Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Rewards

I spent many years teaching young children. I taught first graders for seven years and pre-k classes for eighteen years. For me, it was a joyful experience. I read stories, sang songs, made dough sculptures, and macaroni necklaces. Learning the alphabet was great! We baked applecrisp for the letter a, bread for b, and carrot cake for c.

Some of my students presented quite a few challenges, but that's where I honed my teaching skills. It wasn't always an easy job--even working with small children, but it was very rewarding. I got plenty of smiles, hugs, and kisses.

Recently, I've seen some of my former students. They are so grown up. :^) Talking with them and knowing that they've done well in life has been the biggest bonus of all. Obviously, I had a very small part in their success, but I was at the beginning--and that's an important place to be.

Do I miss teaching? Sometimes, but I have other responsibilities now and I always have my writing. I have been productive since I retired from teaching. I finished Daddy Wanted and got a contract for it. I finished The Pirate's Wraith and have been searching for a publisher interested in time travel. I have one third of Patriot's Heart written and hope the writing challenge of JerRoWriMo will speed my word count along.

I am grateful I was able to teach. There was never a dull day in the classroom and we shared far more laughter than tears. For anyone looking for a career, I highly recommend it--as long as you've got plenty of patience and a positive attitude. You won't get rich in a classroom, but the rewards will warm your heart for the rest of your life.

Friday, January 25, 2013

My Mother's High School Class

Cecil Township is in western Pennsylvania. Mom is in the second row from the bottom, the third student from the left side. My mother has such curly hair in the photo! Her hair was naturally straight. Since most of the young ladies have curly hairstyles in this class picture, I assume curls were in vogue.

Mom kept in touch with a few of her classmates. There were some reunions, but as she grew older she could no longer attend the event, the town was about four hundred miles away from where my parents lived. That is one of the reasons why I think social media is a great invention. Keeping in touch is so much easier. Sharing photos is a breeze.

Mom went to art school after high school. Then she joined the Marines and spent World War II in California. Afterwards, she came back east. She was working in a photography studio in Jersey City when she met my father.

It would be interesting to know how the rest of her classmates fared after they graduated.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Thumb and the Synovial Cyst

Last month, a bump appeared on my thumb. I searched around on the internet and decided it must be a ganglion cyst. My primary care doctor thought it probably was that, too. He chuckled and said the old time method to remove it was to hit it with a heavy book. Hubby volunteered to whack it for me, but I declined his offer. (There are scores of videos of people on YouTube smashing ganglion cysts with books. I DO NOT recommend it.)

I went to a specialist yesterday who informed me it was a synovial cyst. He took X-rays and also diagnosed me with arthritis in my fingers, too. Well, my fingers have been very busy for a long time so I shouldn't have been surprised.

The specialist believes surgery to be the best option. However, he said I should think about it as long as it isn't bothering me and it isn't growing larger.

I don't like the idea of going through surgery. I also don't like the idea of not being able to get my thumb wet for two weeks, keeping my hand above my heart, etc.

Daughter #1 volunteered to cook supper but I suspect we would be eating hot dogs and beans for the duration.

I got brave this year and signed up to write 30,000 words next month with JeRoWriMo, NJRW's February writing challenge event. I don't want to miss out on that!

One of my friends suggested massaging the cyst everyday and I may do that because for now I've decided to wait. The cyst isn't that big and it's not bothering me. Having surgery would be a huge expense for such a small thing.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Jenny Milchman's Book Launch Party

On the left in the photo is Jenny Milchman who is introducing Lois Winston on the right. Jenny Milchman had a book launch party at Mendham Books, in Mendham, NJ, last night. Jenny Milchman's Cover of Snow, is a thriller published by Ballantine Books.

I "met" Jenny in an author's discussion forum at Amazon. I read her blog, which includes Made It Moments--the success stories of other authors. It took a long time for Jenny's dream of publication to become a reality so at her launch party she allowed others to speak about their hopes and dreams.

Lois Winston spoke of the literal dreams which started her on the road to publication. Shelley Freydont, pictured in the photo below started out as a professional dancer, but she, too, had vivid dreams which led her to write.

A poet spoke of her love of words. A teacher spoke of her desire to make the world a better place. Rabbi Ilene Schneider just wants to entertain those who read her books.

Hubby wanted me to speak so he could take a photo of me. :^) My hope is that nobody makes the mistake I did in getting an agent who charged a hefty fee just to take me on as a client. I lost a lot of money in the process and the agent did not help my writing career at all--also she made me a lot poorer.

As usual, I digressed so I don't know if anyone really got the message, but just in case make sure you read this article about agents.

It was a wonderful evening! Mendham Books is a terrific bookstore. Jenny Milchman is a talented and gracious author. I am glad hubby and I braved the rush hour traffic on Route 287 so we could join in the party.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Solitude and Creativity for the Writer

Writing is a solitary occupation. Putting words on paper--or the computer screen--involves a lot of concentration. As an author, I record my daydreams and then offer them to others for their entertainment. If readers enjoy my story, they might buy another one of my creations. If not, I have to come up with a better flight of fancy.

Ideas are everywhere, but a book must be specific--it cannot wander around as real life does. There must be a point to the story and it needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. That process takes a great deal of thought. Sometimes I hit a dead end when I'm writing. Sometimes I'm not sure I'm leading my characters along the right road.

I've found the creative process can often be nurtured with solitude. When I was younger and raising three small children, sometimes the only solitude I could find was in a trip to the supermarket or a session of folding laundry in my bedroom. Now that I'm older, I find a quiet walk conducive in stimulating my mind.

I found several interesting articles on solitude and creativity but this one, The Lost Art of Solitude, by Leo Babauta, offers a good guide to finding some quiet space to allow your imagination to flourish.

Give solitude a try.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mom's Secret Rice Pudding Recipe

This is a photo of my mother from probably around 1952 (I'm guessing). For the record, my mother did not drink much alcohol at all. However, she did spend a lot of time in the kitchen. That mixer on the counter lasted throughout her lifetime.

She was a good cook despite the fact that she only owned one cookbook. Most of the meals she made were standard fare she had learned to cook from her mother without a cookbook. As a child, I remember Mom's meatloaf with great fondness but she also baked chicken, fried porkchops, boiled cottage ham with cabbage and potatoes. She worked for hours to make heavenly stuffed cabbage. She served an assortment of vegetables, though cauliflower in cream sauce was one of my personal favorites along with her green beans in cream sauce with bacon. She often served lima beans with breakfast sausages for supper and on Fridays we sometimes got a concoction of tunafish in a cream sauce with peas. I forget what the official name of that dish was, but she jokingly called it chicken of the sea to fool my sister who hated tunafish.

As time went on, she added "newer" dishes like chili to the menu. She made pizza from scratch, too. Everything she cooked was tasty and filling--and she cooked enough for an army. (Maybe because she grew up in a family with five brothers!)

When it came to baking, my mother's creations were the stuff of dreams. She should have opened a bakery. Her pies, cakes, cookies, breads, doughnuts and cream puffs were better than anything else I've ever sampled. Dessert was served everyday. None of us in the family were overweight.

I had a great childhood.

Mom had one secret recipe. She had gotten it when she was young and worked as a waitress. The owner of the restaurant gave it to her and asked her not to give it away. However, as the years went by, my mother gave it away to anyone who asked for it. So it really wasn't much of a secret, but she always called it that.

So for all you lovers of rice pudding, here's the best rice pudding recipe ever, Mom's secret recipe. :^)

1 Quart of Milk
1 Quart of Water
1/2 Cup Sugar
3/4 Cup Rice

Bring the mixture together in a pot on the stove, and let it simmer for 1 hour. (Mixture should become thick. Also you need to stir it every now and then.)

THEN, in a small bowl put:

2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Sugar


Pour in some of the hot rice mixture into the small bowl and blend so eggs DO NOT curdle.

Slowly pour the egg mixture into the mixture on the stove and let it simmer about 15 minutes.


Add 3 Tablespoons Butter, 1 Teaspoon Vanilla. Pour into a pan and sprinkle with cinnamon.


Tuesday, January 08, 2013

A Passive Verb

I had an overabundance of thats in Daddy Wanted, but I have an overabundance of wases in The Pirate's Wraith.

Was is a good word and used constantly in spoken English, but it is a passive verb. It is far, far better to use action verbs in a book.

Here is a passage peppered with the offending verb:

While none of this could be real, in the distance she heard haunting music played on a tin whistle. She did not know the melody, but it was in a minor key and the plaintive notes tore at her heart.

She had been in a horrific crash. Maybe she was actually dead. Maybe this whole scenario was simply happening on some other plane because her soul was now disconnected from her body...

But her body felt heavy and real. Damn. If she was dead wouldn’t she be either in heaven or hell? A terrible chill wound around her heart. Could this be hell? Surely not, for dead people did not eat or drink.

But maybe they thought they did. Maybe the bowl held virtual broth. She sipped more of it. It felt good going down, warming her right to her toes. She peered at the broth with suspicion.

“Is there alcohol in here?”

Here is my current edit after removing the problem. Of course, I changed a few other details in this segment and I still have some passive verbs in it--like be. So I may cross something out and redo it again. That's the problem with writing!

While none of this could be real, in the distance she heard haunting music played on a tin whistle. She did not recognize the melody, but the plaintive notes in a minor key struck a sad chord in her heart and troubled her.

She had been in a horrific crash. She could be dead. Her soul might well be disconnected from her body. The impression of activity about her could be happening on some other plane.

Did the dead go to heaven or hell? A terrible chill wound around her heart. Could this be hell? But her body felt heavy and real. Dead people neither ate nor drank, but maybe they went through the motions. Maybe the bowl held virtual broth. She sipped more of it. It warmed her right to her toes as it went down. She peered at the broth with suspicion.

"Is there alcohol in here?"

Writing is fun but editing is work. A writer must be both creative and meticulous about detail. Much of the good stuff in a book comes about on the third or fourth round of editing.

Computers make it easier. I love the delete key. :^)

Friday, January 04, 2013

Christmas Past

This is a photo of my family's first Christmas in Cliffwood Beach. My parents bought what was originally destined to be a summer bungalow and converted it to a full-time residence. The French doors led out to nothing at first. Years later an addition was built with a larger living room. The room pictured in the photo became the dining room.

Everything was small and cozy. We were happy and loved. That's really all that mattered.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year

Tempus fugit. Time flies. (Or flees if you're concerned about the original Latin translation.) 2012 is history. 2013 presents opportunities. A whole lot of luck would be a nice thing to own, but it is something I don't count upon. If I want to get another book published, I have to write it, edit it, present it to editors, get rejected, and keep plugging away at the book until someone decides it is worthy of their publishing house. Or I can publish it myself, a wonderful option but it requires even more effort because then I am responsible for everything!

In 2012, I happened to catch a post announcing that the Prism Book Group was looking for manuscripts. I never heard of them until that point, but I decided to give them a try and they decided to give me a contract for Daddy Wanted.

That was either luck, a happy coincidence, an answer to prayers, or some sort of cosmic karma thing where the stars lined up just for me. I don't know--although I prefer to think God is listening to me, watching out for me, or trying to direct me. (Which is, I'm sure, a nearly impossible task.)

My mother, the daughter of immigrants, was extremely concerned about luck. Steeped in the traditions of my grandparents' old ways, she kept the rituals she felt would guarantee her a fine future. Though she was intelligent, she feared letting go of the ancient customs that had been handed down to her. Therefore, Mom roasted pork every New Year's Day but even more important to her was the poppyseed roll. If we did not have a poppyseed roll, she knew the coming year would be a disaster. When she became too frail to bake a poppyseed roll, I baked them--or bought them.

We often complained to Mom about some years that were very difficult. She warned us that things would have been worse if we had not eaten the poppyseed.

We will be eating pork today. We will have poppyseed rolls, too, which I purchased for an exorbitant amount. The rolls won't taste as good as homebaked, but I saved myself some time in the kitchen.

I know there will be good times and bad times this year. One special meal isn't going to change things. I know I have to glue myself to the chair and type out as many awesome stories as possible if I expect to get anywhere in the book business.

Still, I will be thinking of my mother when I put that poppyseed roll in my mouth. And maybe, just maybe she can shine a little love down on us as we sit around the table. That would be worth more than luck to me.