Saturday, August 18, 2018

When I Began Writing


I've always been a voracious reader since age seven, but I never thought about writing until thirty years later. 

An employer asked my husband to move to Colorado Springs, but within a six months my husband had changed to a job in St. Louis. Our children were in the middle of a school year, and we had a rental agreement in place, so the kids and I stayed in Colorado for six months.

I spent many days alone while the children were at school and evenings while they were doing homework, or watching TV, or getting ready for bed, and I found the millionaires (now billionaires) falling in love stories I bought bored me. They all seemed to have the same plot and characters with different names. 

So I began thinking about what could be different and what might interest me, and since we had one of the early Trash 80 computers, I began writing to entertain myself. It was about two teenagers, Gina and Wade, who for some reason I can't remember drove to Las Vegas after their prom, which wasn't too far away. They woke up hungover and returned home and split up only to meet again several years later to discover they were married. I know: another father didn't know about his child story. They were not so common then. Whatever I wrote was lost with time, but with a new and better computer, I started writing again when we moved to Missouri. It was then I discovered I wasn't interested in contemporary romance but in fantasy. Before that story was finished, I started a science fiction novel. 

These remained only on my computer. I did send one out but got a rejection. After gong back and reading what I sent in, I found that was only a just judgment as the manuscript was full of mechanical mistakes and plot errors. I rewrote it several more times before sending it out again. Wings e-Press accepted it.

I have discovered I write for the pleasure of writing, of creating an alternate world, and I'm not concerned about mega-sales, just ones that please those who read them.

Please visit the following authors for their comments on how they began writing:

Connie Vines
Victoria Chatham 
Skye Taylor
Judith Copek
Dr. Bob Rich
Beverley Bateman
A.J. Maguire 
Fiona McGier
Margaret Fieland

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A Second Excerpt from Home World Reax

Jencet, the assistant and body guard to the Primus of Reax's government, has been assigned the duty to track down the escapee-traitor of the genetically defined genomes of Reax's Houses. It is not a duty he relishes but he is determined to find the renegade Maera and bring her back to Reax where she owes obligated duty.
(First Excerpt)

 ~*~
“Eagle now Raven Jencet, it is a pleasure to have you visit our domicile.”

“Likewise, it is my privilege, Falcon Leader Duvan.”

“As I believe private government business brought you here, I will take you to my office.” Duvan did not lead him down the staircase, but along a front corridor to its very end where an elegant embossed copper door faced them. A sentry at a desk looked at Jencet with suspicion. Duvan ordered his officer to bring beverages and food to his office.

The spacious office contained a beautiful circular view that drew Jencet to the window. Downward and to the right, a river curled between two cliffs far below the office. Even from this height Jencet saw the white ripples of fast moving water and the native vegetation lining the cliff face. The first settlers labeled the native plants ferns. He knew these ferns something far different, poisonous, and dangerous, but Reax valued them for the products they made. Earth native species had escaped cultivation and now grew in Reax’s wilds.

He contemplated the fact that not only had humans changed Reax, but also other life forms. In turn, Reax changed them. A view of the Essence City stretched across the land further to the left. The Luminary Edifice towered at its center. Jencet enjoyed the rare combination of wild Reax and disciplined genome structure provided in the view.

He stood in front of the window several minutes with Duvan next to him. Finally, he said, “Magnificent.”

“Yes, it is, thank you. Take a seat and tell me your business.”

Once seated, Jencet began. “You had a tyro name Maera nine years ago.”

Duvan kept any surprise or affront from his expression, but Jencet noticed the leader’s brief hesitation.

“Yes. She failed her Engagement.”

“Can you tell me about her?”

“First, why?” Duvan asked.

“With your permission?” Jencet indicated the wall screen. Duvan nodded and pressed a
connection. From his connex, Jencet pulled up the image on the wall screen showing the United Planets envoy’s visit in the Genome Chamber from several years ago. “Do you recognize the woman behind the envoy?”

At first Duvan had no reaction, and then he could not disguise his shock. His eyes widened in an intense stare of utter astonishment at the image. He blinked several times before he resumed his calm Falcon bearing. “It is her. How is that possible?”

“For security reasons, you must not reveal the information I am giving you.”

Duvan gave the Air Realm’s sign of promise and trust. “Of course.”

“Information brought to Dominion Primus Dakeene predicted not all tyros gone missing from Engagement died.”

“They either died or the Incarnates stole and subverted them,” Duvan said in a very implacable constabulary tone.

Jencet, against Raven teaching, felt his lips twitch. “In most instances, usually the first, and in the more recent past, the second, yes, but in certain instances some thought a few tyros left before initial Engagement, choosing not to come back. Maera proved their theory.”

Duvan shook his head still staring at the screen. “I attended that day in the Genome Chamber. I remember seeing the envoy and her entourage. I ignored the officer as just another Alliance assistant to the envoy. Believing Maera dead, I never looked for her among the staff. I swear I did not know. How…?”

“From United Planets records, I have received this information. She changed her name to Maera Lacklan, supposedly one of their war displaced, and became an Alliance citizen.”

“I will find and kill her,” Duvan said, unexpected anger filling his face.

“No, you will not. I will find her and bring her back to Dakeene’s justice.”

The Falcon Leader head shook in disbelief, and then looked at Jencet in near apology. “She has brought embarrassment to her House. Again.” He studied the screen. “Is she wearing a  uniform? Something else I did not notice at the time.” His admission seemed to mortify the Falcon Leader. He gave Jencet a swift glance. “At that time, Tyb remained Falcon Leader, and I seldom approached her. I only saw her from my seat in the chamber, but hindsight shows I might need to hone my Falcon training.”

“She was an officer in the Alliance Rangers, but does not wear a dress uniform, probably a deliberate dress-down, perhaps at the envoy’s request. I’m sure they didn’t want to present a militaristic presence. Nor does she wear all her badges and honors. However, I also know she earned some of those later. According to the records I discovered, she became a highly decorated officer of numerous engagements in the recently ended Khajari War. She also received degrees from two prestigious universities on Earth with very high scores.” He brought up copies of the degrees to the screen.

Duvan leaned back into his seat, his visage never leaving the screen’s view. “One degree in military science and another in mathematics? Who would have thought…?” The anger left his frame, and Jencet recognized the man’s new introspective, almost cunning, resolve. With another fast glance his way, Jencet saw Duvan considered the situation’s possibilities. “She became very successful.” Settling comfortably back in his chair, he gave Jencet a cool look. “What do you need to know?”

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Danger and Somtimes Violence in Writing

I want to begin with definitions of danger and violence because I've noticed people often understand a word from different perspectives.

My definition of danger, based on Merriam Webster’s Online, is being within the jurisdiction, reach, or range of someone powerful, or deranged, or holding evil intent, and/or someone holding the control, desire, influence, and intent to harm someone else. Another aspect of the definition is being near or immersed in something liable to cause injury, pain, harm or loss. Danger implies fear, worry, and sudden change.

Danger can lead to violence, which is the use of physical force to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy someone or something, or to cause injury by verbal actions using distortion, interference, or opposition. It can also be the intense, turbulent, furious or destructive actions or forces such as accidents or storms. Intense feelings expressed in vicious display of physical or verbal behaviors can qualify as violent even if no one is physically injured. Violence implies a cost, perhaps in esteem, physical loss, or trauma.

In my writing these definitions show a wide range of situations able to become dangerous or violent, which sometimes comes from or leads to depravity on a character's part and often trauma for another character.

All stories need drama, and emotion and physical tension creates this between characters or the situations they will endure. These are often both psychological and physiological. Emotional reactions to any number of situations can add drama to a story. Tension also develops when the read knows a character's actions will lead to danger. The character attempting to avoid violence can also lead to intense suspense. 


Have I used danger and violence within my stories? Yes, and the scenarios are often based on the types of violence done by humans in different eras of history. Most of our most esteemed eras of history have had very gruesome practices in war and in punishment of criminals, opponents, and slaves. I’ve used these in some stories; some graphically described and some only implied. It all depends on the character, the situation, its time and the location.

The reader's reaction, often based on their personal emotions, morals and experiences, determines if the type of violence in the story hooks them into reading more or stops them reading all together.

Please check these author's view on this topic:

Dr. Bob Rich
Victoria Chatham
Connie Vines
Anne Stenhouse  
A.J. Maguire 
Marci Baun 
Skye Taylor
Fiona McGier
Anne de Gruchy
Judith Copek

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Over Population & Global Warming

Whether global warming is the fault of humans or just a natural cycle as many seem convinced, the results will still have catastrophic effects on our human population, and with the rate of growth in population, we have severely limited our sustainability options.

After thousands of years of habitation on Earth, the human population reached one billion in the first decade of the 19th century. In the past 200 years the population has grown to seven billion and increases by a billion every twelve to fourteen years. Much of this, of course, is due to better nutrition, disease prevention, and safer environments, yet not all of Earth's citizenry have shared in this advantage. World-wide poverty and hunger remains a huge problem. A Scientific American article in October of 2011 titled “Human Population Reaches 7 Billion--How Did This Happen and Can It Go On?” talks about this issue and how long the Earth can sustain such growth.

Some countries have seen birth rates lowering, including the United States, but it probably is not enough on an Earth where we are consuming 150% or more of the Earth’s resources each year. It isn’t only land mass that we are taking over for raising food and for habitation, but we are also using more fresh water and more oxygen while having the highest extinction rate for other plants and animals on the planet since the end of the dinosaurs. We need all of those plants and animals. Our survival and their survival are tied together in many ways. We cannot live as the only species on Earth with the ‘selected’ species we chose to save. Every living thing has a purpose. Humans might not like the purpose, but we don't always understand the overall mission. 

 
If you have children or grandchildren, you need to be concerned. What type of world are we leaving behind us when we pass? What type of life are we leaving our progeny? Yes, we are an inventive species and may develop some creative means to counter some of the effects of too many people on a planet limited by size and resources, but at what cost? 


Once started on a path, the Earth follows its own dictates, and might not respond to human cajoling. It's more likely to slap us. And no, it's not my fallacy or other global warming believers' deceit or miscalculation, but a fact borne out by research which we have ignored for thirty years or more. We are now seeing those predictions come true in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. As the Earth continues to warm up, change will affect more environments and the people living not only in those sites but also everyone worldwide. Along with the possibility of warming waters changing ocean currents, we must also contend with the change in water chemistry of the oceans. Yet another problem with which to contend.
 
We have had many warnings, and I don’t understand those who ignore the news or who think the information unbelievable ‘fake’ facts. Some, I know, believe God will save us, but the deity only gave us dominion over the Earth and never promised a second chance if we destroyed the first one. So please wake up and start taking this news as important before it becomes an even greater crisis (maybe already too late). Start thinking about how you can live and what you can do to begin encouraging change for a sustainable population and resource allotment. Many internet and books tell steps to take. This article by Renee Jacques in 2017 explains how to start.

At the same time you might start asking yourself why so many of our national and world leaders in general don't speak on this issue. Why? What is their purpose?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Writing's Difficulties

Writing is seldom easy, and the difficult parts can span a wide range of issues. My most frequent issues deal with things like a temporary shortage of ideas, displeasure with the story's current trajectory, and deciding how far a character will go to get what he or she wants. While some scenes seem to write themselves, others are problematic, displaying empty white space on the screen staring back at me while I think of how to handle a particular situation.

While I start out with a plot line, my last round-robin blog post showed me once I start writing, anything goes, which is where I often run into trouble. I change scenarios, new characters pop in, and my main characters change their minds or make dumb choices.

Questions always abound. What is the next step to take? Should it be a logical expectation or something unexpected? What else might happen? How can bizarre events be linked logically together into the story line? Will such a change paint the story into a dead-end corner? Is the dialogue meaningful to the story, show something about the character speaking, or just babble? How do I transition from this scene to the next scene? For that matter, when should a scene end? What happens next? Answering these types of questions is the only way to that allows me to move the story forward.

One reason I have trouble with contemporary themes is that technology is changing so fast and not mentioning something correctly, not only in social context, but also as used, can affect a reader's belief in the story.

I have left some stories without an ending, whether from lack of incentive or something else that has called me away--usually another story. Often I return later, sometimes a long time later, because I never like the idea of giving up on a story. Writing takes a lot of time and work but if something can be saved and continued, I'll keep trying.


Visit the following author's posts to read their thoughts on this topic.

Dr. Bob Rich
Marie Laval
Connie Vines 
Beverley Bateman
Marci Baun
A.J. Maguire 
Helena Fairfax
Anne Stenhouse 
Diane Bator
Fiona McGier
Skye Taylor
Margaret Fieland

Victoria Chatham

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Ensuring a Story's Logic & Interest


Every good story begins with some type of hook in the first chapter, where an unhappy situation of the main character's life is revealed. The following chapters depict the ups and downs of the character's journey to either success or failure, often depending on the type of person the character displays.

The first step is the main character makes a decision to change their life, or someone else, or circumstance might make it for them. From there the character either accepts this challenge or not, but makes a decision and takes actions to change their some aspect of their life. This leads to a challenging journey of discovery. With each new decision, action, and outcome, the character will meet with more challenges where, again, they will either succeed (temporarily) of face defeat, regroup, and take another attempt or another direction. The more emotional turmoil the character displays over these challenges, the more the reader identifies with the character, and becomes more involved in the story.

The ending usually reflects on the beginning in some manner, and whatever changes are manifested in the story, the character either accepts how they have changed as a person or accepts the changes in their life.

Along the way, other characters will also affect the main character's emotions, drive, and the results of their efforts.

This all seems very simplistic, but while the story pattern remains similar, the story arc can change in infinite ways, which is what makes the writing original and makes the reading a pleasure. Further, all of this depends on the author's purpose and planning while writing the story which translates a simple plan into a difficult, time and thought consuming experience.

Please visit the following author's websites to learn their opinion on this topic:

Skye Taylor
Marci Baun
Judith Copek
Margaret Fieland
A.J. Maguire
Beverley Bateman
Anne de Gruchy
Dr. Bob Rich

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Summer Vacation but I still have work to do

Here it is May after a very hard north-central Michigan April. It was a hard, dark spring, but the last few days have been pleasant and sunny although rain is on its way. All of the daffodils exploded into bloom in one week. That sort of describes my attitude, too. My winter goal is complete: Monday the 5th I loaded my final grades onto the college's site. For the summer, I've made a list of things I want to accomplish. I have so many unfinished lists, so I've limited this one. As far as traveling, it will be happening only in my mind.

I have much to accomplish this summer including writing more in three different works-in-progress with the question of where to go having stalled all threes' progress. Home World Reax comes out in June, and ideas for another story or two to make this another series have been plaguing my mind. Every time I start writing I have to re-read what I've already written.

Along with the fiction writing, I'd like to write one or two short personal essays. I'll be working on my garden, too, which is in horrid condition right now, beds need cleaning, seeds planting. Hopefully I can keep the deer from demolishing it this summer. I also have work to do on the house, I want to do some painting and perhaps some doodle art, and I have a lot of seasonal cleaning to accomplish. Plus, along with my rowing I need to get back on a walking schedule.

Does anyone actually get to do exactly what they want to do when they want to do it? It seems I have major unplanned interruptions with everything I want to accomplish.

A long time ago I took a quilting class in St. Charles, Missouri. The instructor said she used the Swiss cheese method of completing a project. She made a small hole of accomplishment here, another hole at another time, and on and on, until her quilt was finished. I've found that advice works well on many different projects: a little bit here, a little bit there.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Home World Reax coming in June


Wings is publishing my book Home World Reax this June.

I enjoy placing characters in new worlds of the future. In this story, Reax is a world whose initial colonist wanted to improve the human genome through selective breeding alone. Soon specific genomes chose names based on their lore from their initial home, Earth. These 'houses' chose the names of animals based on their history of Earth and what characteristics those animals showed. Maera is from Falcon House, the home of keen investigators and peace constables. The very fact Reax has a house specializing in police work tells you much about Reax's success in breeding better people, but in any world times and goals always change

Maera is a young woman abused by her caretaker throughout her childhood. She is smart enough to plan her escape.

Here is an excerpt from Maera's escape on the way home from "Engagement," an initiation Reaxan elites use, sending 'tyros' to foreign places for a year to earn their place in their house. Maera is making sure her best and only friend makes it home from Engagement, too.
~*~
Nothing seemed worse to Maera, as a halfbreed, than returning to Reax, not when freedom came within her grasp. No one from the Falcon or Swan Houses expected either of them to return, nor did the Genome Council’s Engagement Committee. They had purposely sent Sareen to this location, anticipating her failure. Well, not exactly this location, but one more hostile than this place, and me to one far more dangerous.Sareen would return, and they would accept her back, look closer at her genome, and perhaps scratch their collective heads. Luckily, she would not return. Her cavalier rearrangement of assignments would never come to the council’s knowledge. Her situation of being ‘unseen’ and marginalized ended. Now she began a life dedicated to achieving her own goals.

Sareen’s Engagement dislocation they would attribute to a mix-up in assignments, and who but the swaggering Wolf House’s Vulk, one of the councilor’s sons originally assigned an easy location on Ubret, should serve Sareen’s much harsher assignment? The young man most likely had survived his Engagement, so his merit would certainly increase. Maera grinned at the thought. That young man had bragged about his easy placement location. It made a lie of the committee’s claims of fair assignments based on assessments.

Which made her own return too dangerous an act of defiance. She wondered if her house had specifically asked for a terminating assignment. Did hateful Uslina have influence there? Had the Genome Council cleansed the houses of unwanted genomes throughout the ages through this ploy? She believed it. House tyros who refused placement went to the gen’rals, condemning their children to life outside any house.

It no longer mattered. She could not afford to go back, not after all her illegal snooping and modification in protected databanks, nor did she want to return. She wanted escape. Freedom. Her homecoming would have sparked an investigation, and even one tiny thread unraveling could entangle her in a mass of trouble. Her failure to return would please many. They would call it proof she did not deserve house recognition.

If Falcon House had unintentionally taught her anything, it taught her survival. And self-reliance, she amended. Truth to tell, her house accepted neither her genome half nor her wild, unknown half. From her aunt’s harshness, she had learned how to avoid and escape bad situations, how to help herself, how to prevent others from discovering she helped herself, and most important, how to keep secrets… and how to discern them.

Learning the Genome Council orchestrated who passed Engagement only confirmed her suspicions. It did not matter anyway. She did not care about the members’ secrets, except how they might have affected her and Sareen. That she achieved—safe return for her friend, self-determination for herself.

She heard Sareen approach and stop next to her. Maera turned her face toward the far off horizon, giving Sareen time to recover from the last segment of their walk. Finally, she lowered her gaze to Sareen. Her friend’s gaze looked downward, encompassing the port, her tired satisfaction in her
achievement apparent. Maera could not hide the self-satisfied smile she felt cover her face.

“I’m not joking, Sare. I’m not going back. That life is for you and the other genome pures.”

“You should not use that gen’rals slur, especially as we go home,” Sareen said in a very soft, non-confrontational voice of warning. “You don’t know who you could offend.”

Maera shrugged. A few unmentionable gen’rals had helped her survive. She started brushing the dust off her pant legs. Thoughts of past hurts and future dreams wrapped in a tumbling jumble of anticipation she could taste. “Anyhow, even if I did return, they’d probably only find cause to send me to the gen’rals. You know they would. I wouldn’t even mind that, not the supposed shame, or nothing else.” She looked at Sareen, “Except I have other plans.” Her voice throbbed with an excitement hard to hide.

Sareen’s distressed gaze made contact everywhere except Maera’s eyes, showing her evasive agreement with the prognosis. Maera raised a hand over her eyes to look at the view below them. The port spread in a vast meadow of architecture, machinery, and paved confusion, the only place on Ubret where technology reigned. People going places and doing things filled the area.

Maera wanted to run, jump, and leap her way there. She side-glanced at Sareen, read the stubborn look, and then looked at the spaceport again. “It’s just, Sare. Really it is. I want this. You want to go
back. That’s just, too.”

“I’ll go with you. We can’t waste a miracle.”

Sareen’s words, barely above a whisper, interrupted Maera’s speeding anticipation. She spoke without thought. “No miracle, Sare.” Then she realized her admission. Sareen still believed their meeting a sheer accident.

~*~
Nine years after Maera's escape, Reax has suffered a civil war and a devastating plague that has decimated the population. The colony is in a dire situation, and Raven Jencet, formerly of Eagle house and now of Raven House, is sent out to bring this successful soldier and financier home, but he considers her a renegade traitor.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Establishing a Story

At first when I thought about this topic, I thought I didn't have any established method for organizing a story. Thinking about it I discovered maybe I do, I just approach it from a different angle each time. It's like a macramé where an assortment of threads are wrapped, knotted, or twisted together and in different directions to create a finished design.

For me, usually a vague, downtrodden female character arrives first. That sounds very gender divisive, but in defense of my genderism, I do tend to write for female readers, and also want to relay that I have recently had a male character emerge along with a story idea and a crew of associates. Since I've been writing, I've also had secondary characters from one story attract my attention, which has led to their own story and the creation of a series of related stories. I think good stories are made to promote growth of thought and ideas for both reader and author, so maybe this is normal.

After characters comes determining a rough story idea and where the story will take place. I do tend to follow the advice in Propp's Morphology of the Folk Tale, Chistopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey, and Joseph Campell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces, so one of the next steps is to find characters who will become allies, antagonists, mentors, gatekeepers, or other archetypes. I often worry about my characters being too much alike since they are coming from the same brain, so I have used John M. Oldham, M.D. and Lois B. Morris' Personality Self-Portrait, Why You Think, Work, Love and Act the Way You Do, to help structure some of my characters.

Then I think about a world where these characters and their story takes place. From my previous stories, I have already created my writing worlds based on different readings, too. One is a galactic world and another a fantasy Renaissance type world for stories. I continue to use these worlds, but new locations pop up in these two very different types of worlds. World creation takes place in any Earth-bound story, too, because all locations and local cultures differ. If these do not have a ring of truth for the reader, they will be disenchanted with the world.

I've read about authors being either pantsers or plotters, but think I am a blend of the two, leaning toward being a plotter. I do map out a general outline from start to finish including all my ideas about the story and where it might go, including points of tension, the trials and triumphs, but once I start writing things always go in very different directions during the process. Sometimes I need to take a break from a story and think about what has happened and where those events might lead. It can be a slow process.

Please visit these other participants and read their views on this topic:
Skye Taylor
Dr. Bob
A.J. Maguire
Marci Baun
Beverley Bateman
Margaret Fieland
Connie Vines
Judith Copek

Thursday, April 19, 2018

April Fools

The end of March had been going out like a lamb, until the last day. I knew when we had a heavy snow storm on that last day, April Fool's Day had struck early. With Easter also being on April first, it was a double jibe. I didn't expect it to last throughout the month. April is supposed to indicate an end to winter's vagaries, at least it is here in Michigan. Today, the 19th, is one of the few days with sun this month.

Yet that first storm was only a predictor for a wild and woolly April. One storm after another has blown through the Midwest and up into the Great Lakes Region. Traverse City has had about 30" of snow. This was not feather-light, fluffy snow but heavy half-ice snow.

Last week I heard a talk on NPR with a local climatologist. He said this was part global warming and part Michigan's tendency to have weather flip-flops. Well yes, that's true, and April has always been an unpredictable month... but I think in some respects it was a cosmic slap to wake us all up as to what fools we have been. We should have taken the warnings of global warming serious fifty years ago when scientists talked to President Lyndon Johnson about the dangers of carbon dioxide's increase in the atmosphere.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Rowing

The view from my seat
on the machine. It looks
like a mean comic robot
image from this view.
Michigan weather, being what it is, I decided to start using the rowing machine I’d abandoned two years ago.  I found stationary rowing so boring, looking at the same furniture and stuff hanging on the walls in the room, no TV in the room, and I couldn't read and row. At that time I could get up to 200 strokes and my mind would say “enough!”

I used to walk a 2 mile route three times a week, and at least when I walked the landscape was always changing, but I did not walk in winter. The roads were too slippery, snowmobiles whizzed by me at unbelievable speeds, and I hate the cold.  I always tell myself, "I'll walk again next summer." I didn't, though. I stopped walking due to the weather, but I knew I needed to do some type of exercise because I spend way too much time in front of my computer.

I’ve never been athletic. I enjoyed walking in summer, and for a number of years rode horses taking lessons in dressage and hunt seat jumping, but competitive sports? No. High intensity sports? No. I’m a klutz. In high school while learning basketball in gym class I gave a girl a concussion when I tripped over my own feet and my head banged into the back of hers. Rowing, however, is supposed to be a great form of exercise; it effects 80% of all the body's muscles and doesn’t put stress on joints.

This January (no it was not a New Year’s resolution) I decided to return to the rower. The good part is I don’t have to travel to use the machine, and I can use it rain or shine or severe snow storm.

I started doing 100 strokes three times a week, but not on a regular basis. In that time, and being slightly obsessive-compulsive, I learned I rowed about 24 to 26 strokes per minute, so 125 strokes was five minutes. I began doing five minutes at least once a day, but two weeks later tried for that length twice a day.

I had read where any exercise activity didn't have to be done in one long-haul episode to be effective, but each short activity accrued into the same result. I became driven to complete at least two sessions a day. By the second week in February I was doing one ten-minute session in the morning and a second five-minute session in the evening, every day. The only way I could get through it was watching all the information on the machine’s small screen: number of strokes increasing, supposed number of calories burned (always very minimal), number of strokes per minutes, time elapsed. 


Have your ever noticed how slow time passes when you watch the minutes tick by? I found the manual and learned how to change the readings to just follow the number of strokes. Still too slow and boring. Fourth week into February with consistent rowing I discovered some interesting things.

First, I found if I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing, and/or counting my strokes, the motion relaxed me. Nothing mattered but moving. It emptied my mind. Is that some form of meditation? Whatever it is, it helps me control my wayward brain, and I'm surprised how fast strokes accrue when not watching the numbers.

Second, I noticed when my eyes were closed and my mind blank, my mind started listening to my body and I concentrated on doing the stroke correctly and actually sensing what muscles I used.

Third, a week ago I felt muscles in my legs; hard muscles, for the first time ever. Now I feel them whenever I move. It motivates me.



Fourth, I learned it doesn't matter if I keep an exact schedule, only that I do it at some time during the day.

Fifth, I learned it is better to row on an empty stomach. It's much easier, and I can look forward to the reward of eating afterward. The bonus is I probably won't eat as much as if I'd eaten before rowing.

The first hundred strokes remain difficult, as my mind doesn't want to cooperate with my body. It constantly informs me of better ways to spend my time. I just close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing or counting strokes, sometimes I just enjoy feeling my body work, or find I enjoy listening to the noises around me. Once I get to two hundred strokes in one session, my mind enjoys the motion. It is relaxing and peaceful, and makes me continue.

  Six weeks ago I was doing fifteen minutes a day (375 strokes). Last week I did four sessions of 200 strokes. Wow! 800 strokes in one day! (I know any consistent, long-time rower reading this is laughing at this low rate, but they are probably not as old as I am.) Each week I found it easier to do and each week my goal increased. Now I'm averaging twenty-six minutes a day, or 4500 strokes a week, which is equivalent to exercising three hours a week. I’m hoping to keep going, so sitting out even one day scares me because I might quit all together. A few days ago I did 500 strokes in one session, no heavy breathing or inordinate exertion involved. I'm working towards three and a half hours a week. I’m not there yet, but I’m working towards 750 strokes a day, 350 in the morning, 250 midday, and 200 in the evening. Last Monday I did 650 strokes in one setting! Yay!

I'm hoping all this will help get more blood to my brain to help keep it working. It already gets more air into my lungs, but I still have to urge myself to go use the machine. One part of my mind tells me I have better things to do, but the compulsive part of my nature tells me that I must row. I feel comfortable in knowing I can meet my goal in two, three, or four short daily sessions. For a non-athletic person my age, it feels like a major accomplishment.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Story's Conception

Where do my ideas for stories come from? The truth is I don’t really know, but from somewhere within my mind. Once an idea or character emerges, much thought takes place on how to tell the story. Are my stories part of me? Of course, I just hope they don’t expose too much of me.

I know my first character haunted my thoughts for a year before I ever started writing, but she didn’t actually appear until the third book in that series. She had to come from my imagination, but where does that start? Somehow when she showed up it made me think about telling a story, where it would take place, and what would happen. When I had that sorted out, she didn’t fit in the story, but other characters did.

Once completed, the first story gave me characters who led to other stories. Since then, I often think of situations and the character who will tell that story together, often while taking a walk myself. Walking lets me empty my mind from everyday distractions. Walking is where unexpected characters still show up.

Usually I like to thread a story around an issue existing in today’s world, but let the telling take place in ‘another place and time.’ Human life on Earth and their societies have very…interesting…practices, some quite bizarre, even despicable, to others living here. Many human practices from our history (love reading history) also often show up in my stories.

I believe writers write and readers read to learn about all the contrary and magnanimous aspects of human beings.

Please visit these author's to learn where their inspiration comes from: