Friday, July 15, 2011

Where the *bleep* Am I?

If you're reading this between July 15 and July 31, you will not find me here.  I'm off with my husband, kids, sister, nephew and friend, vacationing like rock stars!  Here's my itinerary:

The evening of July 15, I'm taking one of these...

...leaving Atlanta on a flight to Paris, connecting the following afternoon (European time) to Pisa, Italy.

I'll spend the weekend at my sister's house near here:

Montalcino, Italy (Photo Source)
...with lots of family members and friends. Can't wait!!

Then, on Monday July 18, some of us take one of these:

Not THIS Private Corporate Jet...but one like it! (Photo Source) Malta.  Not sure where Malta is?  I'll show you:


Waiting for us to board will be one of these:

NOT this yacht, but one like it! (Photo Source)

We'll sail for close to two weeks up the coasts of Sicily and mainland Italy, arriving here on the 30th:

Naples, Italy (photo source)

From Naples, we fly to NYC where we'll spend one more night with my sister, boyfriend and her son, then we fly commercial back to Atlanta on the 31st.

Actual photos of our vacation will follow!

Until then, have a wonderful July and I'll be back in August to revive my regular blogging schedule.  

See you then!!! J


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Characters that Capture the Imagination

Photo Source

         The gym where I work out is only slightly larger than a corner pharmacy. But the modern facility with state-of-the-art equipment, located a short drive from our house is my daily, early-morning haunt. The cardio stage faces the weight training area, so when I'm not conjuring new character ideas during treadmill workouts, I am people watching. As you can imagine, those two pastimes often overlap.

         Typically, the same crowd of early risers shows up Monday through Friday between 7:00 and 8:30 a.m. Among the regulars, there's the muscular girl whose shapely legs I covet. There's the man I silently cheer on ever since he told me he's already shed 150 of the 225 pounds he needs to lose to achieve his goal weight. And there's The Grunter, who dresses like he's in gym class, circa 1955, and who loudly clears his throat on average once every thirty seconds. Recently, though, an unfamiliar pair of members arrived on our scene. They showed up wearing the trademark bright, factory-fresh sneakers of motivated gym newbies. I haven't been able to keep my eyes off them since.

         Every day they arrive together and leave together, but while they are in the gym they work alone. Both appear to be in their fifties, and I assume they are a couple. They know their way around the equipment. Unlike timid newbies who steer clear of the complicated-looking apparatuses, their workouts entail far more than random sets on unrelated Nautilus machines. Instead, they target specific opposing-muscle groups -- like back and biceps, or chest and triceps. And they maintain good form while executing precise movements, thus avoiding the injury traps that more inexperienced members easily fall into.

         They rarely speak to each other, and I've neither seen them partner up nor spot one another. There's no air of anger or distain between them, though. They simply move around like people who are used to sharing the same space and are comfortable in their own silence. Every once in a while a quick smile passes between them.

         By now, you may have formed an image of these people in your mind. Close your eyes and take a moment to gaze upon them. What do they look like, to you? Earlier, I said I can't keep my eyes off them. Here's why:

         The man is scarecrow-skinny and easily over six feet tall. His wiry gray hair spills over his shoulders like a scraggly shawl, and his gaunt cheeks are covered by a dishwater gray beard that's so long its wispy ends reach south of his solar plexus. Though there is something graceful about his movements, he walks with the hunched gait of a man accustomed to manual labor. He wears the same ratty baseball cap every day.

         The woman is of medium height, though when walking next to the man she's dwarfed by his stature. Like him, she is very thin. She wears boxy t-shirts that hang on her frame and tend to draw my eyes to her pronounced elbows and knobby knees. She pulls her graying brown hair away from a weathered and make-up-free face, cinching it in a stubby ponytail at the base of her neck. Her mouth and chin are sunken in, as if her teeth were missing. A wristwatch or a pair of earrings would look conspicuously out-of-place on her.

         In short, they don't look at all like "gym people," which is why I find them so fascinating to watch. When they're working out, I don't even notice the muscular girl, the shrinking man or The Grunter. And that got my writer's brain thinking.

         As characters, all five gym members are unique - meaning they are each physically different from the others, and each must have interesting stories to tell. When all five share the same setting, they move around the space with equal aptitude and facility. But it's their visual paradoxes that make the new couple the center of my attention. They are the splashes of red on an all-blue canvas. They are interesting.

         A fictional character that is multi-dimensional or quirky captures our imaginations. Discovering and exploring a character's contradictions, illogicalities, and ironies bring depth and drama to any story. Inspiration for these characters is all around us, and looking for it is almost as enjoyable as crafting the characters and their stories.

         And it sure makes the time on a treadmill fly by!

[I originally published this article today at  Read it HERE. And to enjoy other regular newsletters and a slew of tools for writers, sign up HERE.  Membership is free!]


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Concrete Poem

Just a little concrete poem I wrote a while back.
Hope you enjoy it!

                  The Call of the Whale

My name is Dylan,                                                                      “Lover of the Sea.”
    Or so my mother                                                                hoped I’d always be.
    The palm fronds swayed                                            the day that I was born.
        And sea gulls screeched their                            welcome from the shore.
          A family of simple needs raised            me. Our livelihood was eked out
            from the sea.  From babe to boy,      my playground was the beach;
                Observant ocean never failed to teach.  But I, unwilling student,
                    would not hear and dreamed instead of arid west frontier.
                    Two years of misery in desert quest; I searched for verve
                        but found I was depressed. ‘Neath empty skies and
                          cacti's harsh embrace, the ocean ebbed and
                                  pulled me from that place.  Thalassic
                                          prodigy returned at last, at
                                            ocean’s edge I stood and
                                              viewed my past: I was
                                              the whale compelled
                                                to breathe fresh air,
                                                  an orcan idealist
                                                  lunged, unaware.
reckless flight I'd faced a basic fact. A  whale lives under

     contract most 
exact. I’m from the sea and  it’s a part of me;
My salty tears were proof and guarantee.

Have a wonderful day!