Showing posts with label Captured Moment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Captured Moment. Show all posts

Monday, July 2, 2012

No Longer (New Poem For the Broken-hearted)

No Longer

It’s over,
this day and a lifetime
of love; of love 
have known 
nothing but 
his tender goodbyes.

Hello! Hollow sound
drowned by the roar of the surf,
Solitary footprints in the sand 
gilded in the glow of 
a setting sun, a sun setting 
on my fool’s paradise.

Wash them away, heartless ocean
Tide me over ‘til death, ‘til death…

…Do I part
from dreams unrealized,
when years of hanging on
have failed?

Grasping for the glittering horizon
a risen wind slaps my face
He loves me not
He loves me not
I stare at the waves as they lap at my feet

again and again and again...

Each time the sea ebbs
I sink
a little deeper
until one day
I'll disappear completely.

Enough, enough

Begin anew ~ I pledge
Loyal, devoted dog, I am no longer
No longer willing
to wait for tomorrow’s sunrise
to live.
To live.

~by Nicole Ducleroir, 6/2012~

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Life's a Beach

It'd been five years since we'd vacationed on Cape San Blas, a narrow peninsula that points its finger away from the Florida panhandle and out into the Gulf of Mexico. Coming back to one of our favorite beaches was exciting, but for me, it held a special significance. The fall following our return from the Cape in 2007, I discovered And the first fictional story I posted there that was written for an audience, (unlike all the journal-format scribblings I'd done up to that point), was inspired by my real-life events that took place on Cape San Blas.

Last week while I walked on the beach, I thought a lot about that story and reflected on my writing journey from 2007 until now. My mind wanders when I beach comb; it is one of my favorite activities, a peaceful time when I marvel at the beauty of the sea and all the treasures she holds. The sound of the surf, the salty smell of the sea air, and the sun's heat intoxicate and inspire the writer in me.

The first day of every vacation we spend at Cape San Blas, I decide on a certain and specific item I hope to find while combing the beach. One year, it was a whole, intact sand dollar. Another year, I searched for a perfect, unbroken spiral seashell. Walking the beach becomes a sort of Where's Waldo scavenger hunt, with a prize hidden out in plain sight.

This year, I decided to find a shark's tooth on the beach.

As my eyes drifted up and down the wet, hard-packed sand at the sea's edge, I thought about how similar my beach combing quests were to the way I approach story writing. Ever since that first story back in 2007, I've started each new piece of fiction with a specific challenge in mind for myself. I try something new, something I've never attempted before. I wrote my first story in third-person, which is the natural, organic comfort zone for my muse. So in subsequent stories, I've tried first person, second person, and omniscient narrations. I throw myself into new genres, experiment with unreliable narrators. Once in a while, I write with pen and paper instead of typing on a computer. The idea isn't to rigorously challenge myself, so much as to give fresh focus to each new project, to heighten each experience and invite the unexpected into the mix.

In past years, I've successfully found the beach object of my desire. And next to pristine sand dollars and perfectly curvaceous spirals, I have bowls of broken shells, each beautiful for a special, one-of-a-kind reason, collected along the way. This year, I didn't find a shark's tooth. But that's okay; some challenges push you further, make you wait while you work harder for your results. This happens in my writing, too. Some stories fall short and don't capture the magic I intend, the first time around. Sometimes, I have to carry that focus into the next project until I master that which I grasped, maybe held for brief moments, but let slip away by the end.

One thing's for sure, while I hunted for that elusive shark's tooth, the balmy breeze and sugary sands of Cape San Blas inspired the writer in me, just as it did five years ago.

What new writing technique have you challenged yourself with lately? How'd the story turn out?

[Written for and published today, 6/12/2012, in's Drama Newsletter]


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Remember when...?

My fourteen-year-old son was born into a comfortable world of modern conveniences. 

His parents have always driven their own cars, carried their own telephones, and possessed their own personal computers. His home is an ambient 74˚F year-round, thanks to central heat and air. There has always been a television in his playroom, where over the years Sesame Street and Barney tapes and Disney DVDs have been replaced with Wii and PlayStation consoles and games. Twenty-four-hour grocery stores ensure he'll never go hungry; gardening has just been a hobby his parents enjoy, when there's time and seasonal conditions are good. My son has enjoyed these things, without ever thinking about them. 

Until, that is, a recent school project for his Georgia Studies class asked him to.

The assignment was laid-back in structure, as the school year has nearly wound down and teachers and students alike are pining for the upcoming summer break. My son was asked to come up with a short list of questions on specific historical events of his choice, from the past seventy years. The questions would guide him during an informal interview he was to conduct with someone who is at least sixty years old and who has lived in our state the majority of his or her life. My son chose to interview a seventy-three-year-old family friend we affectionately call Granddaddy.

The first question my son asked was about the Civil Rights era. Granddaddy began by telling him about the all-white school he attended, and about the all-black school in town. His memory flood gates flew open. It was wonderful to see the light in Granddaddy's eyes as he reminisced for the next two hours, describing life in rural Georgia during his childhood. He talked about the small house he grew up in, heated only by the wood-burning stove his grandmother cooked on. Quilts kept him warm on winter nights, and during brutal Georgia summer nights, they dragged their mattresses out to the porch where it was cooler. And every morning, the cow was milked and the eggs collected from the hen house before his grandmother could prepare breakfast. 

My son's eyes grew large when Granddaddy explained that as the youngest in the house, it was his job to empty the "slop jar," used during the night when the grown-ups didn't want to go to the outhouse.

From describing the route he drove in his grandfather's truck, selling their farm produce door-to-door, to buying twenty-five cents worth of ice from the traveling ice man, to assisting the grown-ups when a snake fell into the well, my son learned secondhand how different life was just two generations ago. 

For me, the story ideas swirled in my mind as I listened.

A wealth of knowledge and information about a bygone era resides in our elder generation. I encourage everyone to spend an hour or two with grandparents, older neighbors, or friends with the intention of asking them about their lives. Stories from their childhoods, memories of what life was like during wartimes, and their recollections of important milestones achieved during their lives (scholastic accomplishments, marriages, pregnancies, first jobs, etc.) will enlighten and inspire you, while bringing you closer to the friend or relative who's doing the sharing.

After Granddaddy left, my son and I talked about the differences in our daily lives compared to what Granddaddy described from his past. And what modern conveniences from my son's lifetime, we wondered, will he describe years from now to wide-eyed, disbelieving children? Fun to think about.

And, oh the stories that continue to come to mind... 

Have you asked your grandmother or grandfather about their childhoods? What was the most surprising thing they shared with you?

Thanks for reading!

[I originally published this article in the May 16, 2012 Drama Newsletter at]


Monday, May 7, 2012

Weekend in the Water

A great weekend is one when you chip away at your bucket list, coming one step closer to checking off a life goal. I had one of those weekends. And it was fab-U-lous.

With my husband, I participated in two training-intensive days of scuba classes. The course we're taking is called Open Water Diver and is Scuba Schools International's (SSI) basic certification curriculum. 

The classroom segment of each day covered what happens to your body as you descend and are subjected to the increasing atmospheric pressure of deep water. We learned in theory how to avoid disastrous underwater scenarios and how to deal with potential emergency situations. Each three-and-a half-hour-long classroom session was followed by three-and-a-half more hours in the pool, practicing the skills in which we must be proficient to become certified divers.

Photo Source
Skills I practiced included: controlling my descents and assents; equalizing the pressure in my ears; achieving neutral buoyancy; removing the regulator from my mouth and replacing it; recovering the regulator (in the event it should be knocked free and floating behind me, out of view); clearing water from my mask; sharing air, in the event I or my buddy runs out of air; and underwater hand signals. 

The skill that freaked me out the most, at first, was removing my mask underwater. To demonstrate the skill, I had to take the mask completely off, put it back on, and clear it of water. The trick is to stay calm and keep breathing through the regulator. It's hard to trust that you won't accidentally take water up your nose. (You don't :D)

To complete our certification, hubs and I will do four open water dives in Florida this June. I have no apprehension whatsoever about exhibiting the skills I performed in the pool, on the floor of Gulf of Mexico. Actually, I'm super excited to get that gear on and get back in the water. I'm hooked on diving already!

What's the next item on your bucket list you'll go after? 


Monday, January 30, 2012

Sea-foam Tinted Lessons

This time of year, the sod on the football field at the city stadium turns from its summertime emerald to a mossy, sea-foam green. As I raced around the track at the field's perimeter during this morning's interval training run, it occurred to me that sea-foam green has colored important moments in my life. And as my mind lost itself in the past (possibly to avoid acknowledging the exhaustion in my legs and burn in my lungs), I couldn't help notice how those lessons learned were again relevant today.

When I was about twelve years old our family owned a small lake cabin in upstate New York. My younger sister and I loved to take Dad's fishing boat out on the water. It was a fourteen-foot, flat-bottom aluminum boat, painted a bright sea-foam green. We loved rowing that boat around the lake. 

In order to row it, I had to sit backwards on the middle seat, facing the stern. My sister would sit all the way to the rear, facing me and the bow of the boat.  We always had a destination, places we'd named ourselves like Loon Island or Beaver Bay. As I pulled with all my strength, the oar pins squeaking in enthusiastic protest, my sister kept an eye on our trajectory. When she indicated the boat was drifting to the right, I pushed the left oar deeper or with more might until she let me know we were back on course. 

In life, it's easy to steer a little off course. Knowing who you can rely upon to tell you the truth makes all the difference when those little adjustments are necessary to get back on track.

Moving forward a couple years, I was in a sorority at the university. We were Omicron Xi, and our colors were medium blue, sea-foam green and white. Each semester we elected officers to manage aspects of our Greek life, and one post was called Pledge Mistress. The PM was in charge of the pledge program. In my view, it was the most desirable position to hold.  I ran for PM every semester for two years, but I was always outvoted. Finally, last semester senior year, I won the election. Looking back, I wish I'd enjoyed the post more. It was as if I'd spent so much energy fighting to win it that once it was mine, I was too emotionally exhausted to give it my all. 

Few truly important things in life come easy. The acquisition of whatever you define as 'wealth' is hard-fought and rich with life lessons, but don't forget to enjoy that which you have achieved. There are lessons in the rewards, too.

Today on the track, I was to run two 1200-meter intervals (three times around the track, or 3/4 of a mile per interval) with a rest of two minutes in-between. My goal was 1200 meters in 6:57. I finished each in 8 minutes. Next, I was to run four 800-meter intervals (twice around the track, or 1/2 of a mile per interval). Those intervals were to be run in 4:34 each. 

I only made my goal during one of the 800-meter intervals. 

But as I cooled down afterwards, walking the track around that sea-foam green grass, I embraced this lesson:  Training is hard, necessary work that yields results at every session -- and though those results may be small, they must be celebrated.

If I only concentrated on the intervals in which I didn't make my time goal, I would feel defeated. This is only the beginning of the fourth week of my ten-week training program (to run faster during the upcoming half-marathon in March). I'm not at the halfway mark yet, and already I beat the clock on one of those intervals. Perseverance can't survive in a negative environment. It's so important to stay positive!

All these sea-foam green lessons apply to my writing; and, though I'd love to go on about that...I don't want this post to be longer than it already is. Suffice it to say that with support from people who have your back, plus a healthy attitude towards acquisition and possession of the stuff of your dreams, added with perseverance to push forward no matter what challenges you face, anything is possible.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thanksgiving in December

I was up yesterday morning before the sun rose, before the children woke, while the house was dark and quiet.  I wanted to log onto the Web for just a little while, to view some holiday pictures on friends' sites, work on a guest blog post I'm doing on January 4th (more about that to come), and just enjoy the sound of my fingers tapping the keys.  Imagine my dismay/dread/pout/frustration when my hard drive power button didn't respond to a push.

No dull whirl of unseen, internal components, no blinking green lights, nothing.

I checked the connections.  All good.  I checked the monitor, modem, printer.   Everything seemed to function, except the hard drive.

Basically, I had a comatose machine, in a vegetative state.   A headless, metal corpse.

Braced to hear the worst case scenario, I took the drive to Best Buy.  It felt like Christmas all over again when the Geek told me the power box was blown -- just a $60 part -- which he would replace in-store for $50 more. Three hours later the ordeal was over.

Yesterday revealed an unexpected realization:  I don't want to go back to life without my computer!  Let's face it.  A writer doesn't need more than her hand, a pen or pencil, and a sheet of paper to compose.  And it's more than enjoying the online experience.    Simply put, I have come to rely on my online network of friends and family.

I love reading what you've aspired to, attempted, and accomplished.  I'm inspired by your perceptions.  I feed off your energy.  Yeah, I can pick up a telephone and call some of you.  (And I do!)  But the Internet brings so many more of you right to me, right into my life.

I love it.  And there's just no going back.

So thank you, for every word on your blog, every status update, every tweet.  I don't know what I'd do without you!

And, let's all decide right now to back up our flippin' files -- 'cause if my hard drive can pass away quietly in the night, so can yours!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Dreaded Form Letter

With half the family battling the flu, my Christmas present shopping excursions came to a screeching halt last week.  From my sick bed -- or sick couch, to be more exact -- I did what I could to keep the preparations moving forward.  Basically, all this meant was listing the few things I still need to purchase and sending out the holiday cards.

Last year, despite the fact that I generally don't like them, I wrote my first form letter recapping the year, to include with Christmas cards going to out-of-state family members.  I figured since I'm a writer, I should write something more creative than "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" on the cards, although there's nothing wrong with that simple and elegant greeting.

The year before, I slipped an original short story into a couple cards.  The story was fictional, but the characters were heavily based on me and my grandmother, and the plot taken from what I know about her childhood.  The few family members I sent it to really seemed to like it, and that warm feedback spurred the idea to write something new each year.

I tackled last year's letter like an exercise in creative nonfiction -- in a first person story format, rather than narrative essay format.  I tried not to indulge in accolades for what we considered outstanding accomplishments, but which would surely have bored the rest of the family to death.  And I sprinkled sensory descriptions and (attempted) humor throughout.  I was happy with the way the letter turned out, and I heard back from several aunts, uncles, and cousins who enjoyed it very much.

This year's letter was a little different.  I chose "family" as the theme, and rather than talk about the kids making honor roll or my husband's successes at work, I talked about the times I spent in 2010 with out-of-state family members.  I was fortunate enough to travel between Georgia and New York, where my family is based, five different times this year.  Plus, we spent a month with Christian's family this summer in France.  I enjoyed sharing my memories of those trips and the profound impact reconnecting with my family has made on me.  I hope those that receive the letter enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Do you write a year-in-review form letter at this time of year?  Do you like receiving them, or cringe every time one falls out of the card you're opening?  I've been (...or still am, perhaps) on both sides of this fence.  What's your take on them?

And...if you're at all interested, here is the link to the short story I included in some of my 2008 Christmas cards.  It's very short, perhaps 1000 words.  It's called A Little Drummer Boy.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pumping Legs and Arms, but Gaining Speed Slowly

I have a New York hangover.

As some of you know, the weekend plans to attend my nephew's baptism changed last week when my cousin Ryan passed away from a brain tumor.  He'd outlived his 2-3 month prognosis and survived 18 months past the initial diagnosis.  One of the many blessings throughout his journey.  Being reunited with my extended, Upstate New York family was one of mine.

I flew to Syracuse on Wednesday night, arriving at my parents' house after midnight.  The funeral was the next day, and the reception that followed took place at another cousin's restaurant, which was closed to the public for the night.  As dusk fell, the sound system cranked, and Ryan's favorite band, Tragically Hip, blared through the speakers.  Drinks flowed, lyrics were shouted, glasses were raised over and over, to Ryan.   Perhaps not a traditional send-off, but one Ryan would have appreciated.

The next day, two of my sisters and I hung out, looking at old family photos and enjoying my nieces and nephews.  On Saturday morning, my sister and her son, and my parents and I boarded a plane for New York City.  The regularly scheduled weekend program kicked in, and we celebrated yet another sister's baby's baptism.  (For those of you wondering, I am the oldest of five sisters.  No brothers.  Yep, estrogen and drama -- we have plenty of both in our family.)

The most excellent story line for fiction is playing out in one of my sister's real life.  One day, I hope to write it.  Now isn't the time, of course.  Inner conflict is no laughing matter.  But I took notes...just in case.

I arrived home at 1:30 Monday morning.  Needless to say, I took a couple naps yesterday.  Today, I'm trying to get back into the swing of things, but it seems no matter how hard I pump my arms and legs, I feel like I'm trudging through water.  Leaning on caffeine to carry me through.

I'll leave you with a pic from the baptism of my beautiful sisters:

Natasha (the christened baby's mama), Noelle, Nadine, Natalie, and me

Have a wonderful day, all!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Wading Along a Flooded Memory Lane

I'm supposed to be getting ready for our trip.  There are a lot of things to think about when you prepare to leave the country for three weeks.  Wardrobes and shoes need to be appraised, bills need to be scheduled for payment, camera and video memory sticks need to be purchased, airline guidelines need to be reviewed so we don't arrive at the airport and learn we have too many, too heavy bags.

But, I'm a procrastinator.

I do a little something each day, so I can hold my head high in the evening when hubby asks what I accomplished.  Yesterday though, when the kids wanted to spend time with me doing "something NOT boring," I decided to embark on  a project that's been long overdue -- and admittedly one I don't have time for right now.

For the fourteen years hubby and I have been married, we've taken photographs to archive our lives together.  Everyone does, right?  Our problem is we've always printed out the photos from film (until two years ago when we scored our first digital camera), enjoyed flipping through the pictures for a week or so, and then tossed the envelop into a royal blue footlocker that once served as a coffee table when we were newly weds, and now occupies a stretch of wall in my writing studio.  It barely closes.

The kids and I started in Target, where we optimistically purchased two photo binders holding a total of 600 pictures.  By late afternoon, it was clear to us that we'd need to make a return trip.

We looked through hundreds and hundreds of pictures, laughing at forgotten memories, oohing and ahhing over the glossy images of the kids' baby years, telling and retelling the stories of our lives.

Each photo is one significant moment in time.  Oh, the stories.

The pic at the top of this post was taken one month after Sidney was born.  She's snuggled in the carrier strapped to my chest.  Cody was a month shy of two years old.  We spent that day roaming the ruins of the chateau, dating from the 10th century, of Foix, which is a wonderful little city in the department of Ariège.  At the time, we lived outside Toulouse, and Foix was just a forty-five minute drive away.  It is considered the gateway to the beautiful Pyrenées Mountains, the natural southern border between France and Spain.  (Learn more about Foix HERE.)

This is a beautiful photo of Foix (thanks, Source).  In the photo of us, above, we were making our way down the cobblestoned path from the chateau to the city below.

Now that we have a digital camera, we're terrible about printing out pictures.  But once I have all these memories stored in their binders, I'm turning my sights on the memory sticks and computer hard drive.  Call me old-fashioned, but I like to hold books of photos in my hands, in a comfy chair looking out a sunny window, with a cup of fresh brewed coffee.  Memory lane loses some of its charm when I'm staring at a computer screen.

What about you?  Do you print photos or prefer storing them online?  Glass protected paper photo or digital frame?  Paper of plastic?

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Full House Usually Wins...

When hubby and the kids said I could choose anything to do on Mother's Day, I said without hesitation that I wanted the four of us to spend the day hiking around DeSoto Falls in the North Georgia Mountains.  Summer posted pictures of her day trip there on Saturday, inspiring me to finally visit the place I'd only written about in a short story but never actually been to.

I left my camera in the car (arg), so thank you Great Georgian Properies(dot)com for this gorgeous shot of the Upper Falls.

As always, I had my pocket-sized Moleskin journal with me, noting the sights, smells and sounds that inspired me as we made our way along a moderately rugged path through the lush forest.  The tallest broadleaf hardwoods in the Chattahoochee National Forest towered 100 feet above us, and the glimpses of blue through occasional breaks in the canopy would have looked artificial had I mixed that color and tried to paint a sky on canvas.  Nature so pure isn't meant to be captured or reproduced; only enjoyed.

Which is why I was so unnerved when we made our final stop of the day.

After leaving the DeSoto Falls Scenic Area, we drove over the summit and into the valley of Blairsville, Georgia.  Nestled at the base of rolling peaks is a quaint cluster of mountain artisan boutiques and country stores.  In one, where they sell beautiful, hand-hewn furniture carved from solid wood, one can also purchase this:

and this:
I cursed myself again for not having my camera with me, but thank you Jacob K for his Flickr Collection titled Georgia, for capturing these shots!

I'm not an animal activist, but I clearly fall somewhere on the spectrum of respect for animals' rights.  Taxidermy had always been an art form I didn't particularly understand or appreciate, but I'd never considered it cruel.  Certainly, I understand a hunter's desire to admire the fruits of his game.  But after spending a day basking in nature and celebrating the planet and all its glory, seeing those magnificent animals frozen in poses created from someone's cruel sense of humor struck me as nauseating mockery.  

The price tag on the bear was $599.  The raccoon cost $385.  There was actually a nice selection of raccoons to choose from.  If the canoe wasn't appealing, you could go with: a seated raccoon trying to open a can of Coca Cola between its legs; a raccoon seated with a paw dug into an open box of Cracker Jacks; a raccoon holding five fanned-out playing cards (a full house with kings and queens -- a winning hand, ironically); or a raccoon dressed in tiny hiking gear and holding a compass.  Also available for a mere $181.50 each were canoe-paddling squirrels and squirrels dressed in cowboy regalia.

The good news is those bears, raccoons and squirrels got my writer gears turning.  A brilliant idea (if I don't say so myself) for my antagonist popped into my mind and resulted in a scribbled page and a half of notes in the old Moleskin.  It's going to be a good writing day today!

Did you see anything this weekend that sparked a new idea or twist for your story? 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Don't Be Blue

Me: Do you want milk on your cereal, sweetie?

Sidney: Yes, please.  Mama?  You look tired.

Me:  I'm just a little sad.  I found out this morning one of my short stories was rejected by a literary magazine.

Sidney:  Oh Mama!  It's okay.  When you're a writer, that happens.  You just gotta be sad for two minutes, then get on up to the next one and be happy.

Pretty good advice, from a ten year old.  There are a lot of things going on right now, bad and hurtful things, things out of my control. Draining my energy.  Zapping my creativity.  The magazine rejection is the latest, though easiest of them all to manage.

But, Sidney's right.  Sometimes, being happy is a choice to make.  Rather than give in to the sadness, the feelings of helplessness and despair, I can power through what I can't change, channeling every force in my heart with intention.  Staying positive, standing tall.  Life's too short to wallow in the negative.

Sidney lifted my spirits with her support.  Now, I'm off to cheer her on through her fourth grade's Field Day.  Sack races, water balloon wars, wet washcloth relays -- all under a cloudless, cerulean sky ruled by the hot, Georgian sun.  May children's laughter sate my soul.

I look forward to reading your blogs this afternoon.  In the meantime, do writers respond to rejection letters, form or personal, from literary magazines? What about rejection letters from agents and publishers?  Any advice is greatly appreciated!

(Artwork by Steve Keefer)

Enter my Spread the Awesome contest -- ends tomorrow!  DETAILS HERE

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Open Wide

I submitted myself today to the semiannual joy of professional teeth cleaning.  In wrapping up her gig, the hygienist handed me a new toothbrush and sample floss, and I noticed the angry, purple dents along the sides of my fingers where my vice-like grip of entwined digits pitted bone against bone.  My shoulders, only now beginning to relax, ache to the blades.  I've sworn off coffee and red wine.  Damn them and the stains they leave behind.  My dentist is wonderful, but I won't miss her these next six months.

A new dentist's sign went up in a neighboring town, on the opposite end of the recently constructed plaza that houses a just-opened Mexican restaurant.  The new dental offices look clean, sleek and modern, from the outside, of course.  I won't step foot inside, so I will never be able to comment on the office interior or on the good dentist's services.  Why, you ask?  Because according to the sign, the dentist's name is Justin Payne, DDS.

Justin Payne?  Really?  As in:  Just In Pain?  Who in their right mind goes to a dentist with a name like that?  For that matter, what man chooses dentistry with a name like that!  If it had been me, and I was passionate about working inside the general public's mouthes, I would at least use only my first initial.  J. Payne, Super Dentist.  Throw in the middle initial even: J.S/T/W/P/Whatever it is. Payne.

Whether it's fair or not, names give us immediate impressions of the people who bear them.  Choosing character names for fiction is a fun and delicate business for this reason.  I once participated in a workshop on Characterization, and we spent a session discussing character names.  We were given an interesting assignment to open creative doors and raise awareness where names are concerned.  I'll print the assignment here, and anyone who wishes to give it a go should do so before reading the rest of this post, where I'll include my own answers:

Typically, all characters have at least a first name. Because of our own experiences, cultural or social background, age, etc., we often hold opinions about certain names. Names can suggest courage, sophistication, clownishness, intelligence, sex, race, class, religion etc. Here is a little exercise. Tell me what the names below mean to you, what we might deduce about the character.

1) Loyd (the author spelled the character’s name incorrectly for a reason, why would she do this?)
2) Marie Huguenot (this one is tricky)
3) Dr. Selim Sengor
4) Zeph
5) Colin Glass
6) Colie Bluestone

Note: The workshop was offered in 2008 through a writers group I belong to called Rising Stars.  The workshop leader's handle was Purivada, and I'm crediting this exercise to her, although I don't know whether she is the original author or not.  She has been an inactive member of WDC since May 2008, but you can view samples of her writing HERE.

My answers to this exercise in January 2008 were:

I love thinking about characters' names. Here are my immediate thoughts about these:

Loyd ~ He wants to stand out in a crowd he feels swallowed up in. He lacks self-confidence even though he has talents hidden in his heart.
Marie Huguenot ~ Married a wealthy man, keeping her in the social class she is accustomed to.
Dr. Selim Sengor ~ Brilliant man who was unable to prosper in the poor country he grew up in. Worked hard to get an education abroad, but doesn't see the respect he deserves in the eyes of his peers.
Zeph ~ Spiritually guided man who marches to the beat of his own drum. Regarded as a throwback but enjoys the edge he feels this gives him as a nonconformist.
Colin Glass ~ Work-a-holic who plays by the rules, striving for what he's been told defines 'success', but is emotionally shallow and out of touch in interpersonal relationships.
Colie Bluestone ~ Hhmmmmm ... Not sure. The only visual I'm getting is being played by Matthew Mcconaughey.

Do you enjoy finding names that represent, or contradict, your characters' personalities?  Do you find you change characters' names as your MS progresses and you learn more about them?  Do you hate the dentist?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Daredevil Living

I spent the day recently with my cousin and her family. A couple years back, she found out her husband was cheating. Their marriage teetered on the brink of the abyss for over six months, then slowly they worked their way back to each other. Now, they're solid. Granite solid. But when things were coming apart, my cousin declared to herself that life was too short to waste the good days. When you're knee deep in bad, you have new perspective. She decided she was going to go skydiving, something she had always wanted to do but never dared try.

A couple months ago, with her now faithful life partner next in the jump line, she did it. The two of them went skydiving. When I watched their videos, I was filled with awe that she would dare to jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet. She fell at a speed of 120 miles per hour! The picture of her, taken by the company's photographer that documents each jumper's experience, is now her computer desktop wallpaper. Firey sunset colors outline the profile of her body, and her face is the picture of pure, living-in-the-moment joy.

I'm not an adrenalin junkie, but I crave experiences that force me right in the middle of the present. I want my immediate senses hightened, my emotions raw and all about the moment, not the moment before or the one after. So, I've been thinking: What would that experience be, for me?

I've never scuba dived on a coral reef. That comes right to mind. I'm sure there are other ideas if I gave myself more time to think. But, scuba diving would be awesome! Oh, and I want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. And I want to climb over the top of the bridge at Sydney's harbor.....

What about you? If money were no object...what would you dare do?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pattycake, Pattycake

Saturday as I was making this cake for my daughter's tenth birthday party, I was reminded of a blog comment conversation I had with Jessica of The Alliterative Allomorph. It was the day I posted about not being able to shut off my inner editor and embrace the imperfection of the first draft. That day, Jessica said this in her comment:

"You need to stop thinking and just write the basics...right NOW, think about what's necessary. You can come back LATER and turn it into beautifully crafted prose. Think of it like sketching a cartoon. You start of with the rough pencil outline, then you add the thick black outline which defines its shape and structure, then you colour it in, giving it life, personality, atmosphere."

Put that way, what Jessica was saying sunk in. And it was this analogy that I thought about as I made Sidney's cake.

Approaching a cake project is very like beginning a novel. I got out all my ingredients and organized them neatly on the counter. [characters, plot ideas, turning points, climax, ending]

I mixed up the batter and baked the cakes. When the were out of the pans and cooled, I leveled off each layer so the tops were flat. [rough outline: when you can start to "see" what the finished story will look like]

Next, I torted each layer, which means I sliced each in half so that the three tiered cake would have six layers. By this time I'd cleaned up my work space several times, but my nice, organized ingredients were all over the place -- just like my final outline: "Organized Chaos!"

I mixed up a batch of plain, white buttercream frosting for the crumb coat. This step I most liken to the first draft of my novel. The crumb coat is when you prepare each of the three torted cake tiers. One by one, you frost each bottom layer then carefully place on its top. Next, you apply a very thin, smooth coating of frosting along the sides and top of each layer. When you're finished, you have three individual layered cakes, of different sizes.

The crumb coat is important because it adheres to it all the loose crumbs, so that when you frost the cake with colored icing no crumbs show through, preventing color and texture blemishes. When you assemble the three tiers with their crumb coats, the cake looks like a cake, but it's plain, white, uninspired. However, it's well constructed and ready for embellishment -- when the real magic begins.

Isn't that like the first draft? A rough draft is the place where you get the bones of the story down, get all the characters and plot points in place, build a sound structure. Like the crumb coat, the first draft is part of the artistry, though you may not embrace it for the beautiful work of art it will become during the last stages of the project: the embellishments, the icing on the cake, the writer's flourish.

One last thing I observed with this cake: Each new cake I bake is superior to the last. I put the same effort into each one, the same dedication to perfection. But with practice, the moisture of the cake is better each time, the texture of the buttercream frosting is firmer and creamier. I reach more instinctively for the right piping tips I need to make this flower or that border. This is so like writing, too. The more I write, the more the words flow with an elevated ease, the less I rewrite, and the quicker the metaphors come to my descriptions. Practice hones a craft, in deep-seated ways of which the conscious mind is unaware.

Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your insight that day, giving me something to ponder over another of my creative passions. If anyone has not visited The Alliterative Allomorph, scoot over there now and enjoy Jessica's wonderful insights and incredible talent for writing.

Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


My sister and I were almost Irish Twins. Eleven days after I turned one, she was born. We were raised like twins, though, for the first couple years of our lives. Mom dressed us in matching clothes, cut our hair in identical styles. But as we grew into our personalities, we learned how different we were. How different were the things we coveted in life.

We left the family nest on opposite roads, in search of our desires. For several years, we hardly spoke.

I wrote the first "Sister" poem during those angry, silent years.

Just before last Christmas, my sister cried out. For help. For her life. I answered. That week, I wrote the second "Sister" poem.

My sister is starting a new life. Clean. I'm so proud of her. She's (always) on my mind, and since I can't seem to concentrate on much else today, I'll share my "Sister" poems with you.

A Sister Lost

ges ago we shared our lives, but now.....

adness tortures my soul when I think of you
mmersed in glamorous audacity, skin and ego
troked by countless people, but none who really love you. I see you
rample down fields of flowers in reckless pursuit of nothing that matters
ager to finger that golden horizon.
eaching, insatiable, for the jewel-encrusted platter

aden with unrestricted choices, you are
blivious to the pewter chalice you've knocked to the floor
pilling my love, unnoticed, under the
able of your life.

By Nicole Ducleroir 10/2008

A Sister Found

ging accusations became brittle with time

iphoning the last of my stubborn resolve
nto the abysmal void where what matters not is
ilenced, forever.
ime is touted as the healer of all pain, but
veryone knows it takes more.
eaching out from your fractured world, shaking the family tree, you

orced me forward, frightened, until the gap between us snapped shut and
rder returned to the universe in my heart.
nwritten chapters await our pen; across the first pristine page I write:
Never, ever again will I accept a day of my life
evoid of your precious light.

By Nicole Ducleroir 12/2009

Author's Note: Due to width limitations of blogger post columns, some of the longer lines of these acrostics fell to the next line. Arg.

Artwork by Linda Wilder