS! March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 

 

So come along with me; we shall sneak into these writers’ special places, be a fly on the wall and watch them create!
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Perfect Example of Writing POV (MM…for Writers)

Sticking to a character’s POV (point-of-view) is sometimes a challenge for writers. I have been accused of ‘head-jumping’ myself. Dorothea Benton-Frank has given us a perfect example of not only writing correct POV but has done it in such a clever way that her acolytes aren’t even aware she has done it. 

In “by invitation only” she allocates each new chapter to a specific character (not a new trick) and writes exclusively from their point of view.  I never caught her wavering.  What was new and fresh about her approach was that the titles of each chapter were so darn imaginative. Only the female characters voice their POV’s and the author has chosen the ‘first person’ tense in which to write in.  Very effective.

This post is not a review of the book, per se, but if it were I would give it my highest ranking.  It’s a wonderful story and each page entertained me. Wrapped around family dynamics and a future wedding, (I don’t write spoilers) the last 100 pages bring some big surprises to an already glorious story.

Copyright – Benton Frank 2018

Aspiring writers should use this novel as a text book.

Did you miss my Interview with Dorothea Benton Frank?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
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Storytelling (Nostalgia ~ #13)

A short story, novella or full length novel often begins with a snippet of a story. Sometimes from your own past experiences, sometimes from others. Sometimes from a collage of different people melded into one. I just finished reading a 500 page novel that was born out of some brief family history of the author’s. The following memory came to me suddenly, about my Dad. Many of the subtle nuisances were lost on a child but now they make exquisite sense. 

My Dad was a ‘butcher’ his entire life. Beginning, I would assume as an apprentice when he was very young right up to being a civilian butcher on troop ships delivering men to the Korean Peninsula. (Civilian because he had lost sight in an eye during WWII and couldn’t re-enlist). After he returned and twenty years of working for someone else he bought a small butcher shop. Today his shop would have a fancier name like John’s Custom Meats, but back then I believe the signage said, ‘Meat Market’. Super Markets were just catching on but people were suspicious and preferred the specialty shops and small grocer so he did fairly well.  His work day would begin at 6a.m. and the shop would close at 6p.m. He would work another 1-2 hours moving all the trays of meat

 from the case into the cooler for the night. Then he would meticulously clean the inside of the cases. He scrubbed the top of the butcher’s block with salt and saw dust, using a wire brush. When all was clean he would collect the saw dust from the floor and replace it with fresh. 

Back in the 1950’s the meat cases were made mostly of wood, stretching the horizontal length of the front of the store. Glass in front and accessed in the back by wood-framed glass sliders.  Behind the counter was a large wooden butcher block table. But not the ‘butcher-block’ that we think of today. No, this table was made from one huge, square block of wood with legs attached. A saddle indent in the wood, on one side, was made from years of where my father (and the men he followed) stood and cut meat. The floor was covered with fresh saw-dust, changed out nightly. His knives, which no one else was allowed to touch, hung on a magnet strip on the side of the table. 

Weekly a truck would back up to the rear door of the butcher shop and my Dad would help off-load halves of a whole beef, and whole pig carcasses. Nothing was precut. My Dad would ‘break down’ the meat, cutting steaks (sirloin, rib-eye, T-bone, and Filet mignon), using a meat saw to go through bone. Racks of ribs and roasts, all cut by hand. Every left-over scrap of  beef was tossed into a bin (everything was stainless steel back then; no plastic was used). He began filling the cases with his beautiful cuts of meat. Next he would process the scraps of meat, collected earlier, through the grinder to make hamburger. (Hand cranked; he couldn’t afford electric saws or grinders back then.) There were only two grades; ‘hamburger’ (the cheapest filled with more fat and less meat) and ‘ground round’ (the leanest and most expensive.) The ground meat would fill long trays that fit inside the display case. When a customer asked for hamburger, my Dad would hand scoop one or two pounds from the tray, slap the meat into a sheet of waxed, white butcher paper and weigh it. He was never off on the weight and mostly put it on the scale for the customer’s benefit. If he had weighed heavy he never took away from the mound of meat; that would have been bad customer service in his view. In those days a butcher was allowed (by Federal regulations)  to sprinkle in a chemical that would ‘brighten’ yesterday’s hamburger that had turned a little brown. He would do this regularly and put it on ‘sale’ the next day.  

My mother would drive him to work and pick him up every night. As I mentioned, he was a veteran and had lost the sight in one eye during his time in the South Pacific, thus preventing him from driving. Frequently Mom and I would go early and help close up. Mom and Dad would also make their own sausage to sell. Using scraps of beef and pork they would make huge batches of ground meat, mixing in special spices. Placing a special tip on the grinder, they would attach a casing made of pig intestine on the end. They pressed the meat through the machine and into the casing, tying off  the lengths of sausages with a quick couple of twists of the casing.  

All the years I helped in the butcher shop I never saw my Dad dressed differently. Pure white t-shirt under a crisp white, short-sleeved dress shirt (ironed by my mother), blood stained white apron, with chino (kakis) pants. In the rear pocket was a pint of whiskey in a brown paper bag. His face was clean shaven, his fingers cracked and covered in small cuts. His hair neatly trimmed and slicked back with Brylcream. No matter what time of night we got home, my mother had dinner almost ready. Nothing left to do but ‘fry up the meat’. From the front door to the kitchen sink to wash up, to the dinner table to the couch was my father’s journey. The whiskey had navigated from the hip pocket to a glass sitting on the coffee table. Together we would watch boxing (my Dad’s passion) and shows from the 50’s:  Rawhide, Ed Sullivan, Ozzie and Harriet, What’s My Line, and Candid Camera. 

Now, with a few decades of life experiences behind me I realize my Dad was probably never without pain. Pain in his back from carrying sides of beef and long trays of meat. Working fourteen hour days. And the untreated, jungle rot (tropical ulcers) on his legs must have been excruciatingly painful by the end of each day. No wonder he lay flat on his back on the sofa, self-medicating with whiskey.

I’ll end this story with a funny anecdote.  My Dad hated the narrator for the Skippy Peanut Butter commercial on tv. This was before all of our electronic accessories  of today. But finally one day he happened to read an ad for a remote mute button. It attached to the tv by a cord that ran across the living room floor and ended in a small box with a mute button. Yes, that was it: an on and off button. It finally arrived in the mail and we hooked it up. That night, my Dad waited in anticipation for the Skippy commercial to appear during our nightly shows. The the minute the commercial began my Dad gleefully pressed the mute button and yelled at the tv, “Take that, you S.O.B!” 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer 
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Motivational Moments…for Writers (Retread)

It ‘s worth repeating. Writers!  You can do it!

Procrastination is just a word.  Write one new word, one new sentence.  Breath!  That sentence should make you want to write another.

What?  Why? When? How? Where does that sentence lead you? Breathe. It doesn’t have to be perfect…it’s the first draft.  That’s what re-writes are for.

                             ‘Writers aren’t exactly people, they’re a whole lot of people trying to be one person.’
                               – F. Scott Fitzgerald

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                                  ‘As a writer, I marinate, speculate and hibernate.’  Trisha Sugarek
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer 
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The Lost are the Last to Die ~~ Book Review

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing4 out of 5 quills ~~ Book Review

The Lost are the Last to Die by Larry D. Sweazy is a new, old west tale. 
Fans of westerns are going to love this story.  Set in the early 1900’s, the horse is being replaced by the automobile, the Great War has just ended and the lawlessness of the ‘old west’ is being rooted out.

Ranging from 1911 (flashbacks) to 1934 (present time for this story) Sweazy’s hero, Sonny Burton has enjoyed a stellar career in law enforcement. Surviving fighting in the Great War, he comes home and joins the Texas Rangers.  But life has served up a couple of career changing setbacks and Sonny must find new meaning in what seems like a meaningless life. 

The writing is superb. Larry leads the reader on an exciting chase with many twists and turns in the plot. Sonny Burton gives the reader someone worthy of rooting for. We want him to win even when it seems most unlikely.  

My Review of other Sweazy books.
Did you miss my interview with Larry Sweazy?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer 
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