Posted by Maryann on May 20, 2016 | ∞
For Friday’s Funnies I thought I’d invite Slim Randles for a special appearance. Have you ever heard of cow-a-dunga? Cow-a-bunga, yes, but this is a new one for me. By the way, does anyone know what cow-a-bunga means?
I was studying my card when the guys walked in for coffee.
“What did you get?” asked Doc.
“Yeah. The boys caught me when I was kinda short, so I only got the one this year.”
“They hit me for ten,” Doc said. “In E section.”
Dud looked at us. “I think E section’s a pretty good bet. Especially later in the afternoon. The sun will be over there then. Nice and warm. She’s liable to go there.”
It’s Cow-a-dunga time again. It’s Mr. Shaver’s idea. He’s the music teacher for all three of our schools here, and he needed a way the kids could raise some money for band trips.
“I hear they’re using one of Simmons’s cows this year,” said Dud. “Doc, is there any kind of laxative you can give a cow?”
“How should I know? I’m not a veterinarian. Besides, you know they’ll keep her identity a secret until Saturday. They know there’s people out there just like you who’d like to ‘doctor’ that cow.”
We all laughed. No one would think of bothering the cow, of course, but we’ll all spend at least part of Saturday down in the bleachers at the high school football field keeping an eye on that cow. That’s the whole fun of Cow-a-dunga, of course.
By now, the kids have that acre of grass all crisscrossed with chalk lines, dividing the field up into one-yard squares. Each square sells for a buck. If all the squares sell, that’s five grand for the kids. The winner is determined by a cow. On Saturday, a cow will be released onto the field, and watched carefully by a whole bunch of us. When the cow’s digestive system causes her to plop a decoration onto the field, the lucky holder of that square gets five hundred bucks.
There are, of course, strict rules against arm waving, chowsing noises, horn honking and the application of anything that might sway her toward or away from any particular square.
“I wonder,” said Steve, “if there’s any rule against using the evil eye. You know, like if she’s heading for Doc’s block of squares, I could send her a signal to hold it for a while.”
“Cheaters never prosper,” said Doc.
The Home Country radio show will be coming soon to a radio station near you! New, from Syndication Networks.
Posted by Maryann on May 16, 2016 | ∞
Many thanks to the awesome Kristen Lamb who shares writing tips on her blog and lets folks re-post her entries. This is one of her recent posts and I thought it was a good one to share. We all can benefit from some thoughtful self-editing before turning our babies over to an editor, so get out your red pencils.
#1 The Brutal Truth about Adverbs, Metaphors and Similes
I have never met an adverb, simile, or metaphor I didn’t LOVE. I totally dig description, but it can present problems.
First of all, adverbs are not ALL evil. Redundant adverbs are evil. If someone shouts loudly? How else are they going to shout? Whispering quietly? Really? Ah, but if they whisper seductively? The adverb seductively gives us a quality to the whisper that isn’t already implied by the verb.
Check your work for adverbs and kill the redundant ones. Kill them. Dead.
Metaphors and similes are awesome, but need to be used sparingly. Yes, in school, our teachers or professors didn’t ding us for using 42 metaphors in 5 pages, but their job was to teach us how to properly use a metaphor or simile, NOT prepare us for commercial publication as professional novelists.
When we use too much of this verbal glitter, we can create what’s called “purple prose.” This glitter, while sparkly, can pull the reader out of the story or even confuse the reader. A while back, I edited a winner’s 20 page entry. The story began on a whitewater river and the rafters were careening toward a “rock coffee table.”
Oh, the boulder is squarish shaped!
Thing is, the metaphor made me stop to figure out what image the author was trying to create. If the rafters had merely been careening toward a giant flat rock? Not as pretty but I could have remained in the story without trying to figure out how the hell furniture ended up in the river.
Go through your pages and highlight metaphors and similes. Pick THE BEST and CUT THE REST. Look for confusing metaphors, like rock furniture in the middle of a river.
#2 Stage Direction
She reached out her arm to open the door.
He turned to go down the next street.
He picked up the oars and pulled a few more strokes, eager to get to his favorite fishing spot.
We “get” he’d have to pick up the oars to row his boat, or that is a seriously cool trick.
Be active. Characters can “brush hair out of their face” “open doors” and even slap people without you telling us they reached out an arm or hand to do this. We are smart. Really.
#3 Painful and Alien Movement of Body Parts…
Her eyes flew to the other end of the restaurant.
His head followed her across the room.
All I have to say is… “Ouch.”
Make sure your character keeps all body parts attached. Her gaze can follow a person and so can her stare, but if her eyes follow? The carpet gets them fuzzy with dust bunnies and then they don’t slide back in her sockets as easily.
#4 Too Much Physiology…
Her heart pounded. Her heart hammered. Her pulse beat in her head. Her breath came in choking sobs.
After a page of this? I need a nap. After two pages? I need a drink. We can only take so much heart pounding, thrumming, hammering before we just get worn out. That and I read a lot of entries where the character has her heart hammering so much, I am waiting for her to slip into cardiac arrest at any moment. Ease up on the physiology. Less is often more.
Get a copy of Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s Emotion Thesaurus to help you vary physiology. Also, if someone’s heart is pounding, that’s okay. We assume until they are out of danger it’s still pounding. No need to remind us.
#5 Backing Into the Sentence/Passive Voice
In an effort to break up and vary sentence structure, many writers will craft sentences like this:
With the months of stress pressing down on her head, Jessie started ironing the restaurant tablecloths with a fury.
Problem? Passive action. When we use the word “down” then “on” is redundant. Either she is ironing or not ironing. “Started” is overused and makes sloppy writing. That actually goes back to the whole “stage direction” thing.
Jessie ironed the restaurant tablecloths with a fury, months of stress pressing on her shoulders.
The door was kicked in by the police.
Police kicked in the door.
If you go through your pages and see WAS clusters? That’s a HUGE hint that passive voice has infected your story.
#6 Almost ALWAYS Use “Said” as a Tag
“You are such a jerk,” she laughed.
A character can’t “laugh” something. They can’t “snip” “spit” “snarl” “grouse” words. They can SAY and ever so often they can ASK. Said becomes white noise. Readers don’t “see” it. It keeps them in the story and cooking along. If we want to add things like laughing, griping, complaining, then fine. It just shouldn’t be the tag.
“You are such a jerk.” She laughed as she flicked brownie batter onto Fabio’s white shirt.
And I would add to this last one that using an action to designate the speaker is much better than the “he said” “she said” dialogue tags.
Posted by Maryann on May 13, 2016 | ∞
A FEW JOKES TO START THE WEEKEND OFF WITH A CHUCKLE OR TWO
A photographer on vacation in the US was inside a church taking photographs when he noticed an old fashioned telephone mounted on the wall with a sign that read ‘$10,000 per call’.
Being intrigued, he asked a priest who was strolling by, what the telephone was used for.
The priest replied that it was a direct line to heaven and that for $10,000 you could talk to God.
The photographer thanked the priest and went along his way.
Upon leaving Vermont he decided to travel up to Canada to see if Canadians had the same phone.
He arrived in Canada, and again, in the first church he entered, there was the same old fashioned telephone, but this time the sign under it read ’50 cents per call.’
Surprised he asked the priest about the sign. ‘Father, I’ve traveled all over America and I’ve seen this same old fashioned telephone in many churches. I’m told that it is a direct line to heaven, but in the US the price was $10,000 per call. Why is it so cheap here?’
The priest smiled and answered, ‘You’re in Canada now, son …. it’s a local call.’
“Optimism is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartare sauce with you!”
GROWING OLD IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART
I very quietly confided to my best friend that I was having an affair. She turned to me and asked, “Are you having it catered?” And that, my friend, is the sad definition of “OLD”!
Just before the funeral services, the undertaker came up to the very elderly widow and asked, “How old was your husband?” “98,” she replied: “Two years older than me.”
“So you’re 96,” the undertaker commented. She responded, “Hardly worth going home, is it?”
Reporters interviewing a 104-year-old woman: “And what do you think is the best thing about being 104?” the reporter asked. She simply replied, “No peer pressure.”
I’ve sure gotten old! I have outlived my feet and my teeth, I’ve had two bypass surgeries, a hip replacement, new knees, fought prostate cancer and diabetes , I’m half blind, can’t hear anything quieter than a jet engine, take 40 different medications that make me dizzy, winded, and subject to blackouts. Have bouts with dementia. Have poor circulation; hardly feel my hands and feet anymore. Can’t remember if I’m 85 or 92. Have lost all my friends. But, thank God, I still have my driver’s license.
I feel like my body has gotten totally out of shape, so I got my doctor’s permission to
join a fitness club and start exercising. I decided to take an aerobics class for seniors. I bent, twisted, gyrated, jumped up and down, and perspired for an hour. But, by the time I got my leotards on, the class was over.
An elderly woman decided to prepare her will and told her preacher she had two final requests. First, she wanted to be cremated, and second, she wanted her ashes scattered over Wal-Mart.
“Wal-Mart?” the preacher exclaimed. “Why Wal-Mart?”
“Then I’ll be sure my daughters visit me twice a week”
Know how to prevent sagging? Just eat till the wrinkles fill out.
My memory’s not as sharp as it used to be. Also, my memory’s not as sharp as it used to be.
That’s it for me, folks. If you have a favorite joke do share it in the comments. Have a great weekend.
Posted by Maryann on May 8, 2016 | ∞
Before I post the book review, I do want to take a moment to wish every mother a Happy Mother’s Day. Enjoy your special day!!
Surviving Alzheimer’s With Friends, Facebook, and a Really Big Glass of Wine
Dayna Steele with Heather Rossiello
File Size: 11854 KB
Print Length: 228 pages
Publication Date: February 22, 2016
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
The majority of this book is comprised of Facebook updates that Dayna posted chronicling the effects of the disease on her mother from the first time she was diagnosed until the end. Also included are some of the responses from family and friends offering virtual support. Some of the responses were from people going through a similar journey, forming a virtual bond of understanding and compassion. What developed was one large Alzheimer’s support group over the period of 2 years from the time Dana’s mother Fran was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s until the October day she died.
The Facebook posts range from humor, sometimes very dark, to sad and gut-wrenching, but all of them are so honest and so real and so familiar to anybody who has had a family member go through this disease.
As I read this book, I couldn’t help but think of my good friend Jan who cared for her mother who had Alzheimer’s. This was before Facebook and any kind of virtual support group, so through phone conversations and visits, Jan and I were our own support group as we watched her beloved mother decline. I had lived with this family for a while so Jan’s mother was as close to me as my own mother, and it was very gut wrenching to see her go through the dementia.
Like Dana, Jan and I used humor to deal with the confusion, the frustration, the endless repeats of questions and comments. We were lucky that Jan’s mother never turned violent. And when she had to go to a nursing home, she was content because she decided that she was going to a religious retreat and that was okay with her because she loved to go on go on retreats.
It was very hard for Jan and I when her mother no longer recognized us, but there was always a recognition through music. “In the Garden” was one of her favorite hymns, and every time I played guitar she’d ask me to play that hymn. When I visited her in the care facility and played that song, she’d look at me, and I would know she knew.
It is in sharing these kinds of stories that caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients support each other because there is that little kernel of truth in our story that connects to other peoples’ stories.
In addition to the support group aspect of Surviving Alzheimer’s, there is a section with resources that cover topics such as choosing a long-term care facility, dealing with insurance, and what to expect from a doctor. All of these sections are written by experts in the various fields; a doctor, a lawyer, an insurance agent, and others.
This is a book I highly recommend for anyone dealing with a family member who has dementia or Alzheimer’s. It is written with such heart that it will bring smiles and tears and nods of recognition. It is also an important book for those who are not yet dealing with this insidious disease; because we never know when a loved one will enter into that dark scary place. The resources in the book give everyone a way to prepare for that possibility, as well as the important medical and legal documents that we should all have in place to help our families handle everything after we are gone.
These are all things that are often very hard for families to talk about so too often nothing is written down and nothing is decided until a moment of great emotional strain. It is so much better to have everything in place well before it is needed. Dayna’s mother made many of her own arrangements early on, and Dayna wrote that it was easier for her and her family to handle things since so many decisions had been made much earlier. So she recommends that we do the hard stuff now before it is too late. She also recommends having a nice big glass of wine when we are finished.
Posted by Maryann on May 4, 2016 | ∞
Another whole week has raced by, and Slim Randles is back as today’s Wednesday’s guest. Before I turn you over to him, however, I have some lamenting to do. Don’t you just love that word? It has such a rich meaning.
But I digress.
My tale of woes includes an increase in pain from the Ramsey Hunt Syndrome, but the good news is that the new pain means the nerves are regenerating. Honest. The doctor said so. I do hope it does not take the nerves as long to come back to life as it did for them to die.
On another note, storms last weekend took out a lot of my electronics, including my router and modem and TV. Looking at the sick TV, I couldn’t help but think about the old John Prine song “Blow up Your TV.” I first heard the song on a John Denver album and loved it. I even learned how to play the song on my guitar. Here are the opening lyrics:
Blow up your t.v. throw away your paper / Go to the country, build you a home / Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches / Try an find Jesus on your own
Okay, now I will let Slim take the stage, and to go along with his theme of May Day, here are some pretty early spring roses. If you have a nice vase, feel free to pick some.
As the recessional played, and Reverend Jeff opened the church doors before shaking hands with his parishioners, he was surprised to discover he wasn’t the first one there.
“Uh, good morning … Alphonse.”
Yes, it was Alphonse “Windy” Wilson, his boots cleaned and a bulldogger Western tie on his pearl-snap shirt, grinning broadly.
He stood next to the minister as the parishioners came past, one by one and shook Jeff’s hand. Then they shook Windy’s hand … because there it was, outstretched and ready for a shake.
“Bless you,” Windy said. “And a happy May Day!”
“Thank you, Windy,” said Mavis.
“And … you know why they call it May Day …?
But Mavis was already gone and Windy was already through three more handshakes. These folks were in a hurry.
“Yo Doc … you know why they call it May Day?”
But Doc and Mrs. Doc were already halfway to their car.
“I don’t know about you, Rev,” he whispered, “but these folks are sure in a hurry. Fills me with a consternation at their respirational souls.”
Reverend Jeff just nodded and kept shaking hands. Then they were gone, and it was just Jeff and Windy at the top of the steps.
“They sure move on out, don’t they? Beats me how you can corral ‘em long enough to sermonize ‘em.”
“That’s easy, Windy,” Jeff said. “I shut the door.”
“Have to try that … one of these days.”
“So tell me,” said the smiling minister, “why do they call it May Day?”
“Ah shoot! They got me so flustercated I plumb forgot.”
The Home Country radio show can now be heard on WTYS in Panama City, Florida. Give a listen next time you’re through there.
Slim Randles is the author of Home Country, the book that evolved from his popular weekly column of the same name. If you enjoy his offering here, you will like his book.
Posted by Maryann on April 27, 2016 | ∞
Our friend Slim Randles is back as today’s Wednesday’s Guest with some fun from a couple of his friends. Enjoy the read and grab a cookie if you’d like. I have lots.
Herb Collins was back out in the yard again Saturday. The noise made the neighbors go to the windows and peek out to see what was going on, because yard work and noise and Herb have never gone together.
Mystery solved. Herb has a new gas-powered lawn mower. Last Saturday was the final outing for his quiet electric lawn mower, as he once again ran over the cord and cut it. The cord finally had more patches than a quilting bee, and Herb had opted for a gas mower that didn’t require an umbilical link to the front porch.
Steve was going by in his pickup truck, the big one with duellies and the blacksmith’s forge in the back, and he pulled over and stopped. Steve got out and watched quietly as Herb continued to mow the lawn. Steve poured himself a cup of coffee from his Thermos, pushed back his Stetson, and watched Herb work up a good sweat.
Herb made three more rounds of the yard, and finally thought Steve might have something important to say to him, so he killed the engine on the mower, mopped his brow, and walked over to the visitor.
“Workin’ hard there, I see,” said Steve.
“Gotta stay ahead of it,” said Herb.
Herb looked puzzled at Steve’s question. “Well … otherwise it grows too fast and the yard looks crummy.”
“I was by here Thursday,” said Steve. “Saw you watering.”
“Well … to make the grass grow, of course.”
Steve raised his eyebrows.
“What?” asked Herb.
“Isn’t it kinda like digging a hole and filling it up?”
“I don’t get you.”
Steve got back in the pickup, rolled down the window, and said. “Seems to me like you’re just encouraging it.”
Then he drove away, leaving Herb to once again deal with the intricacies of cowboy philosophy.
Like Steve, I’ve often wondered about folks who water their lawn all the time and mow once or twice a week. What do you think?
The Home Country radio show will be coming soon to a radio station near you. New, from Syndication Networks.
Check out Slim’s book, Home Country.
“The Gift” is a story to warm your heart at the holiday season, or any day of the year.
The short story is still free today and tomorrow. It is on Amazon Kindle, but you can get a Kindle app for any electronic device. Grab your copy HERE
Posted by Maryann on April 24, 2016 | ∞
Before I tell you about the free story, I want to share some pictures of flowers that I have taken over the past few weeks. Some are easily recognized. Who doesn’t know a pansy when they see one?
Really? There are people who have never seen one?
Oh, right, I guess I didn’t think about all the places in the world where this pretty little flower doesn’t grow.
Pansies hold a special place in my heart, as they were one of my mother’s favorite flowers. When I was a child I would buy a couple of the plants as a Mother’s Day gift and dig a hole on either side of our concrete steps leading to the front porch and plant the flowers there. That they grew there was a miracle, as the dirt was more clay than dirt, and they were in full sun. But they did survive, and my mother always called them “the people flowers.”
Next up is a wildflower. These blue flowers pop up all over my front pasture. My husband used to laugh at me when I mowed out there because I would never cut the flowers down. There were interesting circles in my pasture.
I did not know what these flowers are called, but some of my Facebook friends stepped right up. “Tradescantia, commonly called spiderwort.”
Next are some pretty yellow flowers that grow along my fence line. I won’t cut them down either.
I have no idea what they are called, so if you know, please do tell all in a comment.
I got lucky and got a nice close-up of these little beauties.
Again, I don’t know what they are called, but I enjoy finding them in different places in my yard. If you know, please do share.
Last, I have a white flower. It caught my eye because of the contrast with all the colors around it.
I do know what this one is. It is a wild blackberry flower. It was all by itself, well away from the berry patches, so I snapped a picture.
Now, about the free story. The Gift, the short story that I wrote last November is going to be free from today, Sunday, until Thursday, April 28. If you have not grabbed a copy yet, now is your chance. It is on Amazon Kindle, but you can get a Kindle app for any electronic device. Grab your copy HERE
“The Gift” is a story to warm your heart at the holiday season, or any day of the year.
Cover art by Dany Russell
Here are a few comments from satisfied readers:
“Maryann paints pictures with words that create a lasting impression long has reading the final sentence. I loved this timely story and it could certainly be a true story. Thank you Maryann for THE GIFT.” Jan
“Just finished reading this delightful story. It was short, sweet, and left me feeling good. I will definitely looking for more by Maryann Miller.” Linda
“I highly recommend The Gift: A Short Story, as a great thought-provoking, sweet read. The author does a marvelous job of getting into the minds of everyday people facing real problems.” Morgan
“A nice short story with a twist. I liked “The Last Dollar” too.” James
Stacy paused, glittery gold garland in one hand and tape in the other, and glanced at her husband. He was in his favorite chair, engrossed in his favorite pastime – watching television. By his expression, she couldn’t tell if he was enjoying the program or not. She never could tell. He often just sat there with no movement crossing his face to send any messages. She sighed. “Ralph, come shopping with me. We can go to the mall and see the Christmas decorations.”
“Just for fun.” She taped the garland on the posts of the half-wall. “And we can buy a present for Lucy.”
“You already bought her presents. She doesn’t need another.”
“You can never have enough presents.”
Ralph didn’t respond. He just sat in the old brown recliner that had seen too many years, one eye on the TV that was showing a rerun of Miami Vice. Stacey stepped over and dropped a hand on his shoulder. “I wish you’d come. It would do you good.”
He shrugged off the contact. “You go. I want to watch my program.”
God how she hated seeing him this way. His sour mood was almost an every-day thing now, and most days she alternated between great sadness and even greater anger. Sometimes she just wanted to shout, “Get over it already.”
After you read the story, I would love for you to leave a review on Amazon. It doesn’t have to be a long one, as you can tell from the reviews I shared, and it does help an author quite a bit.
Posted by Maryann on April 20, 2016 | ∞
Slim Randles is back as today’s Wednesday’s Guest, so please help me give him a warm welcome and join me in a cup of coffee and a bite of chocolate. This is not the way the guys down at the Mule Barn Truck Stop drink their coffee, but they don’t have to know that we went the fancy-schmancy route. Enjoy….
There could be lots of reasons Martin chose to become the “crossing sergeant.”
Oh, there have been rumors that the good woman may give Martin a hard time at home, but you know how rumors are.
Martin retired from the Field Ranch a while back after about 40 years. After that, we’d see him out walking or maybe fishing a little along Lewis Creek. Then one day in September, Martin found his new career as a crossing guard down next to the elementary school.
He got a blaze orange vest, a paddle sign with “stop” on one side and “slow” on the other. And they gave him a whistle. Oh yes, the whistle. At first, when a child was spotted a block away, Martin would trot out to the middle of the intersection, blow his whistle, hold up his paddle and turn it around so everyone saw “stop,” regardless of where you were. And we’d wait until some third-grader got safely to school.
Then we were waved on through. And with each wave of Martin’s hand there was a blast on the whistle. Oh yes, that whistle.
The school sure picked the right guy for the job. If you want someone who can stand out there every morning in heat and rain and snow and spring winds, just look for an old cowboy. Martin took all his “tough lessons” ages ago. His assistant each morning was Billy, the town dog. The two of them make a dynamite security squad.
The problem Martin was having, however, was that he had more time than children, and that led to his current traffic-control methods. He watches carefully, and if a car is coming from a right angle, he steps out and blows the whistle and stops us. And if the car slows, Martin waves him on whether he wants to go that way or not. And that’s when there aren’t any kids around.
But no one complains. He’s there early, he’d stop a train to let kids cross the street, and he works for free. So what’s a few whistle blasts and marching orders among friends?
You have to admire professionalism wherever it may be found.
Brought to you by Home Country (the book). Check it out at www.LPDPress.com