Movin’ On

Hawleyville will always be the place I discovered my blogging (as opposed to journaling) voice, and where I learned to bring some discipline and structure to my writing and to begin promoting my works.

But times and my perspective have changed somewhat, and I feel like I need a fresh start.

Please visit me here:

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Unsettling Anthology Update

I am still on a blogging moratorium as I work on editing my book, but I could not in good conscious not post an update about this here.

Rather than go into the details, I’ll just say that it seems “The Spirit of Poe Anthology” in which I was published was not what it was cracked up to be. I never received a contributor’s copy and according to the post linked here neither did most of the other writers included in the book. Contributors were not paid. In my contract I had waived my payment as a donation to the Poe House, so I hadn’t caught on to that fact.

According to the comments posted at  the Poe House was in no way a part of this anthology.

Am I glad that the call-out for stories inspired me to write the piece that was included? Absolutely.

But because I touted this book as a charitable anthology in the live-and-learn belief that what I was being told as a contributor was the truth, I want everyone to know that the claims made about what was being done with its proceeds are apparently not true, and that other contributors who expected payment did not in fact receive it according to their commentary on this post.

I am still proud of my story and of the spirit in which I and many other contributors poured our hearts into works for this publication. But I am saddened by end end result.

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Happy first day of spring!

I’ve been on vacation for the last week-and-a-half. I took a short beach trip to my aunt and uncle’s with my mom and a good friend. Other than that, I’ve been editing, reading, resting and generally enjoying living sans alarm clock. I’ve also been doing some reflecting.

As we move into warmer temperatures, I’ve decided to back off of blogging and go back into “check in” mode for a while.

Last time I did this, I was overwhelmed with trying to finish the book.  My reasons are a little different this time. I COULD blog regularly and finish editing the book.  Editing isn’t taking all my creative energy the way that telling the story did. There are blog posts in me. But to write them on top of editing and doing my day job involves too much time sitting on my butt.

The truth is, as the weather gets better, I just want some time to get off my ass more. I work a desk job that involves staring at a computer all day, and my fellow writers know that the first step in editing is gluing yourself to your chair.  While the gettin’ is good weatherwise, I want time to MOVE. I want to garden and get in some outdoor walking and enjoy the season before the pleasant days of spring and early summer give way to the Swampass Season of muggy Maryland summertime.

Exercise and physical fitness have taken a backseat for the last year. Writing a book in the spare moments between long hours at a dayjob will do that. I’m going to give my body some time in the limelight. It has been good to me while I’ve taken on this endeavor. It avoided cold and flu-bugs even when surrounded by sick folks at work. It got a little softer as I ignored its need for activity, but it hung in there.

Time to pay back the favor.

Happy Spring, my friends! I’ll check in from time-to-time, but for now I’ll be splitting my free time between editing the book and moving my butt.  See you soon!

Posted in Creativity, Exercise, Uncategorized, Writing | 2 Comments

Adventures in Editing

Most of my blog’s regular readers fall into two categories. Many are writers who have “been there, done that” when it comes to editing a book. Others are friends and family who are probably as interested in the editing process as I am in best practices in proctology.

In other words, apologies if this post bores you. Bookmark it and come back when you need a cure for insomnia.

I am knee-deep in editing “Wolfman’s Pier,” the working title for what I’ve until now called “Manwhore.” Explaining the transition would give away too much, so I won’t. Although I’ve got miles to go before I finish, I’ve already learned a lot about the editing process and my own writing style.

1.  I am still in love with my characters and storyline. The book moves at a brisk pace, with the right blend of humor, surprising turns of events, and relationship building.

2. Back in college, I remember a lit professor (who resembled the weird old man who keeps all the scary secrets from hapless victims in any number of horror movies) telling me I wrote like a “Hunter S. Thompson wannabe hack.” Meanwhile, my journalism and creative writing profs were praising my writing and saying I had a promising career ahead of me.

After a few semesters of  being swatted like a ping-pong ball between “you rock” and “you suck,” I came to a realization. I am NOT a literary writer. I am a journalistic storyteller. I prefer vivid scenes to metaphor, and gripping dialogue and events to allusions and theory. I can’t write a page comparing a tree bending in the breeze to being resiliant through life’s hard knocks without snoring. I’d rather say the same thing with a ghost who breaks down because women can no longer see his tallywacker.

I’ll never be published in a literary journal or please readers who prefer that writing style. I tell a different kind of story for a different audience. But I still must be careful not to overexaggerate and rely on hype in my writing. I’m not a hack, but I can go down that road if left unchecked.  A lot of my editing has been toning things down “just enough.”

3. I have been taking my imaginary machete to “lys.” She moved quietLY. He said gentLY. She ate piggishLY. OK, no one in my book eats piggishly, but you get the picture. Overall, I was good about “showing not telling.” But often I fell into the trap of letting a LY  drive home a point. An occasional LY is OK, but when they crop up like mosquitos on a humid summer night, they gotta go.

4. Dealing with backstory bites. The line between not enough and too much feels almost invisible. This has been the toughest parts of my editing process. But I’m plowing through it.

5. My favorite part of editing has been coming up with subtitles for each mini-chapter. While not necessary, I think they add flair and fun to the book. As I edit each segment, I keep the need for a perfect header in the back of my mind. This hunt for a phrase that captures the essence of the segment helps me analyze the chapter’s flow.

I’d love to hear about the editing experience of others who care to share!

Posted in Creativity, Fiction, The Naked Man-Whore Chronicles, Writing, Writing A Novel | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Man in the Mountains

Wade Ruggles, Preston County Journal

Wade Ruggles, Preston County Journal

One of my heroes looks like a movie-star President. But my love for him has nothing to do with his resemblance to an American icon.

March always makes me think about my great-uncle Weach, one of my paternal grandmother’s four brothers. His name was actually Wade Ruggles, but he got the nickname “Weach” as a child and it stuck.

Uncle Weach was a coal miner in the mountains of Preston County, West Virginia. He had three sons. His oldest, Jimmy, was my father’s age and died of Hodgkin’s Disease as a teenager. His other two boys were born much later. Steve and Dave were teenagers when I was a little girl. They taught me to roller skate and took me swimming in the Cheat River during summer vacations.

Coal mining is hazardous work, and not likely to make the average worker wealthy. But Uncle Weach knew how to spend both time and money on what was most important. His family had a cozy farmhouse on a winding country road with their own small pond nestled behind it. He also had a campsite along the Cheat River, where he built a trailer that a family could live in quite comfortably.

When he retired, he decided the children in his extremely rural mountain community in Tunnelton, West Virginia needed a gathering place. He turned an old building into a roller-skating rink. It was there that Uncle Weach and my older cousins taught me to skate.

I have so many unique and wonderful memories of Uncle Weach, and there’s only room here for a few of my favorites.

– He tamed a raccoon that hung out in his yard, to the point that it would waddle onto his porch and was even allowed in one room of his house.

– He loved sharing his campsite with family. One spring break, my then-fiance’ and I decided to take a trip there. The camper had gone unused most of the winter, and Weach made the mountain drive to air it out for us. We were behind schedule, and didn’t arrive until nearly midnight. When we got there, I found my great-uncle asleep in a recliner with a carton of ice cream melting in his lap. He was snoring and had strawberry goo on his jeans.

– He gave the best bear hugs ever. He wasn’t a tall or big man. By the time I was sixteen, I stood eye-to-eye with him. That year, the daughter of another of my great-uncles got married. I wore heels to the wedding. I saw Uncle Weach and realized that I was looking down at the top of his head. But when he grabbed me up in one of his big, warm hugs, I still felt like a little girl being embraced by a friendly giant.

– He loved children and had a knack for making each and every niece, nephew or skating rink visitor feel like the most special kid in the world.

I was an awkward, clumsy, self-conscious girl who took forever to grow into her body and her sense of self. I hated gym class with a passion. Sports in school are an exercise in humility for clutzy pre-teen girls who stand a head taller than their classmates and have horrible hand-eye coordination. Kids are harsh, especially adolescent girls, and I was the unwilling star of my own freak show. I spent my days trying to disappear into the background.

But Weach could make even a kid with no self-confidence feel talented and special and happy to be alive and out and about in the world. At home, I was the girl who faked injuries to avoid gym class humiliation. On endless summer days with Uncle Weach, I was the girl who swam in a river for hours, rowed a boat, climbed slippery slopes to get to the best fishing spot, and skated like a champ. He made me feel like my uniqueness was a good thing, not something to hide.

– He treated his wife, my Aunt Jeannie, like gold. She was a sweet homebody who raised her children and volunteered at her church. She tolerated a raccoon in her house with a good-natured sigh because she loved Weach as much as he loved her. When he passed away, she was lost.

– Uncle Weach was in perfect health most of his life, in spite of a career with a legacy of lung damage. In his late 70’s he woke one night and asked for an ambulance. He told Aunt Jeannie he didn’t think he would be coming home. He didn’t.

– Long before that night, he purchased their grave plot beside Jimmy, the son he and Jeannie had lost. Many family members rest in that cemetery, and my grandmother would walk my cousins and I there to visit.

Shortly after I learned to read, we stopped by Jimmy’s grave. I saw “Wade and Jeanne Ruggles” etched on the next stone over and flipped out. As a child, I didn’t understand preparing to be dead ahead of time. Grandmom tried to explain it to me, but I would not let it go until I saw Weach for myself, so we walked home and called him. He showed up right away, swooped me up  and said “silly girl!”

He has rested in that cemetery almost 20 years now, and I still feel like the wonder of those mountains diminished just a little when he left. He was larger than life in the best way possible, and I still miss his bear hugs.

Some blame a life not lived to the fullest on hardships. But Weach blows their theories away. He had one of the most grueling jobs imaginable. He lost a son. Instead of being bitter, he loved his family, his life and his surroundings all the more. In his retirement years, he extended that love to his community with his skating rink.

Maybe that’s why March makes me think of him so much. It is the time of year when gentle warmth begins to steal over cold barren landscapes. It is a time of hope and happiness.

I miss you, Uncle Weach. You didn’t need to look like Reagan to be an American icon.

Posted in Childhood Memories, Family, Memoirs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Pet Names

Do I look like a mosquito to you??

Do I look like a mosquito to you??

“Whatcha want, Skeeter?” I called across the room the other night, using the voice I reserve for baby-talking to my cat. He’d been meowing at me while I tried to check my email.

Sylvester stretched and looked at me like I’d grown a second head. Then he gave a disgusted flick of his tail and stalked off into the kitchen. The food bowl wasn’t empty, just dangerously low by his standards. I refilled it and said “there you go, Fat Boy.”

He tossed another disgusted look over his shoulder, then stuck his face in the bowl.

I guess I can’t blame him. In less than five minutes, I’d called him both Skeeter and Fat Boy. Those are just a few of the monikers that get tossed his way several times a day. His actual name – Sylvester – is the one I use least of all.

Fat Boy makes sense. All you have to do is look at him or witness his paranoid obsession with his food bowl to understand it. But Skeeter?

That one is a little more roundabout. A long while back, Lee and I discovered “Google Translate.” We are fortysomethings in pre-teen bodies, I guess, because this helpful tool immediately became a source of juvenile entertainment. We spent more time than I care to admit looking up cursewords and vulgar slang in different languages.

One that stuck with us was Muschi. For those who don’t know, this is how you say “pussy” in German, at least according to the almighty Google Translator. I decided it was kind of a cute word. I dislike the p-word, and am even less fond of the good old C-word that rhymes with runt. They’ve got a harsh, icky grossness to them. Muschi, on the other hand, is almost cute-ish. At least the way we say it … “moo-ski.” It sounds like a cartoon cow with a Polish last name. People who actually speak German might pronounce it very differently. But at our Juvenile Google Translate Party For Two, that didn’t matter all.

Poor Sylvester. It was only a matter of time before “pussycat”  became “Mooskicat.” Which became just plain old “Mooski.” And then one day, he was being a royal pain in the arse when I was trying to read, insisting that I pay attention to him by sticking his butt in my face.

“Moo-Ski…Toe!” I admonished. You know, “Mooskito.” “Mosquito.” Because mosquitoes are a pain in the ass, and so are cats who shove that same body part in your face.

Fat Boy. Mooski. Mooskito. It wasn’t much more of a stretch to get to Skeeter.

What is it about our animal companions that makes rational, normal human beings come up with idiotic pet names? For that matter, what makes us do the same with people? If I think about it, I was genetically predestined for this brand of weirdness.

As a kid, I spent several weeks of each summer vacation with my great-aunt and great-uncles in West Virginia. I’d come home anxious to tell my neighborhood friends about my trip.

“Aunt Fuzzy took me to her campsite. We had fires at night and told ghost stories and put whoopie cushions in Uncle Don’s chair so we could say he farted. Then I stayed with Uncle Weach, and we fished in his pond and went roller-skating. When I stayed with Uncle Bunny he had me and my cousins weed all the cornfields and taught me how to milk a cow. And we walked over to Uncle Hop’s and picked blackberries.”

My friends would give me the same “you have an extra head” look I get from Sylvester when I call him Skeeter.  Back then, I figured they thought my cow-milking, corn-weeding vacation paled in comparison to their trip to Disney World, although I wouldn’t have traded with them for anything.

Now, I realize it probably wasn’t my trip itself, but my FuzzyWeachBunnyHop collection of aunts and uncles that caught them off guard. Fuzzy was actually Alma. Weach was Wade. Bunny was Hugh, and Hop was Frank. But they’d gone by their childhood nicknames for so long that they’d been FuzzyWeachBunnyHop for decades before I came along. Why change now?

My Dad called me Thumper when I was a kid. It had nothing to do with the adorable little rabbit from Bambi. It was his way of making fun of the way I stomped around everywhere.  I was not a graceful child. Again, some things never change.

My sister had it worse. My mother called her Toad, and so did I.

I’m thankful that unlike our great-aunt and great-uncles, we let our childhood nicknames drift away. Going through life as Thumper and Toad would have sucked.

What silly (ok, maybe even stupid) nicknames have been bestowed on you, your loved ones, or your pets? Even better, what’s the story behind them?

Posted in Childhood Memories, Family, humor, Memoirs, Pets, Slices O' Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Gettin’ Dirty

pinktulipI’ve been overcome with a desire to play in the dirt. I want to sit in the grass with morning dew soaking my butt.

I want to weed my gardens.

I wasn’t much of a gardener until I hit my mid-thirties. I admired others’ landscaping and colorful flower beds, and always appreciated my mom making her yard a  poolside paradise. But I never caught the gardening bug myself. It was all I could do to keep the grass mowed and weeds and vines from overtaking my yard.

When I met Lee, that all changed. He’d always loved gardening, but had never lived in a place that offered much space for it. He saw my yard the way a painter sees a blank canvas. Even before we moved in together, I let him have at it. Early on it our relationship, I worked days and he worked nights. The only time our schedules meshed was Sundays. Often, he’d come over and spend the whole day playing in my yard, turning it into something beautiful.

It didn’t take long to get me out there planting and weeding with him. To my surprise, I discovered that I loved the whole experience, down to the dirt under my fingernails and the mud-stains on my bum.

Even so, I’m amazed at how psyched I am for gardening season. I’m not a winter-hater. The cold keeps me indoors more, but it also seems to refuel my creative well. I write more in the fall and winter months than I ever do in spring or summer. Knowing that, I rarely wish them away.

I’m blaming my eagerness to put winter behind me on two things. The first is that Maryland’s winter has chomped a hairy butt this year. It hasn’t been brutal, just a constant roller coaster of almost springlike days followed by cold temps and wild winds. Each changeover brings a spattering of rain and some sad, slushy snow. With no lasting snowstorms to turn the landscape into a fresh, clean wonderland (and get me a home-from-work-free-card or two), I’m just done with it. I’m done with slippery roads and the wind making it sound like some serial killing psychopath is banging on my door at 2 a.m.

But even more than that, I think my eagerness for dirt-digging is about relief. At work, I’m in the midst of a project that involves reviewing tons of records and statistics in a painstaking, line-by-line fashion. There are days I dread it so much I want to scream and beat my head against my desk until I am as concussion-dumb as a quarterback who has taken one too many sacks.

I am also  editing my book. I enjoy doing so. But it is work of a similar nature – careful, painstaking reading and attention to the most minute details. Writing is pouring everything out. Editing is reeling it back in.

Editing is … weeding.

But when you weed a garden, the sun warms your back. You yank and pull the things that are choking your flowers from the earth. They come away in your hands, dribbling dirt on your legs. You reach and stretch. You notice weeds you don’t want to pull, because they are rather pretty. You work until you are done, and then sit back and bask in your finished product. Yes, the weeds grow again, but not right away.

For a moment, you can survey your landscape and say “I did this today.”

Weeding a novel is a much lengthier task. You cannot finish in the hour or so it takes to weed a garden. Depending on your other obligations, you may not even finish in a season.

I want to play in the dirt so that I can finish something. I want an immediate, tangible, beautiful end result. I know my book will give me the same thing eventually. But I need some instant gratification.

Last year, I left the gardening all to Lee because all my spare-time energies were going into writing the book. I won’t do that this year, even if it means it takes me longer to finish editing. I am on my own deadline, and if I learned one thing last year it was that a life without play is no life at all.

Will you be playing in the dirt this spring?

Addendum: This post was inspired because I can feel spring in the air. But after writing it, I heard we might get our first major snowstorm of the year on Wednesday. Sigh. Dudes, REALLY?

Posted in Gardening, Slices O' Life, Work, Writing, Writing A Novel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments