Yes, I am sick in bed. I suspect I have COVID. My test results won’t be in for 3 to 5 days. If it is COVID, I have a pretty light case of it. Today is day 5, I think. No fever is a blessing. Having a fever is what makes a person feel so miserable. I have a few other symptoms but it could well be I just have a bug that’s going around. Though I feel crappy during the day, as soon as the sun goes down I feel much worse. Have you ever noticed illness, injury, post surgery, mental and emotional problems, worry, are always worse at night? Some would say that is because things are quieter at night with fewer distractions. I’ve always been intrigued by this. I figured your body chemicals change at night, and since I have all the time in the world, I looked it up today. Here is what I found, in case you’re interested:
Research shows that our bodies are on a 24-hour clock called a circadian rhythm. Hormone levels fluctuate, increasing and decreasing within this daily cycle. Cortisol, a hormone made by the adrenal glands, helps regulate blood sugar levels, metabolism, and blood pressure. It also helps the body manage stress.
In addition, cortisol helps your immune system function properly and reduce inflammation. In other words, it helps you fight off infection and sickness.
More cortisol circulates in your blood during the day, which suppresses your immune system. This means that your white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections, are less active during the day.
At night, there is less cortisol in your blood. As a result, your white blood cells readily detect and fight infections in your body at this time, provoking the symptoms of the infection to surface, such as fever, congestion, chills, or sweating. Therefore, you feel sicker during the night.
The doctor goes go on to say that less distractions at night also contribute, and the position of your body. Lying down often makes your pain or sickness feel worse. So there you have it.
It is now 5:17 P.M. and it’s dusk. The wind is blowing and the rain is pouring. Apparently it has for the past few days. I’m glad I’m sitting up and writing this post, because very shortly I will be miserable until daylight tomorrow. I know, what does this have to do with writing? Absolutely nothing. But now I will talk about writing.
Yesterday I was able to write a whole chapter, a great accomplishment when you’re sick. I wrote a few paragraphs a while ago for the next chapter. Today I felt worse than yesterday but writing from a sickbed is a new experience for me. I don’t believe I’ve ever done it before. For the past month or so some new ideas for the next novel have been rolling around in my head. I have the time to think about it and figure out some of the particulars. I usually write by the seat of my pants. I have a simple idea and run with it as I go along with only one character in mind, and it’s all pretty shallow. Then I get out my keyboard and let the story unfold. I feel for this next project I need to write down and plot a few things first. Nothing extensive, just enough to know the main characters and their circumstances, and one aspect of the conflict they will face. By now I’ve learned that is very helpful. So what do I have right now? Not enough but its a good start.
It will be a period piece, 1800s or maybe during WWII or the great depression. How’s that for clarity? I’m leaning heavily toward the 1800s. The protagonist is a child, Gideon Orr, who comes from a troubled home. He’s overwhelmed by things at home but has a wild imagination, infinite curiosity, and hearty lust for life. He forges a relationship with an older man, Herkimer Yates. Yes, Herkimer is a name. My dad had some distant uncle named Herkimer and I found the name intriguing. Herkimer will be short and walk with a limp, but have a strong and powerful upper body as a result of his labor job. I’m trying to decide what his labor will be. A farm hand? A blacksmith? I don’t know. I like the blacksmith idea. It’s been on my mind since I looked into the song lyrics in my last post. I am fascinated with the art. Herk will be reserved, hard to befriend at first. He’s not real crazy about kids and he’s a loner. He has a past of pain. But Gideon will get through to him. That’s all I have. It think it’s almost enough. All I want to know is a basic idea of what’s going on inside the home. BTW, I was thinking of titling it Fire and Fury, but I found out there is a book out by that title and it’s about Trump. That won’t work.
Now I’m exhausted. If you have any feedback or ideas about my Gideon/Herkimer story let me know. Blessings to you. Don’t get sick.
P.S. My wonderful friend Dorene brought over homemade chicken soup yesterday. Today I told her I was craving a blueberry muffin, so she came by with a fresh batch. The moral of the story is, if you don’t have a spouse to make you these things, find a good friend who loves to cook. Thank you, Dorene.
P.S.S. COVID test results just came in. Drum roll please…
My friend Bill Holland just posted a wonderful blog post on lyrics. It brought to mind a conversation I had with a friend a week or so ago.
I was talking about adversity and how it shapes God’s people. I used the analogy of a blacksmith who heats up the steel, pounds and twists it on the anvil to form something useful. I likened adversity to the fire and blows of the hammer, we are the raw metal, and God is like the blacksmith. It brought to mind a song by Bebo Norman. A poet through and through. He is not a main stream Christian artist any longer. In fact, he got out of performing several years ago to be with his family. No idea what he’s doing, but I’m sure he’s still writing. Anyway, he wrote a song called The Hammer Holds and I shared the lyrics with my friend as an example of what I was talking about and she found it very profound. Read the lyrics below but be sure to follow through the entire post:
A shapeless piece of steel That’s all I claim to be This hammer pounds to give me form This flame, it melts my dreams It glows with fire and fury As I’m twisted like a vine My final shape, my final form I’m sure I’m bound to find
So dream a little dream for me In hopes that I’ll remain And cry a little cry for me So I can bear the flames And hurt a little hurt for me My future is untold But my dreams are not the issue here For they, the hammer holds
And the water, it cools me gray And the hurt’s subdued somehow I have my shape, this sharpened point What is my purpose now? And the question still remains What am I to be? Perhaps some perfect piece of art Displayed for all to see
So dream a little dream for me In hopes that I’ll remain And cry a little cry for me So I can bear the flames And hurt a little hurt for me My future is untold But my dreams are not the issue here for they, the hammer holds
The hammer pounds again But flames I do not feel This force that drives me, helplessly Through flesh and wood reveal A burn that burns much deeper It’s more than I can stand The reason for my life was to take The life of a guiltless man
So dream a little dream for me In hopes that I’ll remain And cry a little cry for me So I can bear the pain And hurt a little hurt for me My future is so bold But my dreams are not the issue here for they, the hammer holds
This task before me may seem unclear But it, my maker holds
“The Hammer Holds” Words and music by Bebo Norman.
After I shared my thoughts and these lyrics with my friend I decided to look for the “Story behind the song,” something I love to do. (BTW, there is website called Song Facts where you can look up the stories behind songs. Fascinating stuff.)
As it turns out, Norman was writing in the voice of a nail that would crucify Christ. WOW! That makes it more powerful than anything I thought it could be. Go back and read the lyrics now and see the difference.
Everyone loves a good villain. I believe the term “The person everyone loves to hate.” Personally, I don’t hate people, but you get the drift. If your readers hate the villain then you’re doing well, but there’s more to it. I think it’s apropos to call the villain an antagonist. He opposes the central character (protagonist) and other characters, to the point that you want to scream. A villain scrapes the bottom of the barrel for redeeming qualities. This post is not about how to write a villain; that’s for another post. But I had a unique (to me) experience the other day while working on my novel that took me by surprise and I think it was a remarkable growth spurt as a writer and human being.
I have come to realize that I tend to create men in my stories as either pure white in virtue, or totally evil and beyond the reach of redemption. I figure it’s some deep seated psychological issue in the bowels of my psyche. Regardless, I don’t think that’s the way to go. The other day I was writing about my antagonist, a megalomaniac, arrogant, condescending, cruel, pathological bully. It suddenly hit me that it’s important to give some background on this guy, to give readers some context to the mans’ deviant behavior. I wrote a scene from his past where his cruel father demeans him and emasculates him in front of others. I came away from writing this scene filled with compassion and empathy, and I realized I loved and cared about him. It was a profound moment and nearly brought me to tears. I doubt readers will feel that way, but it helped me a great deal. I think it’s imperative we have an intimate understanding of all of our characters. To have intimate connection with them. I have had scads of those kinds of connections with my two protagonists. Now that I have connected with this awful man, I think the story will be better. We should give the good guys flaws, and the bad guys a few positive traits, or at very least, a context which explains why he is the way he is. With these new revelations, I need to put more thought into a few of my male characters.
I love profound discoveries in writing. One of the most surprising discoveries in writing fiction, is how my heart can be deeply moved by the people and the story. I have wept and laughed and been terrified writing this story. I guess it exemplifies the notion of blood sweat and tears. Whether this will end up being a good book or not, is strictly up to the readers to decide, but I am blessed to come away a more empathetic person, and expanding my heart to understand broken people, including myself.
I love the raw first Christmas story. The message and what happened reminds us of the hope we have in Christ. He came as our Deliverer, Savior, and God. Praise be to God for His unspeakable gift. Several years ago I wrote a story on Hubpages called Redemption of a Hireling: A Christmas Short Story. Although the story is partly fiction, I wanted to give a tangible message of redemption. The Christmas story doesn’t need any addition but I still took the liberty of a scenario displaying the newborn King setting free a sinful man. I am resharing it here.
Yakov hugged his ragged cloak tighter on this unseasonably cool night. He took in a deep breath of the brisk air, energizing his weary body. His stomach growled. Dinner had been sparse – the last crust of bread and a dried fig he had leftover in his pouch. It had been a long couple of weeks. The sheep had been restless ever since a wolf had killed two of his finest lambs. Abel, his hireling, had been careless and lazy. Dozing seemed to be more important to him than tending the flock. The end result was the loss of income. The lambs were ready to sell for temple sacrifice at Passover.
Yakov found his way to where Aaron and Levi were warming themselves by a fire.
“You should have seen how I clubbed that wolf today after he went after my Star,” Aaron was saying.” He was known for his brute strength, audaciousness, and the occasional embellishment of his heroics. “Thank Jehovah I was able to save her.”
“You did well, Aaron,” affirmed Levi, who had witnessed it with his own eyes. “I know Star is always lagging behind or wandering off,” He poked the fire with a stick. “Yakov, how are the sheep faring on your side of the field?”
“They were restless awhile ago, but I talked to them and they are calm for the moment,” he answered.
“Isn’t it strange how the simple sound of the shepherd’s voice settles the sheep?” Levi mused. “They are so trusting. I wish we could settle the wolves with a few words.”
“Say, Yakov,” Aaron said, handing a hunk of cheese to him, “where is that scoundrel Abel who napped during that wolf attack the other day?”
Yakov chewed hard on the cheese. The memory of his showdown with Abel rushed back to him. Abel had been unconcerned and dismissive when he confronted him about the incident.
“The wolf was too far away and too swift for me to get there in time,” Abel had said. “Better the lambs than me, anyway.”
Yakov had given him a thrashing. When Abel got up off the ground he wiped the blood from his mouth, spat at the flock and stalked away. No one had seen him since.
Turning back to his friends from his reverie, Yakov answered them. “Yes, they were two of my best lambs. I beat the coward to a pulp. He’s the poorest excuse for a man as there ever was.”
The men grew quiet, listening and watching for any stir. But Yakov couldn’t stay quiet for long. “That rogue is a sluggard, a thief, and a liar. Remember how he was caught stealing produce from a nearby farm last month? And it was you, Levi, who caught him in the act of trying to sell some of the increase of the flock.” He stroked his beard, simmering with indignation. “What was I thinking giving him another chance? As soon as I can, I’m going to hire someone else.” He hated Abel and wished him dead.
Levi had just tossed some thorny scrub into the fire when straightaway an angel of the Lord appeared before them, radiant with the glory of God. Their legs quivered and they recoiled in fear. Levi lost his strength and fell to his knees.
“Do not be afraid.” the angel said. “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy for all the people.”
Riveted to their celestial messenger the three men remained motionless.
“For to you is born this day,” continued the angel, “in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Christ the Lord? This news hit them with great force. How could this be?
“And this will be a sign for you, you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
Before a single thought could flit through their heads the entire sky became ablaze with angelic beings; their praise to God filled the universe.
“GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE, GOODWILL TOWARD MEN.”
As quickly as they had appeared the angels retreated back up into heaven, and the night returned stark with silence. The shepherds remained motionless, their heads lifted heavenward in astonishment trying to comprehend what they had just seen and heard.
“I…I can hardly breathe,” said Aaron. Having just witnessed the angelic host, his brawn, grit, and bravado had melted away.
“Did you hear what the angel said? Christ the Lord!” said Levi.
“Right here in Bethlehem,” said Yakov, still trembling a bit.
“A baby in swaddling clothes,” Levi added. “Just like we swaddle the lambs.”
“Imagine, Christ the Lord lying in an animal trough?” said Abel.
Abel? Where had he come from?
“Abel, how did you get here?” Yakov asked. He did not ask in anger, but out of surprise.
“I was hiding and sleeping over there.” He pointed to some scrub in the near distance. “I saw and heard it all.”
The truth was Abel’s heart was deeply stirred. Dare he hope in this Savior, Christ the Lord? Surely not. He was a bitter, selfish young man, uncaring for anyone but himself. But he recognized it now and wanted to be anyone else other than who he was.
Strangely, no one seemed to care that the lazy, no account Abel was there with them. Not even Yakov. He was just one of them. This glorious thing that they had all just witnessed seemed to dissipate anything dark, evil, or contentious.
Yakov cried over the din, “Brothers, let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass which the Lord has made known to us.”
They set out with haste and calm assurance that the sheep would be safe. The thrill of hope surpassed anything and everything.
The usually quaint and quiet Bethlehem was swollen with humanity and beasts. The census ordered by Caesar Augustus had brought pilgrims from near and far to register in their ancestral home. The voices of campers gathered under the stars echoed in the night and their firelight dotted the hillsides. Many slept with no shelter at all. The heavens were their abode.
The shepherds swiftly traversed the hillsides bent on their mission. They passed an encampment where an intoxicated traveler was relieving himself in the open. Raucous laughter and shouts of mockery came from his likewise drunken comrades.
“Hey, you shepherds,” cried one. “Where’s our leg of lamb?” They slapped their legs and roared with merriment.
It did not deter them. They made their way into the town where homes and inns were fairly brimming with families and patrons. The cry of a baby rang out and the shepherds halted for a moment, wondering if it was the baby they searched for. They followed the sound and found the One whom they sought in a stable at the inn. A woman sat cradling her newborn baby, cooing to quiet him. The baby drifted off and she lay him in the trough, wrapped in swaddling clothes just as the angel had said. The heavy aroma of dung permeated the stable. The woman’s husband plumped up their nest with fresh straw to keep them warm and clean.
Levi, heart thumping wildly, entered first. As he watched the baby he forgot to breathe. He felt warm breath on his shoulder from Yakov who was leaning in from behind him. Aaron came around to Levi’s left and knelt. All three were in awe. The husband spoke to them.
“Welcome. My name is Yoseph and this is my wife Mary and our new son, Yeshua.”
“The Lord is salvation,” whispered Levi in awe.
“Yes, the angel told us He was Savior, Christ the Lord,” said Aaron.
“Angel, you say?” Yoseph inquired.
Yakov gave them the story.
“Yes, you see we were watching our flocks this night, nothing out of the ordinary. We were talking by the fire and all of a sudden a great angel appeared before us. He shone brightly as if it was the glory of the Lord that illuminated him. I don’t mind telling you we were trembling in fear.”
“Yes,” added Aaron. “Levi here was so scared he slumped to the ground.”
“He’s right,” said Levi. “And I’m not too ashamed to say so. If you had ever seen such a grand angel you would be afraid too.”
Yoseph and Mary exchanged a knowing look and smiled. “Go on,” said Yoseph.”
Yakov continued. “The angel gave us a message. He said ‘Do not be afraid. Behold, I bring you good news of great joy…”
“For all the people,” Aaron interjected. “All, I say.”
“Then he said ‘For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…”
“Who is Christ the Lord,” Levi finished.
“Yes,” said Yakov. “As I was saying, he then told us a sign to find Him.”
“A sign, you say?” Yoseph said.
“Yes, he said we would find a baby, lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes, just as your dear babe is now.”
Mary took in a sharp breath.
Levi exploded in animated wonder as he described the next thing that happened. “You wouldn’t believe it but all of a sudden the entire universe was filled with angelic beings saying “GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE, GOODWILL TOWARD MEN!”
Yeshua startled and let out a lusty squawk. Mary calmed him with whispers and a warm hand on his head.
Yakov scolded him. “Levi,” he hissed, “you startled the poor lad. Keep your voice down.”
“Oh, so sorry,” Levi whispered to Mary. “But you just can’t imagine how…how…well, there are simply no words to describe it.”
“I saw and heard it, too.” Everyone turned to see Abel stepping forward out of the shadows. He looked askance to Yoseph. “May I?”
Yoseph nodded. Abel knelt at the manger overwhelmed by his unworthiness. Tears spilled down his face. Yeshua squirmed in His sleep, let out a sigh, and curled up into the fetal position he’d been accustomed to in the past nine months. Abel had never seen a newborn child up close that he could ever remember, nor had he ever had interest in babies and children. They soiled their diapers and made a lot of noise. But now, he was gripped in wonderment at the delicateness of Yeshua’s skin and the thick black downy hair that covered his sweet head. He looked up into Mary’s eyes.
“He’s beautiful. So beautiful.” He wiped his runny nose on his cloak.
“Abel, move away or you’ll drown the baby or make him sick,” scolded Levi. Abel pulled back and looked apologetically to Mary. She gave him a reassuring smile.
“Finish your story,” Yoseph said.
“No more to the story, sir,” said Yakov, “except we left our flocks immediately and made our way quickly to find the baby the angel and told us about. We thank you for letting us see Him.”
The others nodded in agreement and stood to go. Abel couldn’t break away and remained kneeling near the manger. “You are a little lamb, the Lamb of God,” he whispered to the baby. “A Savior. Is there hope for me?”
The baby made no sound or movement but Mary reached out and put her hand on his. “There is,” she said. He sighed with relief and stood to join the others. “Thank you,” he said, wiping his eyes.
After the men left Yoseph reclined in a corner and prepared to bed down for the night. He encouraged Mary to get some sleep as well. Just then Yeshua mewed and she took him up in her arms and put him to her breast to nurse. Yoseph wrapped a blanket around her and went to sleep, his heart full.
Mary beamed as her son’s tiny hand gripped her finger. “A strong grip you have, son. You will make a good carpenter like your father.” As Yeshua drew in His nourishment she wondered, ‘If He is Savior, will He work as a laborer? What will His life be?’
The exuberant band of shepherds left the baby and stopped everyone they could to tell them the events of their evening. The people marveled at the news and it spread everywhere. They finally arrived back to the fields a few hours before dawn, sleepy but still full of excitement. The sheep were safe and sound and happy to see their shepherds once again. Abel separated himself from them and wandered through the flock pondering the last several hours.
At the edge of the field, he fell to his knees, his cheeks damp once again.
“God of my fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, in some ways this all seems so surreal, but it was so incredibly real and wonderful. Why would you include a wretched dog such as myself to meet this sweet Lamb of God? Lord, I am sorry for my evil ways. Forgive me. This Savior, Christ the Lord, that the angel proclaimed, has changed me and I will never be the same. Thank you that you have blessed me with the hope of salvation. Amen.”
After his prayer Abel lie down for a quick nap then he would return to Yakov and ask for forgiveness and mercy and pledge to work off what he owed. Even if Yakov did not take him back, he would find work elsewhere and pay his debt.
When dawn was but a line of amber light on the horizon, Yakov sought out Abel and found him a half mile away talking to a lamb with the tenderness and love of a father. He was rubbing olive oil into a deep scratch on one of her back legs, the result of a run-in with a thorn patch.
“There now little one, let this be a lesson. You are no longer unblemished. You can’t be sold for sacrifice. So you shall be my pet. Stay close to me and I will protect you. If you wander away, I will pursue you to the ends of the earth. And if you get caught in the brambles and thorns, I will always tend your wounds. And if a bear or wolf should come near, I will take this rod and beat him to death. No one hurts any lamb in the flock of Abel. No, love, not one.”
Yakov swallowed hard. He couldn’t help eavesdropping on Abel’s intimate conversation with the lamb. His heart was touched at the change in Abel. A hard, selfish heart had become as soft as the skin of Yeshua. At that moment he recognized the change in his own heart as well. His hatred for Abel was completely gone. He now saw everyone and everything differently. He finally spoke.
“Abel, my friend, I’m glad I found you.”
Abel looked up at Yakov. He stood and cleared his throat. “Yakov, I…I’ve done wrong by you and by this flock. I will work to pay you back what I owe you, if you’ll have me, that is. I am a changed man and I will care for these sheep as if they were my own children.”
“You don’t need to say anything else, Abel. All of us who witnessed the angels and the baby has been changed in our hearts. My heart needed changing as much as, if not more, than yours. Forgive this angry shepherd for being so harsh.”
Abel tried to speak, but nothing came out. Yakov put his hands on his shoulders, looked into his eyes and said, “That angel said the good news of the Savior is for all people. Abel, you and I are included in ‘all people.’ He has brought peace between us, in us, and to all men who will trust in this Savior.”
Abel nodded with a grateful heart. Yakov placed his arm across Abel’s back and they began to walk. “To me, Abel, you are no longer a hireling, but a shepherd, and my friend. We are now brothers and true sons of Israel.”
The sun rose crimson, gold, bronze, and purple, over the eastern hillsides. The colors reflected the hope and joy of the Lord and His everlasting peace. And it was Abel and Yakov’s to share.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
I love poetry. I write poetry. I read poetry. But poetry put to music (known as lyrics) resonates to the marrow of the soul more often than poetry with no music. It’s hard to memorize a poem. But memorizing lyrics comes easier because the melodies and harmonies, the singer’s voice, make them come alive yet further. We listen to them over and over, and we sing them in the shower, in the car, with our friends, or alone in our rooms. Lyrics to songs in our past bring us back to those seasons of life. Some are painful, some are joyous, some are just plain cool. A funny thing about me is that the chorus is usually is the part that sticks in my memory. If I am actually listening to a song I know, the words come to me.
I remember the first record I ever had. It was a 45. The Purple People Eater. My sister and I thought we were so cool to have a rock and roll record. Rock and roll it was not, but it felt like it at the time.
It was a one-eyed, one-horned, flyin’ purple people eater (One-eyed, one-horned, flyin’ purple people eater) A one-eyed, one-horned, flyin’ purple people eater Sure looks strange to me (one eye?)
We were just little kids. Our parents later got us a Petula Clark record, Pet Clark Sign of the Times, and Beatles VI. I was in awe of Petula Clark. She was beautiful to look at and I loved her voice and passion. Her lyrics and tunes were so catchy. Many written by other songwriters. My sister Chris and I would stand on the hearth on Saturday mornings while our parents slept in, and play the records and sing. My sister always got to be John and Paul, me George and Ringo because Chris was a year older and the boss. We had a 45 of Yesterday ad that was Chris’s signature cover. We used a number of items to be our instruments. Brooms, badminton rackets, vacuum hoses, batons, pencils, silverware. We took turns being Petula. We also listened to my parents’ Frank and Nancy Sinatra album. All I can remember of it was These Boots Are Made for Walking, and particularly Saying Something Stupid Like I Love You.
I know I stand in line until you think you have the time To spend an evening with me And if we go someplace to dance, I know that there’s a chance You won’t be leaving with me And afterwards we drop into a quiet little place and have a drink or two And then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like “I love you”
I can’t stand the melody of the song or the way Frank and Nancy sang it, but for some reason, it’s still in my memory. Probably because I heard it and sang it with my sister so many times. The Supremes song, Stop in the Name of Love takes me back to a day I was at my aunt’s house and my older cousin Nancy played it over and over. She taught me some dance moves and I practiced them in front of her large oval mirror. My childhood was spent listening to KJR and KVI with top 40 hits. Yep, remember them all and they all bring back good memories.
In 1967 we moved from Tacoma Washington to San Gabriel California (Los Angles county). The culture shock was profound and I had trouble adjusting. That year I got Sgt Pepper and the Magical Mystery tour. I’m sure you all had Sgt Pepper. I found endless amusement with the Magical Mystery Tour. It was so darn bizarre. It came with a booklet of pictures and lyrics. It was kind of like a primitive rock opera. I’m sure I Am the Walrus was written while on acid. But dang, it was catchy.
I am he as you are he as you are me And we are all together See how they run like pigs from a gun See how they fly I’m crying Sitting on a corn flake Waiting for the van to come Corporation T-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday Man you’ve been a naughty boy You let your face grow longI am the egg man They are the egg men I am the walrus Goo goo g’joob
Goo goo g’joob, very profound.
Mr. Goo goo g’joob, John Lennon, went on to write these beautiful lyrics, poetry if ever there was, probably the most beautiful in his career.
Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind
Images of broken light Which dance before me like a million eyes They call me on and on across the universe Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe
The melody makes these lyrics all the more memorable. You can have stunning lyrics, but put it to bad music and you miss it. It goes the other way too. The melody of Imagine is absolutely lovely but the philosophy behind the lyrics are against all I believe in, so I don’t honor the song.
The following year, we moved a short way to a tiny town called Sierra Madre. One main street full of cool shops, a pool hall (we were forbidden to go through), a movie theater where Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet ran for a year and we saw it again and again, and a park overrun by hippies. The nearby foothills were inhabited by hippies. I started Jr. High that year. It was another transition too quickly made to adjust to. It’s hard enough to come of age, but those years were extremely painful. Experimentation with sex and drugs flooded our school (which was in Pasadena, several miles away). Because of the hippie culture right in our face, drugs were easy to get. The hippies were a great influence on us younger ones. I was 12 years old, just a kid and it all terrified me. I never did the drugs or have a drink. I had a friend named Susan who lived at the end of our driveway. My sister and I hung out with her a lot and she became very wild. Drugs and boys seduced her quickly, not to mention stealing and smoking. I felt extremely pressured by her and judged for not keeping up with her. She had boyfriends all over the place, I had none. I didn’t want one except to satisfy her. I was in a size A bra, she was a B, and if you listened to her, she was Dolly Parton and I was Twiggy. I felt alone and terribly pathetic. I fell into my first clinical depression and it was bad with a capital B. Back then, people didn’t know about mental health so my parents were very concerned but at a loss how to help me. A school counselor helped me through it. I wrote the entire story on Hubpages which you can find here.When I hear songs from that time of my life, even if it’s a happy or innocuous song, they bring me to tears or deep sadness.
Fortunately, some songs from that era lift me. All of them Beatles songs. Let’s face it, in the 60s and early 70s the Beatles were king in pop culture and music. I had a friend, Elizabeth. She was a hilarious character, goofy, mischievous, and a prankster. She liked smoking, but boys and drugs weren’t on her radar as I recall. She was the only friend I had who didn’t demand that I conform to the culture of sex and drugs. She just liked to have a good time through humor and antics. Elizabeth was a Godsend. We would hang out in her bedroom and listen to the Beatles Rubber Soul, the White Album, Abbey Road and Let it Be. I’m sure we listened to other bands, but these stick out in my mind because, well, they’re the Beatles. But also because I was with her when I listened to them, so they have a positive vibe in my soul. Of course, they were immensely popular on the radio, but listening to them with her made the lyrics stick all the more.
At home in my room, I still listened to Sgt. Pepper constantly. I didn’t have but maybe three records. I bought a psychedelic poster for my room from a head shop of the Beatles and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds written on it, the LS and D highlighted. Susan was green with envy and that tickled me. Even though I was anti-drugs, I felt cool having that poster. Mom and Dad didn’t know about LSD so mom would come in and say how cool the poster was. There has been debate whether it was aboout LSD, but that was the rumor. So I know all the lyrics to the Beatles last several albums. That’s not special because most people who came of age in the 60s know them too. I’m just saying the events in my life then helped cement the lyrics into my head. I eventually got my own copy of the Let It Be album. Probably of all Beatles album, that’s the one that stuck in my head the most. Abbey Road a close second. When I hear one of the songs, I am at Elizabeth’s or my room, or my friend Margaret’s ( best friend in high school a few years later).
If you were to ask me or anyone else what Beatles song meant the most to you or was most memorable, you’d probably take several minutes going through a mental catalog of their songs. How does one choose one or two? It depends on where you were at the time the song came out; what was happening in the culture, the nation, the world, your family, circumstances. All I can do is choose the ones that made me feel the lyrics. Yesterday, Let it Be, The Long and Winding Road, A Day in a Life always gave a mood for me. I guess Paul’s lyrics reached me more. No one ever says Yellow Submarine or Maxwell’s Silver Hammer is a favorite, but when you hear the titles you perk up and remember the lyrics. They wrote dozens of songs with silly quirky words and tunes and sound effects. I think Lennon and McCartney had the most creative minds in modern history when it came to lyrics and themes. Of course the music was brilliant as well.
One song that makes me cry from that time in Jr High is Time of the Season by the Zombies. I know it by heart and my heart breaks when I hear it. The lyrics aren’t sad, but it takes me back to that time of pain. Maybe if I pondered it longer I’d find the emotional connection, but I have no desire to go fishing. When I hear it, I picture a certain friend’s house, Caroline, a wild cohort of Susan’s (an expert at shoplifting clothes). I have no idea why that image comes up or why I hurt when I hear it but it is what it is. Gary Puckett and the Union Gap’s songs Woman, Young Girl, and Over You are also bittersweet. I can’t tell you why.
We moved to Anaheim when I began 9th grade. My parents wanted to get us away from Susan. High School began in the 10th grade. My moods cycled constantly and I was so fearful all the time. I spent days in my room listening to music, or hours at Maggie’s house. Maggie had Elton John’s first album and we listened over and over to Your Song and Daniel. I had tons of records by then. When life was too much, I went to my room where I felt protected and found solace, or I would listen to sad music to feed my sadness (a tendency I still have when I’m down). I had every Neil Diamond record from the 70s. His fast beat songs like Sweet Caroline and Cracklin’ Rosie, were catchy but it was the soulful ballads where I wallowed. One in particular from his Moods album (how appropriately titled) spoke to my heart. Cante Libre (which means “sing freely” by the way). Some of it was in Spanish but I had enough knowledge to follow those lyrics because they were simple words and I was learning the language in school. But the English parts are where my heart was stirred.
I got music runnin’ in my head, Makes me feel like a young bird flyin’, ‘Cross my mind and layin’ in my bed, Keeps me away from the thought of dyin’.
I just teared up writing that, because that was why I was in my room on my bed listening to music. It’s funny, Neil Diamond had a gazillion popular songs that everyone knew, and this obscure ballad is the one that reached me in a deep place. Neil Diamond was a charismatic performer, but I think his songwriting is his greater gift. He once said, “I have a love-hate relationship with songwriting. I love it because it’s so satisfying…when it works. I hate it because it forces you to dig inside yourself. It is without question the most difficult thing I do.” As writers, we can relate to that, can’t we.
I have a love-hate relationship with songwriting. I love it because it’s so satisfying…when it works. I hate it because it forces you to dig inside of yourself. It is without question the most difficult thing I do.
The Who’s Tommy rock opera album also resonated with me.
See me, feel me, touch me, heal me
I don’t think all the lyrics spoke to me, but that line did, because it was expressing my heart. I was in agony and felt like a piece of crap and wanted to be seen, heard, and healed. And Roger Daltry’s voice in the line was so desperate.
Lyrics still capture me as they do us all. Sometimes I am more inspired by a cover from another artist and their interpretation. Go on YouTube and find KD Lang’s version of Hallelujah. Beyond description amazing. I hate the lyrics to the song, but I remember them since I heard her sing it. Susan Boyle is one of them. Listen to her rendition of Wild Horses by the Rolling Stones, or her Over the Rainbow. Stunning and very unique. I never learned or appreciated the lyrics until she sang them. Recently I heard her sing Always On My Mind, one of Willie Nelson’s signature songs. It never touched me when Willie sang it. The lyrics went in one ear and out the other. When Susan sang it while I was driving I started weeping. I love and know the lyrics now. They are cemented in my heart.
Maybe I didn’t love you Quite as often as I could have And maybe I didn’t treat you Quite as good as I should have If I made you feel second best Girl I’m sorry I was blind You were always on my mind You were always on my mind And maybe I didn’t hold you All those lonely, lonely times I guess I never told you I am so happy that you’re mine Little things I should have said and done I just never took the time You were always on my mind You were always on my mind Tell me Tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died And give me Give me one more chance to keep you satisfied I’ll keep you satisfied Little things I should have said and done I just never took the time You were always on my mind You were always on my mind You were always on my mind You were always on my mind
Nothing more stirs my heart than gospel music, whether it’s hymns or southern gospel. There are a lot of contemporary songs also.
The lyrics to the hymn, It is Well With My Soul was written by Horatio G. Spafford. Knowing the story behind a song, the context, can make it more meaningful. This song is more powerful knowing the circumstances. Dear Horatio Spafford had deep sorrows in his life. In the same year, Spafford, a successful businessman, he lost almost everything in the Chicago fire and his 4 year old son died from an illness. Later on, Horatio sent his wife and 4 daughters on a ship to England where he would join them later for a long needed vacation. He had to stay behind for some critical business. Tragedy struck and the ship collided with another and sank. His daughters were all lost. His wife survived. She sent him a telegram “Saved alone, what shall I do?” What a heartbreaking message to receive. He boarded a ship and set sail to see his wife. As the ship sailed over the spot where his beloved daughters had died, the Lord touched his heart and he wrote these lyrics:
When peace like a river attendeth my soul
And sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.
To hear the story in more detail look here. When you’re standing in church singing this song, your heart goes to the times of despair and sorrow in your life, or the life of someone dear. A big knot forms in your throat and your eyes tear up. If you know the story of Horatio Spafford, the tears are more profuse. God can bring comfort in times of great pain.
With all this said, I occasionally write a poem that I wish like anything I could put to music because, without it, I feel like it isn’t as powerful or poignant. I’m not a musician or a good singer. I have many musician friends and several friends with good voices, but putting someone else’s lyrics to music is hard. A few people have tried but it just hasn’t worked out. I wonder if I learned to play an instrument if I could put a poem into a song. Knowing how to play an instrument does not necessarily mean one is gifted in songwriting. Oh well, I do what I can do and that’s all there is.
Music and lyrics are a gift from God. All of the arts are of course. God is the master of all creation. He made his people to be creators as well. Not as God, but as His people.
Please share with me the song lyrics that have touched your life and why.
As I listened to the questioning of Amy Coney Barrett recently, Senator John Neely Kennedy was one of the few who asked her questions pertaining to the constitution, and interpreting. It got me to thinking, yet again, about how brilliant the constitution is and how hard the founding father’s worked to hammer it out at the constitutional convention. The process began long before the convention. The articles of Confederation were used as a constitution but were inadequate because it had no enforcement power. I won’t go into a long detailed post on the story, but what I am struck by is the process.
In order to create the Constitution, and even the Declaration of Independence, the articles of Confederation, and all the other early documents, they had a vision, not a unified one at first, but the vision was based on need. Things were floundering, it seemed as if it might meet and early demise if they did not act. They saw the need. It is said 55 men created the Constitution. There were others who influenced or contributed in various ways. The convention lasted around three months, summer months, that were dreadfully hot and stifling. Locked inside a building with so many people, no air conditioning, and their type of dress didn’t make it any easier. Even hotter where their debates that went on and on, day after day. When I watch congressional processes it can’t be daunting. I am sure it was more arduous at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.
The Constitution is not the same type of writing as in a novel or non-fiction book, but there are similar things we share. Vision. I kind of chuckle at NaNoWrimo, a national novel wriitng contest every November. You go in and cold write without stopping to edit. It’s a rough, rough draft. There isn’t a whole lot of vision or care put into it. It’s more of a writing exercise, which is fine. But if we want to write an entire novel worthy of being read and enjoyed, it has to be hammered out. You start with a vision and/or inspiration; usually a vague one. Some writers have a more detailed vision than others when they start. They may know how they want the story to begin and end, but will figure out the middle as they go along. Others only have a general idea. I wrote a story a couple of years ago called Searching for Gita, the Little Pearl. I went in with wanting to write a story based on an old woman in my neighborhood in Tacoma where I grew up who was from another country. She walked around the school looking in windows every day. That was my broad vision. I had no idea what the rest would be. I had no ending in mind but I had a beginning. I only wrote the rough draft and it was a hard story to craft, but I’m not a seasoned novel writer. But I have learned that writing anything needs first a vision, then a strategy, then apply the blood, sweat, and tears. Fortunately, I have air conditioning and don’t have to argue with a bunch of men or women with a gazillion temperaments, ideas, stages of knowledge. But dang, it can be arduous, painstaking, fraught with frustrations. Non-writing people have the idea that for writers the process is like “words were flowing out like endless rain in a paper cup” (Lennon/McCartney Across the Universe). They assume we sit down and the words come tumbling out effortlessly. Sometimes they do and it’s simply thrilling. But there is more labor than free flowing typically. Any document, article, essay, story, poem, even handbook, takes a lot of thought and effort. Research is part of the process sometimes. Even all my silly little humor pieces are a lot of work. Read up on famous authors and they will tell you how hard they work. And the editing and revision work can be intense and painful (cutting is especially painful.) It bothers me that people tend to think artistry (writing, music, visual arts) is not work, but a hobby. Tell that to Stephen King, or the late Harper Lee. I may never make a living writing, it may not be my bread and butter because I am in the last stretch in life span, but dang, it’s worth every drop of sweat if one person can enjoy it. Better yet, if they learn from it or find help from it. I consider entertainment and escape are essential to life as much as anything else. I love writing when it’s easy, and appreciate it when it’s hard. I leave you with a few quotes by writers on writing.
“A writer is working when he’s staring out of the window. ~ Burton Rascoe
” Every writer I know has trouble writing. ~ Joseph Heller
“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly: sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. ~ Thomas Mann
“Sometimes the ideas just come to me. Other times I have to sweat and almost bleed to make ideas come. It’s a mysterious process, but I hope I never find out exactly how it works. I like a mystery, as you may have noticed.” ~ J.K. Rowling
I am a very emotional person and it shows up in my writing. I just can’t seem to help myself. It’s so ingrained in me. The novel I’m writing has so much intense emotion it I wonder if it’s too much. There is lots of sorrow tempered with joy, with humor thrown in to keep it lighten it up at times, and anger. Since my main characters are dealing with significant mental health issues and meet on a psych ward, I guess the reader won’t be surprised by it, but I am worried it’s too much.
In my own defense, I’m trying to give each prominent character a good blend, but let’s face it, in real life, some people are more emotional than others. The other thing is I get bored quickly when characters are consistently written matter of fact unless that is the personality of one specific individual. But if someone typically writes without much emotional reaction to situations, or by psychological make up, then I’m saying, “Ho hum, where’s my cross stitching?”
What do I mean by matter of fact? It’s self-explanatory, really. It usually happens because the writer is telling, more than showing, but even in the telling, he gives mostly information about what’s going on and offers tepid emotional thoughts, feelings, and reactions at best. Here is an example in the following dialogue:
Scenario: Sabrinatells her husband Harold that she is leaving him for her boss Jack .
“How could you do this to me?” he said.
” Jack is charismatic; he likes to live dangerously. You on the other hand, are noble, kind, and tender.”
“I see,” said Harold. “Most people love those qualities. We’ve been together for ten years and you never said a word. Why don’t we get some marriage counseling? Seems the only fair thing to do.”
“You see, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.Little goody two shoes Harold,” said Sabrina.
“Jack’s a womanizer and a gambler. It won’t last long. This goody two shoes won’t be waiting for you.”
“No chance I’ll be wanting you back. Goodbye Harold.” She turned and left.
Harold should be enraged or bereft, shouting or groveling, devastated or in shock. This scenario doesn’t have the intensity it deserves. Try this version:
Scenario: Sabrina tells her husband Harold that she leaving him for her boss Jack.
Harold felt like he’d been punched in the stomach; his heart turned over in his chest. “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I don’t get it. You never let on you weren’t happy. How could you do this?” Tears threatened to spill out his eyes. He began to pace, trying to process. “Why Sabrina? Why are you doing this?”
Sabrina sneered. “I’ll tell you why: Jack is exciting, charismatic, lives dangerously. You, on the other hand, are kind, dependable, tender.” She moved up to him, nearly nose to nose, hands on her hips. “You bore me, Harold. Jack is like, I don’t know, a spicy Margarita, and you’re like a warm beer.Boring, flat, tasteless.” Mocking spittle hit his face.
Seeing how much pleasure she took in saying itcrushed him. And then he was furious. “You married me, and always expressed your appreciation of my character. You want to exchange me for a sleeze ball like Jack go for it. One day you’ll be the boring oneand he’ll toss youaside for the next bimbo. That’s what guys like him do. This goody two shoes won’t be around to put you back together again. You know I’m telling the truth.”
He saw her squirm and swallow hard. “You’re wrong,” she screamed, and stormed out.
I know what you’re thinking, the margarita beer metaphors are pretty cheesy. Well, forgive me, I’m doing this spur of the moment. Here is a list of what enhanced the second scenario:
Physical Sensation: Felt like he was punched in the stomach; heart turned over in his chest; tears threatened to spill out his eyes.
Posturing, Gesturing, Movement: He began to pace, trying to process; she moved up to him, nearly nose to nose, hands on her hips; she stormed out.
Other Physical Manifestations: Mocking spittle in his face; he saw her squirm and swallow hard; Sabrina sneered; seeing how much pleasure she took in saying it.
Voice: She screamed
Emotion Words: It crushed him; he was furious.
Personality: Jack is exciting, charismatic, lives dangerously, like spicy Margarita, sleaze ball; Harold is kind, dependable, and tender, like warm beer, boring, flat, tasteless, goody two shoes.
Stronger Word Use: Harold’s “I can’t believe what I’m hearing” shows shock and incredulity; Sabrina’s words, “You bore me” along with her posturing show more intense humiliation and intimidation;
I want to go on but it’s late at night and I can barely keep my eyes open. That’s not emotion, that’s my physical state. lol Goodnight everyone.
Last week I talked about the agony and ecstasy of research. Today I am going to talk about another form. It has nothing to do with writing (but perhaps will help me in the future with writing). This is a personal message because I just have to write about it. I may do so on HP as well.
On Tuesday of this week my 19 year old granddaughter was in a near-fatal car accident. She flipped her car and was rushed to the hospital. She had two brain bleeds and multiple broken bones. They did brain surgery where they removed a piece of her skull to allow for swelling. She was on life support for a two more days. I can’t tell you the devastation our family has been going through. You see, in addition to this horrific accident, the hospital had strict rules that she could only have one visitor for one hour every five days due to COVID and our awful governor who I am praying gets voted out. Not only was it devastating to her parents to not be able to be there, but the thought of her going through this alone was unbearable.
Fortunately, my former daughter-in-law is a nurse, a tough cookie, and a Mama bear. She found the right people and had the right formula for getting them to make an exception. This morning, she got to see her. More than her mother’s tenacity, I give credit to God.
She was still on the vent but finally awake. She was smiling despite the breathing apparatus and was able to write the word “water.” If you’ve been on a vent for a few days, you are super thirsty. Later on they took her off the vent and she was able to talk, a little slurred, due to the still swelling brain, but talk nonetheless. Not knowing the latter, I went to Bible study at 12:45 and came home about 2:30. I had a message from her Mom that my granddaughter had left me a voice mail. She had called me at 1:03. I will never ever ever erase that voicemail. As I said, her voice was slurred a bit, and she burped, I am sure due to all the air inside of her from the vent. Best burp ever.
People around the world were praying for her (I’m in a Facebook prayer warrior group with saints from around the world). Yesterday I was teary all day. Today I feel like Tigger, bouncing around with joy. She is still in very serious condition which is not to be taken lightly. She still could have setbacks and will have brain surgery again later on to put the skull piece back on. I imagine she will have lots of rehabilitation. So though I am ecstatic at this victorious day, I don’t want to rest on my spiritual laurels and quit praying. And I don’t want others to either.
I want to talk about this beautiful girl. This is not an exaggeration due to a biased grandmother. Everyone who knows her knows what a tender, sensitive heart she has. Truly one of the kindest people on the planet. She works at a memory care facility and adores her clients/patients. It’s more than a job to her, it’s a ministry. She is dearly loved there.
My older son, her uncle, needed to move one time and had no one to help him. She came to the rescue and helped him move. They had some sweet times together. If you need someone, she is there even if you don’t ask.
Ashlynn loves Jesus and when she hears worship music she beams and sings along with her sweet voice. I remember the last time I saw her about 3 or 4 years ago. She was going through some hard things. So I took her on a drive around the Peninsula I live on to take photos. Then we went to town the next day. The Christian radio station was on and that sad little face lit up and we sang all the way there. We prayed together that day too.
Her mother just got out of the hospital a couple of days before the accident. She had a very serious heart issue come up and was hospitalized about two weeks. About a week or less before her accident she messaged me that she was really having a hard time, worrying about her mom and a break up with a boyfriend. I called her and we talked quite a while then I prayed with her. She felt so much better. I remember being struck by how grown up she sounded; by her maturity, dedication to the people she serves at work, her inner beauty (she’s beautiful on the outside too). Little did I imagine what was to happen a few days later. When I heard the news I just couldn’t process it. Then her mother did a zoom even though she was still unconscious and took a photo off of zoom and sent it to me. It crushed me to see her in that condition. Hooked up to more hardware than five Home Depots.
This crisis has brought our family together in a way I’ve never seen before. And it’s brought some of us closer to God. A lot of people say at a time of crisis, “Oh, all we can do is pray.” In other words, its a last resort and not a very promising one. No, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Prayer is a first and best resort and it should continue throughout the whole ordeal. Because of social media hundreds of people have been praying for her.
From Tuesday to Thursday we were all in agony. I cried on an off through the days. Yesterday was particularly bad. But I had been feeling God’s presence even in the sadness and worry. I remembered the verse in the Bible that says to offer up the sacrifice of praise. Praise and thank God even when you don’t feel like it, even when things are at a devastating low. It is not thanking God for the circumstance or even the pain, but for the strength, comfort, and friendship He gives so abundantly. To do so helps you get your eyes off the problem and on to God, and the inflammatory anxiety is eased. There is no way for me to describe the inexplicable beauty to be found in the midst of pain and sorrow. For me it is simply knowing and feeling God’s presence through it. I’m not skipping along, “Woo hoo, pain rocks.” No, His presence carrying you. It’s too hard to put words to.
I think pain is one of the most useful, effective spiritual teachers to broken people; that is if they don’t choose bitterness. Cling to God and you will grow and find blessings you would not have otherwise. Bitterness has destroyed people. I would rather go through the worst adversity with God than without Him. I once was very bitter and turned on God and turned on myself. I became very self-destructive. I thank God He is the great forgiver and that He pulled me out of that pit and turned my life around. But I had to come to a place of surrender.
In our current situation, there is still a lot ahead of us, and most of all for my granddaughter. There are more hard things to face, but we have every hope she will become a fully restored body. I pray God will deepen our faith through this and mend some broken things in our lives.
A couple of days before the accident I posted here a lyric based on the song Always on My Mind. I remember listening to Susan Boyle singing it and something in my spirit drew me to put lyrics about God’s love in it. If was very intense and I sensed it was for someone particularly but didn’t know who. Well, the day after the accident I realized it was for Ashlynn. So, I am having it printed with a lovely background and take it to her when she can see me. What a day that will be.
Please say a prayer for our girl, Ashlynn Rose. Thank you.
I think I’ve written on this topic before, but I’m in the middle of research for an article and it’s tiring. Research is not always necessary in writing, certainly. A lot of people poo poo the idea with the thought it stifles creativity. I do a lot of writing without research. I let my crazy imagination out of the starting gate and let it have its way. Research has its time and place. When I need to, I usually take great pleasure in doing research for a work of fiction (there have been a few exceptions). However, research for an article is sometimes agony, depending on the topic. I’m not completely certain why the difference, but I’ll take a stab at figuring it out. You decide whether you want to look on and watch my brain work.
I wrote a story a few years back called Searching for Gita, the Little Pearl. I did a lot of research and loved every minute of it. The story takes place on two continents, America and Poland. In the present, it took place in the 1960s, in the past, the late 30s and early 40s. I did extensive research on Poland between 1939 and a little into the early 40s after Hitler had captured Warsaw. I studied their government back then, the fall of Warsaw, some of the main players in Hitler’s regime, holocaust stories, stories of Jews who fought to stay in the city, those who escaped. I read biographical books and articles. I did not use all of this information in the story, but it helped for context as I pieced the story together. I also studied ships that left Poland to go to America, even looked at a manifest just out of curiosity. I researched Krakow and Warsaw in the 60s. I looked for Polish names popular in the time and their meanings. Every moment of research was delicious. I love history. It was a difficult story to write because it was my first foray into time and locale switches, and I had trouble with the plot. I got bogged down in too many characters. I want to put it into a book after my current endeavor, but I will make some big changes the plot but the research will still be used.
Research for my current fiction project has been tedious, even daunting. I looked into the structural hierarchy of hospitals. I spent many hours figuring out how the Ohio State medical board disciplines doctors, laws on sexual crime from a physician and also charges for a citizens for these issues. The problem is, every hospital is a little different. Titles are different, in some hospitals there’s a difference in who hires, fires, and oversees different personnel. As to the laws on sexual crime, it was hard to understand the differences and levels of charges, and how a courtroom scene would be for an underage victim. I think it’s obvious why this research was more unpleasant. I don’t need all of it, but a lot of it.
I write a lot on matters of faith and the Bible. While I am very familiar with the Scriptures, I am not an expert and there is a lot of perusing online Bible sites like Bible Gateway, Bible Tools, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, and commentaries. It’s quicker to google Scriptures on hope or the resurrection, which gives a long list, than it is to pour through a hard copy for hours on end and find them on my own. That is simply because if it’s for an article, I will never get it written, or lose interest if I wade through it in my personal bible. Most of the time I enjoy this because I love the Bible, but I can get overwhelmed taking the Scriptures and weaving them into the article. I realized today that with these kind of articles I need to do an outline.
I’ve written several articles on Bible or everyday idioms, Bible stories where they came from. Also fun.
Fluff pieces once in a while require a bit of research, but it’s not usually too daunting. I researched cow breeds and tagging for a silly story on three calves on a farm who were getting tagged. Fluff, believe me. For those familiar with my Dear Andy advice column using puns – Fluff with a capital F – it might surprise readers to know it is tedious thinking up puns for the topic and yes, I use a Thesaurus sometimes. Please don’t burn me at the stake.
Another time I researched herons when I wrote a poem on them. I didn’t need the research for the poem or story, I was just curious and figured what the heck, I’ll add it.
The nightmare research is where I’m looking for dry, boring facts, quotations if I want several. Quotes are tricky because the majority of quote sites are notorious for faulty attributions. So it’s tedious to find credible sources.
Research is to make things authentic, accurate, and context. I don’t want someone to read something I’ve written and say, that’s not plausible, that is not how it is or is done, this woman is a lazy writer. Research is unpleasant when it is time consuming and difficult to find the facts. Conflicting information is maddening. But the results are rewarding.
I encourage people to do their research, even for fiction if it will make the story authentic. Although you use more of your imagination for fiction and poetry, you want your story to be credible, unless you are a fantasy writer.
As I’m writing this, it just struck me that reading in general is research on life. It also teaches us to write. Had I not been an avid reader in my childhood, I don’t think I’d have the interest in writing, or that I could do a halfway decent job. It was reading about famous baseball players as a child that I fell in love with the game. Reading the Little House on the Prairie books taught me about survival and working hard during difficulty. Reading Flannery O’Connor taught me to love and learn to write about quirky people and weird situations. I realize she had some racism and other prejudices in her characterizations, which I despise now. But nonetheless, I was often intrigued by her characters. To Kill a Mockingbird, oh my, can’t put what I learned there in a nutshell, but I learned a lot.
Since my childhood, Erma Bombeck has been my favorite humor writer. I devoured every Erma Bombeck book several times over, read a gazillion of her columns, and her TV ditties, and I can’t deny the tremendous influence she had on me. I remember laughing until I cried while reading her books. My mom would feed off of my hysteria and laugh along with me.
If I hadn’t read my history, science, and literature books in school I’d never care about those things. I fell in love with Shakespeare and poetry in high school and had the most amazing teachers.
In closing I thought I’d share some quotes on research and a few other things from writers. Some really hit home. Please share your experiences with research in the comments.
“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.” ~ Wernher von Braun
“It has recently been discovered that research causes cancer in rats.” ~ Anonymous
If you do need to do research because parts of your story deal with things about which you know little or nothing, remember that word back. That’s where research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it. You may be entranced with what you’re learning about the flesh-eating bacteria, the sewer system of New York, or the I.Q. potential of collie pups, but your readers are probably going to care a lot more about your characters and your story. ~Stephen King
“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your terms.” ~ Angela Carter
“When humor goes, there goes civilization.” ~ Erma Bombeck
Today I am writing in large print because of my poor vision. I have not been able to read my posts lately and I just figures out how to enlarge the letters. Hope you don’t mind
Susan Boyle is my favorite singer. She is soulful and so stunning in her recordings. I confess I cry often when I listen to her. She moves my heart like no one else. Today I was listening to her singing Always on My Mind by good old Willie Nelson. Who doesn’t love that song? The lyrics are so tender. You can feel the regret the man has for not loving his woman they way he should have. He asks for another chance. To be honest, no one sings it like Willie, but I love Susan’s cover also.
Why would I mess with such perfect lyrics? I don’t know, but I was feeling close to God and thought it would make a great song with a spiritual lyrics. I wrote it as a love song from God to me. It’s not perfect, I need to tweak it because the syllables and meter get tricky in certain parts. Below are the lyrics.