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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 
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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 

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

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

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 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

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Interview with Olivia Hawker, Author (conclusion)

Q. What makes a great writer?

OH. Greatness is so subjective, I don’t even know how to begin answering that question! But it is a question worth asking.
For me, I think a writer is great—as in powerful—when they are fearless. It can be really hard to expose our true emotions and our true thoughts. Most humans fear too much criticism; we fear being shamed and we fear doing things that run counter to our culture’s expectations. So it can be really intimidating for a writer to expose an unpopular opinion or even just to write in a really emotive, vulnerable manner.
It’s so much safer and therefore more comfortable to tell stories that don’t challenge the status quo. You’ll never be shamed for going along with what’s expected of you. In fact, you’ll usually be celebrated for it. I certainly don’t think less of any writer who chooses to stick to what feels safe and comfortable, and there are a whole lot of wonderful, beloved, and frankly lucrative stories in that safe/comfortable zone; a writer can make an entire career, and be wildly successful, by being safe.
But in my opinion, you can’t achieve greatness by being safe or by serving the status quo. And certainly, when we continue to uphold the status quo, we’re directly creating a culture that upholds all the things that go along with it—hierarchies, oppressions, homogenization, the stifling of some wise and brilliant voices.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

OH. Sitting at my desk every day and putting in the work! Those initial days when I know I’ve hit on a shiny new idea and I’m so excited about it—they don’t last forever. With almost all my books, ennui sets in and I start to think of that book as a total drag. I still get it done. I’ve got a mortgage to pay; this is my only source of income and, with my lack of a degree, it’s certainly the only well-paying job I’ll ever be able to get. Better get that book done if I want to keep a roof over my head… and then I’d better move on to the next book as quickly as possible.

View from my desk

When you’re a baby writer dreaming about what it’ll be like to write full-time someday, you never imagine that vast swaths of this profession are just you glaring at your manuscript and thinking, “Ugh, I hate this piece of junk so much.” Much of the time, writing is a job like any other, with the same deadlines and grinds and frustrations and outrages. But as I said before, my worst day writing still beats the hell out of my best day doing accounts payable!

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

At my desk

OH. Oh my gosh, how have they not? For me, for my writing process (and, I suppose, the process of my inspiration, all the pre-actual-writing stuff) I can’t separate my life experiences at all. Which is kind of funny, because I never write about myself directly. This book I’m working on for Lake Union right now is the closest I’ve ever come to writing about myself, and it’s still not very close to actually writing about myself. I don’t do that thing where I make certain characters avatars for Libbie (aka Olivia)—that’s just not how my brain works. Yet I can so clearly identify exactly which bits of this character or that character are parts of me. And there is a part of me—usually a big part—in every single character I write, even the awful ones.
Really, though, I think that’s true for most authors, though some may not be fully aware of it. We may not have direct experience with the specific situations our characters are in, but we have felt all the same emotions they feel.
 I think the writers whose work really resonates with readers—the writers who become memorable instead of forgettable—are always influenced by their life experiences. How else can you write about life if you won’t allow your own life to influence your work—all of your life, the beautiful moments and the terrible ones?

Q. What’s your down time look like?

OH. I love my garden. I’m always working to expand it and I’m always tinkering with it—adding features, moving plants, improving the setup so it’s more resilient. I spend a lot of time outside with my plants and the bugs and the little garter snakes and the voles who live in my grapevine. I’m sure that answer won’t surprise anyone who has read One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow.

My garden

When weather won’t permit me to frolic among the plants (like right now—it’s snowing and it’s miserable outside) I spin yarn and occasionally I get around to knitting or weaving with the yarn I’ve spun.
I live in a pretty isolated place—my island is at least an hour from the mainland by fast boat, and sometimes the trip takes longer; even then, it’s still a couple hours’ drive to the nearest sizable city, which is Seattle. Way out here, you have to make your own fun, so I do a lot of quiet, introspective things—but I really enjoy the isolation and the solitude. Occasionally the isolation does get to me; I’m only human. Writers need those things at least as much as we need garter snakes and flowers.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

OH. Trust your gut. Go where your instincts lead you. There is no one else on the planet like you; only you can tell your story and tell it the way it wants to be told. Listen to the story when it speaks to you. Honor its desire to come forth. Be a brave and confident midwife: Bring your story into this world, and damn what anybody else thinks of it.

Did you miss the beginning? Click here.
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 
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

Book Review ~ Red Mountain Burning

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of  5 quills      ~~  A Review reviews, authors, writing

This trilogy (Red Mountain, Red Mountain Rising) is spectacular! Red Mountain Burning, while touted as the end of the series, really doesn’t tie it all up. Full Stop! End of story. (literally). So I hope this author realizes that and he finds the true ending in a fourth book. But that wish is only from a truly selfish reader and fan. I, like many other fans of Boo Walker, want more of Brooks, Otis, Joan, Jake, Margot, Emilia, , just to name some. 

The trilogy is so well written with deep characters fleshed out into real people that we know or have known.  The vines become a character in themselves in all the books. I as a reader, cared deeply about the vines doing well and the harvest being excellent. When Otis’ barrels are crushed, I was sick with regret for him and his wine. 

A word about the cover (which I rarely mention): I must take issue with it. While dynamic, it gives away too much of the story. After seeing the cover, the reader is distracted waiting for the story to get to the ‘burning’ of Red Mountain. But what a great story!

I highly recommend this book. The writing is superb, the characters well drawn; eccentric, entertaining, frustrating, and charming. Boo has relocated to Florida, in real life, and it will be fascinating to see what (if any) characters from Red Mountain follow him.
A new book is slated to be released in August this year.   

Did you miss my Interview with Boo?
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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 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

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

 

 

 

  

 

Book Review ~~ Above the Bay of Angels

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing 5  out of  5 quills            Above  the  Bay  of  Angelsreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

 

The story was great. Well written as always by Rhys Bowen. She never disappoints even when she ventures into stand-alone fiction and leaves (for a pair of seconds) her series like Her Royal Spyness and the Molly Murphy series. 

We all love an underdog who fights toward an even playing field. Hard to do for a young woman in the Victorian (Queen Victoria) era. Being of gentle birth tragedy and bad luck has forced Bella Waverly  ‘into service’; waking before dawn and cleaning fireplaces in every room of a large mansion. Her talent for cooking is soon made apparent and she is moved to the kitchen as an assistant.  She suddenly has a once in a lifetime chance at bettering her place in life. But it’s a huge risk and will mean lying to her sovereign. Can she? – Should she do it? The tale weaves and turns to a satisfying ending and I high recommend this book to my readers. 

Nurse, Circa 1937

However, the cover set my teeth on edge. The wardrobe suggested that the story was about a nurse, in the (Royal) Army Nursing Service, during the first World War and serving in India. The pinafore apron is from that era and not that of a chef. The apron for a chef/under-cook had a simple strap around the neck. Because of the nature of their work (and the women forced to wear full length sleeves), the illustrator should have placed sleeve protectors on her arms. The title was uninspired. How about: ‘The Chef and the Queen’ or ‘The Royal Chef‘ or ‘Cooking for a Queen‘.

Kitchen help, circa 1937

The cover is beside the point but I couldn’t help but critique it. It’s the work of a graphic designer at the publisher not that of Ms. Bowen. The cover designer should have done their research more thoroughly.  The author and the book certainly deserved better. 

 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

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

 

 

 

  

 

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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Review: Christmas in Winter Valley by Jodi Thomas

 

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

 

This story was perfect  reading for the holiday season. While it did rely heavily on readers knowing the back stories from the series (Random Canyon Romance) it was entertaining and charming. So many characters in this one, but my favorites were Coop, Tatum, Tye, Creed, Dani and of course the horses. I didn’t connect with the other brothers, Elliot and Griffin. They weren’t as well drawn as the others. 

While I enjoyed the story immensely, the whole thing felt rushed. I felt rushed. I wish there had been less story lines and more story. And my only real criticism was the need for the wacky half-cousins, trashing the house, getting drunk, (no character development); they were here, they were gone and they seemed superfluous to the story plot. (Delete key!) And Creed rashly hooking up with the redhead. He wouldn’t do that. He’s too careful about life.  

This is not to say I didn’t finish the book with relish and left wanting more. 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

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