Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thursday Thirteen

Books everyone should read at least once:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

2. 1984, by George Orwell

3. The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank

4. The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien

5. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

6. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

7. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

8. Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery

9. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

10. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle

11. The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruis Zafon

12. The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells

13. Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman

What are some books you think everyone should read?

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here. I've been playing for a while and this is my 357th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fawn Photos

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I began reading when I was three years old. By the time I was five, I read the newspaper every day. By the second grade, my teachers were telling me I would grow up to be a writer.

My journey into the world of words took me toward journalism. I remember when I was 10 years old telling my mother that I wanted to write for The Fincastle Herald, only I would do it better and right. At the time it was more like a gossip sheet than an actual newspaper. That was in the 1970s.

My mother was not thrilled with my choice of careers, and did not support the idea of writing as a profession. Her lack of faith in my abilities, I think, led me to make decisions I might not have made had I had more support. But I did go on to write for the newspaper, and I also put myself through Hollins College (now Hollins University) in hopes of learning more about the written word.

I also wanted to write books, of course. Most writers do. I have never aspired to be the Great American Novelist, though. Mostly I wanted to be a hack and write Nancy Drew Books, or something like that, like Carolyn Keene. As I got older I thought I would like to be another Victoria Holt or Phyllis Whitney. I merely wanted to make a nice living with words and use my talent. I did not want to write romances, but I liked genre writing. But I did not know how to go about that and such writing wasn't taught at Hollins, which took a more high-brow approach to the art. And at Hollins in the late 1980s, writing was art, not craft. And while I had the talent, I wasn't able to pull it together to become another Lee Smith.

So I drifted into journalism and I wrote for newspapers and magazines. Even then, I could not move beyond the small publications and into the larger world of better pay and prominence. Mostly I was afraid to submit, scared of failing, afraid to collect the rejection slips. So I stuck with the safe sells.

However, like most writers, I have things stuffed in drawers. Below is my very first completed novel. I wrote it pre-Hollins, around 1984. I typed it on an IBM Selectric II at my place of employment, which was a law office. In those days, employers had receptionists and I was one of those. I had a lot of down time and my immediate supervisor didn't care what I did so long as I looked busy. So I wrote a book.

Over the years, I have occasionally pulled this out and looked at it. It was a gothic romance, which are genre books that I read and enjoyed growing up. Those stories are no longer in vogue, though. They have morphed into vampire stories, I think.

Each time I looked at it, I changed names. Made notes about completely removing characters. Attempted to jostle it into something worthy of retyping.

In the fall of 2011, I pulled it out again and spent a good six weeks going over it. It was, I decided, crap. All of it. Nothing salvageable except the plot line, maybe. Maybe not even that.

I put it back into its box.

Things are different for me now. My work with the newspaper and writing for other magazines has declined considerably. Much of that was because of the recession, which cost me my steady gig at the newspaper and then brought me a slew of competitors, unemployed folks who turned to freelancing in hopes of keeping their bills paid.

In 2010, I went back to college and earned my masters in 2012. It was a liberal studies degree, not writing, though it was heavy on writing and English courses. I didn't pursue much writing at the time. I thought I might go into teaching.

And then I developed a health issue.

Rethinking my life and what I want to do with myself now at the age of 51 was not in my plans even a few years go. But nothing is as it was.

The Internet has changed publishing considerably. My first novel, though I thought it terrible, in reality was no worse than many of the things I've seen self-published, both in print and on the Internet. These days anyone who can string a sentence together can put up a story on Amazon and call themselves an author. The lure of the title has been diminished. While I do not believe every one can write, everyone else believes they can. Good works are drowning now in seas of mediocrity.

During a cleaning spell this weekend, I came across my novel, those pages typed on a typewriter. Only this hardcopy existed.

And then I turned that hard copy into this:

It's gone now, that first novel. That crap, that junk, that awful bit of work. All told it was 210 pages of drivel. I tore my name off each and every page, and shredded that, and put the rest in the recycling bin.

Over the next few months I expect more of my past writings to find their way into the scrap pile. I have long kept my chicken scratches and ideas, bits of poems, pieces of stories, unfinished articles. Whatever I find that I think has merit I will keep, but I plan to toss the rest of it where it belongs - in the trash.

Will this free me? Will this renew me and have me start anew, begin again my collection of words, lines, and stanzas? Will new paragraphs flow? Or will I give up and go do something else? And if I do something else, what will it be?

I don't know. I am in the midst of a change, a life crisis, of sorts. Tossing these pieces of paper are a beginning, as well as an end. However, I have no idea what the beginning is to. My life, like a book, is unwritten.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tree Lines, Sky Lines, and Power Lines

Took a trip on the utility vehicle across the top of the hill on the farm the other day to check on things. I snapped these shots whilst riding along, so they aren't of anything particular. Just some different views.

What's left of the forest behind the house.
Before the logging in 2007, this was a much thicker stand of trees.
Blue skies!
Lots of thistle up top. There were butterflies everywhere but I did not stop for photos.
On a clear day, I can see forever. Or at least to the first mountain.
I love the rolling hills.
Power line and fence.
Note the two butterflies in the middle of the photo.
This large power line traverses the farm.
The tree line of the forest behind my house as seen from the west.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Stealing

From Sunday Stealing

Q. Would you ever cheat on someone if they cheated on you?

A. No.

Q. Would you ever consider becoming a teacher?

A. I was working on that before I became ill. I managed it for a while.

Q. Would you ever give a hitch-hiker a ride somewhere?

A. Generally no, because I would be alone. Being female, that is not safe. But if I were with my husband in his pick up, we might let someone ride in the back.

Q. Would you ever try fasting for a whole week?

A. I didn't intentionally try it, but when I first got sick I went a whole week without eating anything other than chicken broth because I couldn't stand anything else. It was a great weight loss plan.

Q. Would you ever try to quit one of your addictions?

A. Yes. But so far chocolate and I are still best friends.

Q. Would you ever dye your hair purple?

A. If it were for a good cause. It'll grow out and you can always recolor.

Q. Would you ever spend $100 for the best tasting hamburger in the world?

A. No.

Q. Would you rather chew gum off the ground or kill a squirrel?

A. What kind of question is that? I would not do either.

Q. Would you rather play Monopoly or Operation?

A. Monopoly.

Q. Would you rather eat chocolate or fruity candies?

A. Seeing as how I am a chocoholic, I guess we know the answer to that one.

Q. Would you rather listen to one CD forever or become deaf?

A. These are terrible choices and I refuse to make them.

Q. Would you rather be deaf or blind?

A. Once again, I refuse to answer.

Q. Would you rather text or talk on the phone?

A. Talk on the phone.

Q. Would you rather spend a day with Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus?

A. Um. Are those really my only choices?

Q. Would you rather learn to play piano or guitar?

A. I already know how to do both!

Q. Would you rather have a stomach-ache or headache?

A. I have had a perpetual, disabling stomach-ache for over a year now. I'd just as soon do away with pain, if that's okay.

Q. Would you rather be overly interesting or overly dull?

A. Interesting.

Q. Would you rather be too loud or too quiet?

A. Quiet. Although I'm not sure you can be overly interesting and too quiet at the same time.

The View From Mill Mountain

Mostly what you can see from the overlooks at Mill Mountain is The City of Roanoke.
Roanoke, formerly known as Big Lick, became the Town of Roanoke in 1882 and then a city two years later. The railroad brought the area its fortune in the 20th century and for many years it was known as a "railroad town."
The Roanoke River bisects the city, as does the train tracks. The city has a population of over 97,000 people, making it the largest metropolitan area west of Richmond and the commercial hub of Southwestern Virginia.
I am not a city girl and I do not venture into Roanoke very often. I remember the downtown of my youth as a vibrant and alive place, with various shops and movie theaters. The city now has a market area which offers shops and restaurants.
The city to the south of its center.
Roanoke is surrounded by mountains, and this billboard at The Roanoke Star names them.
This is the heart of Roanoke. The tallest structure is the Wells Fargo building (the one with the copper roof). It was originally called the Dominion Tower. It was built by a bank and has changed hands as the banks have rolled over.
This is a shot of Tinker Mountain, which is about 12 miles from Roanoke. We live on the other side of Tinker Mountain.
Another shot of downtown. The road snaking through is an interstate.
More of the city to the south of downtown.
The upper right shows the Catholic Church. It is currently undergoing renovation.
It's rather sobering to see all of those house tucked among the trees down there, isn't it.
It takes a lot of space to house nearly 100,000 people.
This was my favorite shot that I took last week when I was on Mill Mountain.

Haze frequently hides the mountains.
A closer look at the Wells Fargo building. To the right and a little to the rear, before you get to the Catholic Church, is Hotel Roanoke.
Hullabaloo was rampant when Dominion Bank built this structure. Nothing in Roanoke is accomplished without lots of complaining and doomsday talking.

This is the Taubman Museum. It was also controversial, and I tend to come down on the side of the folks who don't like it. I think it looks like a spaceship landed in the middle of the city. It is a lovely structure but it was put in the wrong place.