Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Oma's Naked Truth

I'm not who you think I am.
I cover up a lot.

I met a new friend who asked me about my seven kids. I didn't brag—I just told her about them as I see them. "You have angel kids, and you're an angel mother!" she said. "No, no I'm not," I insisted. "And they've never been angelic either." That's the naked truth.

I was a bratty kid. I sassed my dad, swore at my mom, behaved selfishly toward my sibs—this was all pointed out to me at the time, but I was secretly proud of being a rebel. I admit I was virtuous deep down—no illicit drinking, drugs or hoodlum friends, but my conduct was unbecoming toward the people I should have been nicest to.

Then I grew up. I discovered a whole new dimension to parenthood, and my admiration of moms and dads everywhere grew to gigantic proportions. However, as far as my own mom and dad were concerned, I maintained a certain amount of my childish attitude. 

When they moved out of the house where I was raised into their dream house, I scoffed inwardly. I would never feel comfortable in their new place, I told myself. They may have  abandoned my childhood, but I wouldn't, I vowed. So, when my kids fondly remember playing at grandma's house, with all the connecting rooms, halls and stairs to explore, I have proud memories of holding myself aloof. After all, it wasn't my house.  Silly? Self-centered? It's the naked truth and it isn't pretty.

I'd like to say I turned into an angel daughter in time to lighten the burdens of my parents in their old age—I'd planned to. Unfortunately they didn't live to an old age. They became real angels before I got around to becoming angelic. Amazingly, they loved me anyway. They loved me to pieces and I knew it. And obviously, I was no angel.

That's what got passed on to my kids. They are loved by the way, anyway, and every way, just like I was.  All my summer schools and teaching tricks, all the Oma kits and newsletter tips are fun fluff, worthwhile in their way. But when a child feels secure in an atmosphere of unconditional love, they let their inner angel peek out. My parents saw mine, in spite of all I did to hide it. Those moments are when a home becomes heaven on earth (for a moment.) Families need a foundation of love—a firm foundation.

The truth is that all families sag in the middle at times: weighty problems creep up, bums bounce around all day, life is the unrazored pits—it can stink. But those wobbly bits can be held together with the right amount of elasticity—give and take. Tight control in some spots and self control in others. I see no dishonesty in covering up the parts that nobody else should see.

Most important: when looking for flaws, don't use a magnifying mirror.
That alone will make you an angel mother—
and that's the naked truth.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hearts Turned

PJ May 2011

Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, the present and the future.

Opa May 2011

My favorite scripture is a prophesy in the last verse of the Old Testament:
"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children,
and the heart of the children to their fathers . . ."
It's happened to me.

Our kids 1984

They won my heart when they were little,
and their kids have turned my heart all over again.
Listen in on some kidspeak from tonight:

Scott, Eliza, Jill

"Tickle us some more, Uncle Sco."
"I can't, girls. I'm old."

"But we're young!"

Marty 1965

I love having the memory of being young,

Marty, May 2011

and the perspective of being old.
It fills me with gratitude.

Today my heart is turned to the fathers who kept my world turning:

Wells, 1943

Dee's dad in England,

Jiggs, 1943

And my dad in Australia.

I wonder if all the soldiers realized the lives they were blessing.

"Think of the power of thousands of prayers of parents and grandparents,
back and back and even beyond, all requesting essentially the same thing:
'Bless my children; bless my children; bless my children.'
Can you hear it as it rolls and echos throughout all eternity?"
—John H. Groberg

My heart is turning in both directions:
Bless my children; bless my fathers.
And bless me to be worthy of them all.


Who are you remembering this Memorial Day?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cover Story: Son of a Gun

Son of a Gun

Ten Ways to Judge a Book by its Cover
  1. The spine stands out with an arresting color and compelling lettering.
  2. The overall design captures the personality of the book.
  3. Images tell part of the story.
  4. The title pops off the background and is large enough to read from a distance.
  5. It must convert well to black and white for one color advertising.
  6. A tiny image on the Internet must show up.
  7. The font suggests the time period, setting or genre of the book.
  8. Fewer words in the title are better.
  9. Colors work to suggest a mood (dramatic, antique, stark, modern, scary.)
  10. Consider: would you pick this book up if you saw it on a Barnes and Noble display table?
Three things not to do:
  1. Colored title on a black background—it won't show up in black & white.
  2. A detailed picture of a character—let the reader's imagination supply that.
  3. Meaningless clutter—focus on a strong theme.
"Readers will only give a book a few seconds of consideration. It must wrench their attention away from thousands of other volumes . . . In a bookstore, most books are shelved spine out, so this narrow strip is your first sales tool. Next, book browsers look at the book's front. Your cover is your billboard. If it interests them, they'll turn to the back. If they're still intrigued, the first few sentences will receive their consideration."

There's so much more to publishing a book than just writing it!

Does the title show up in black and white?

Will the tiny image on Amazon catch anyone's attention?

With several choices, some direction from Kenna (head of the cover design department of Tate Publishing) and input from Mark (my marketing guru) Son of a Gun is getting dressed up for its debut on the shelves. I'm thrilled with its cover story!

How do you decide to buy a book?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What's With Blogger?

I can't log onto my blog using Firefox (which is what I always use) and it won't accept comments. Safari won't let me cut and paste images, delete or move them around. Blogger keeps asking me for my password, won't accept the one I've used forever, and has emailed me the same one three times. I feel like someone is trying to sabotage TravelinOma! It won't work, people! I will be published!

I spent ten hours yesterday on a six-page newsletter for my church (I'm the editor, so I produce one every month.) It's amazing what I've learned just by trying something new. I use Pages and each time I discover new techniques for layout, text boxes, masking photos, etc. It is SO hard, and SO beyond my abilities and SO, SO FUN!

Plus, yesterday I got the mock-ups for the cover of Son of a Gun. This is the real deal! It's looking like a genuine book! Another example of learning by doing. Last year at this time I didn't have a clue about actually writing a whole novel (plotting, character development, conflict, setting, organization, etc.) And this fall it will be on shelves, (hopefully flying off shelves.) But Son of a Gun isn't where you'll see the skills I developed writing it. My mystery/thriller/spy work in progress (it hasn't got a name yet) is where my new abilities are being put to use. This time I know a little more what I'm doing because I learned on the last one. And again, it's so fun!!!

What are you working on? I bet you're getting good at it! That's the way it works.

"You can only learn to be a writer by writing."
—Doris Lessing

Now I can't get back to normal size font. Something's up with Blogger.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Where Does Your Story Take Place?

Portaferry, Northern Ireland

Setting is where a story takes place.

Ferry Street, Portaferry

Mary Mullin lived on Ferry Street, in 1820.

Portaferry Castle

This was her view in one direction.

Yellow gorse on hillside, Portaferry

This was her view in the other direction.

The neighbors lived here,

Or here,

The Square, Portaferry

And here's where she shopped on Saturdays.

Could there be a more picturesque setting for a life? Sheep in the meadows, cows in the corn, cobblestones, fog horns, waves slapping the rocks—but Mary probably didn't think her village was unique or charming. It was familiar. Maybe she was bored. Would she have dreamed her descendants would travel thousands of miles just to see where she lived?

Mary's daughters, seven greats later.

Their lives would have seemed exotic to her,

Even though, they live by the ocean, too.

But this is where they go on Saturdays,

And bored is spelled board for the modern Mullins.

Marty's house at 2025 Twin View Drive

Our recent trip to Europe was all about setting. In London, Ireland, and Vienna we noticed details to include in upcoming books: architecture, colors, neighborhoods, scenery. It occurred to me that where I grew up would be just as unique to someone from somewhere else.

Dee's house in Provo

Subdivisions and suburbs tell different stories than apartments and row houses.
They tell my story.

Mount Olympus, Salt Lake City

Mountains, canyons, deserts and snow—that's what's familiar to me.

Think about your childhood bedroom. Picture your backyard. Take a mental stroll through your first home. This is where the first chapter of your story takes place. Recall details with all five senses: the way the furnace smelled the first time it went on in the winter; the way the couch itched your bare legs while you watched Fury on Saturday morning; the wind rattling the screen above the bathtub; how paregoric tasted when you had an ear-ache; the flowered wallpaper on your mom's bedroom ceiling that matched her drapes and dust ruffle.

Settings are more than just the way things appear—they comprise values and traditions, attitudes and behavior. In case your 7th great-granddaughters are interested in you, make it a little easier for them. Was your house cozy, messy, smelly? Were you proud of it or embarrassed by it? Did the decor reflect the times? Write the details into your story.

"More than just compiling names, true family history is about saving people from obscurity. Names are important in genealogical research, but knowledge of the historic context in which our ancestors lived, the details of their lives, and the experiences that shaped their personalities are essential to our understanding of ourselves. In researching family, we're really researching ourselves."

What are five words that describe the setting for your story?

Friday, May 20, 2011

One Way to Make the World a Better Place


I'm thinking kind thoughts about all my neighbors, all my friends, and everyone who bakes homemade bread. I found this loaf, wrapped in white paper, sitting on my doorstep, left by who knows who?

Want to make the world a better place? Do a good deed anonymously. It makes everybody look good! (And somebody feels special.)

Marty's Buttermilk Bread

This is my favorite bread recipe, although I never make it anymore. Now I rely on the kindness of strangers.

1 cup water
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sugar + 1 tsp. to dissolve yeast
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
6 cups white flour

In small saucepan, heat 1 cup water and 3 tbsp butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool until warm.

In small bowl, add 1/2 cup warm water and the dry yeast. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar and let dissolve for a couple of minutes. Stir. Set bowl aside and continue with the next step.

In large bowl, mix buttermilk, honey, sugar, salt, and vinegar. When the butter water is warmish, pour into large bowl. Add yeast mixture.

Begin adding flour one cup at a time. When the dough is too stiff to mix with the wooden spoon, about 5 cups, turn out onto a floured board.

Knead in the remaining flour until the dough is firm and smooth. Put dough in a buttered bowl and flip dough so that the top of it is lightly buttered. Cover and let rise until double in size, about 45 to 60 minutes.

Punch down dough and turn out onto floured board. Knead bubbles out of dough. Divide dough into equal halves.

Preheat oven 375 degrees. Form dough into two loaves. Place in greased bread pans. Cover and let rise until double in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes, until the loaves are hollow sounding and pulled away from the sides of the pans. Remove from pans, and run a square of butter over each hot loaf. Let cool on a rack or dishtowel.

♥ Give away one loaf—anonymously! ♥

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tell Me Their Story

Getting on the plane.

On the plane.

Getting off the plane.

This couple sat in front of me on a ten-hour flight from Paris.
They never took took off their hats. Ever.

This is how everyone else looked.





Why would you keep your hat on for a ten hour flight?

"In most novels, what the character wears gives the reader an immediate grasp on that character's personality. Clothes help the reader's mental image of the character, and accessories can be important. The outer trappings of a character speak volumes to the personality of the individual."
—10 Steps to Creating Memorable Characters

What's their story?
Any ideas?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vienna Flea Market

First we had langos,
a scone dipped in garlic butter and salt.

I spotted a display of vintage dirndls.

Marty in Vienna, 1969

I happen to be that exact vintage!

Soon Dee was leafing through books,

And I was browsing through buttons.

I accidentally bumped into the lady standing next to me, and she fell over! Horrified, I looked down, apologizing profusely, and saw that her arm had come off and was laying next to her body! Another woman was helping her up . . .

and I realized she was a mannequin.

(It was time to flee the market.)