On Death and Dying

Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be sitting in a hotel in Huntsville, Alabama thinking about my final exit from this earth. Yet, while my grandson is enjoying his first experience at Space Camp, I am pounding out a proposal for a new work of non-fiction that has to do with dying. Those that know me, really know me, understand I have no fear of dying. And I am just crazy enough to be able to say it! My peace about dying is assured.

Why am I blogging about it? Because I am beginning to find humor in all that remains to be done! I swear since I have been born, I have been on one big run. From a child, I remember being told to “slow down.” But when you are “wired” for speed, you can’t slow down, just like if you are “wired” to laugh when you are afraid or are being yelled at. (Yes, I do that, as well.) You can imagine as I approach a BIG birthday, why the thought of dying and death crosses my mind a little more often than it used to. It seems I am racing toward a finish line with no ability to slow time down. I’m feeling out of control. (Which I am.)

Every ache and pain that arises out of nowhere is a constant reminder of how much I need to get done before I go. I know my days are numbered but do I really want to leave my closets and cupboards in such disarray for my son and his wife to clean out?  I can hear my daughter-in-law’s voice when she arrives at my stuffed closet and pulls out that Little House on the Prairie dress I have saved for forty-seven years. She’ll probably say “Really? Bless her heart.” Those words will reverberate in my ears until I clean that closet.  She won’t get that was the dress I wore on the day I told my beloved father-in-law I was pregnant. She won’t understand that he’d laughed with delight, but told me he’d figured as much because the dress made me look like I was already nine months pregnant. I was briefly crushed as I thought that calico dress made me look really pretty. When he died of a heart attack a few days later, I could never let that ugly dress go. I have it still, a reminder of a father who loved me.

So I think. Will the toilet be clean should an EMT have to use it when they come get me? Should I shave my legs should one of them pat my skin while we ride to the hospital or morgue? Maybe it’s time to cut my hair really short as someone could run their fingers through it to help me look more presentable as I waste away in a hospital bed.

Then there is the eyebrow situation. Maybe I should take my good friend’s advice and just get them tattooed on. With my luck, I’d have a beautician who paid more attention to her cell phone than my face and I’d end up with brows that looked like I was always asking a question.

I don’t want anyone fighting over my fur coats. Or jewelry. My daughter-in-law will take anyone out when it comes to diamonds. We are bling girls, her and I. But she hates fur so they will be distributed as promised….maybe. She loves animals and without my unwritten will they might get tossed.

How will my son find the passwords to all my social media sites? If he can’t find them will his friends forever remember me by that one photo posting mistake where I’m on top of a table, and my dress is pulled up over my head?

Have I made my wished known about burial or will I be relegated to the burn barrel and Bic lighter my son has threatened for years?

Will anyone have anything good to say about me or will they only remember I talked too much?  Did I make a difference in anyone’s life? Is being prepared on the inside enough to eliminate the chaos I may leave for others on the outside? Will my clutter be forgiven?

Just thinking……and laughing inside! Got to run now.  After all, it’s what I do!

 

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One Good Thing…

It has been awhile since I have posted. Life got away with me. A move. Health. Time. Family. Growth. Lack of commitment to writing. Lots of excuses. But, I’m back! Fully refreshed and ready to rededicate myself to the craft I love.

For all of the excuses I gave myself, I found I received a benefit that was unexpected. As a writer, I vacillate between writing what I feel I should be writing and writing what others around me expect me to write. My inner voice is silenced by the roar of outside expectations. It squashed my ability to see what I needed to write, so I just sort of stopped writing altogether.

Today, because of my “time off” I sat at my desk and pounded out a story, something lost to me over the past several months. Thanks to the people who gently nudged and encouraged me to “just write.”

I am happy I have found my way to paper again and know that whatever direction I head from here in my writing, it will be where I need to be. The lesson of stepping back for a short time is the one good thing I needed!

 

 

STAY AT 17 INCHES..a note on Our Nation

I just came across this post by Chris Sperry. I don’t know where it was first published, but the message is powerful and right for our nation today! Enjoy!
STAY AT 17 INCHES

In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment – “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who the hell is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter, I was just happy to be there.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung – a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

Seriously, I wondered, who in the hell is this guy?

After speaking for twenty five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.

Then, finally…

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?”

After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches?” more of a question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth’s day? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”

Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?” came a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear.

“How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide is home plate in the Major Leagues?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello !” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.

“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.'”

Pause.

“Coaches…”

Pause.

” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him. Do we widen home plate?

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We simply, widen the plate!”

Pause.

Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.

“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

Silence.

He replaced the flag with a Cross.

“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves! And we allow it.”

“And the same is true with our government. Our so called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen home plate and we see our country falling into a dark abyss while we watch.”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that, which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to…”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.”… dark days ahead.”

Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.

His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players-no matter how good they are-your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself, ALL, at seventeen inches.

Written by Chris Sperry
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REJECTIONS

Sometimes as writers, we expect that everyone will like everything we write. We have such a strong desire to be published that we are angered when the plain white post card with a stamped, “We can’t use your work at this time. Thank you.” drops into our mailbox, (email or post), and announces that yes, you are a crappy writer and this rejection note proves it.

Then we might pout, or call a fellow writer to try and suck some sympathy from them. We just know that there is a cad on the other end of that rejection letter, some jerk who probably didn’t even read the wonderful piece of prose we wrote!

But what I’ve found, already, in my short career is that as a writer, we must listen, absord and understand what the rejection letter really means. It’s not a personal attack. It is a rejection of the work. Maybe it was not aptly suited for the place to which it was sent. Maybe it was not written in a format that best displays the work. Maybe it’s been done. Maybe the poor publisher is so overwhelmed that they just can’t read one more work!

I had such was a rejection just a couple of weeks ago. At first, my disappointment was palpable. I say that, because I was alone and I swear I could feel the blood thumping through my veins as I read it. I was hurt, as a rejection of any writer’s work cuts to the bone, (even though we won’t admit it). Then I read the rejection again. I was the lucky writer who had an editor tell me what they didn’t like about my story. They gave me helpful insights of what was expected for their publication. They were brutally honest! But they gave me something more. They gave me a second chance to write it!

Guess what? I did. I rewote the article. I received a reply that it was accepted! So, I guess the moral to this story is, save all the rejection postcards as you’ll need them to remind you that as a writer, you will be disappointed. Not everyone will like everything you write, but write anyway, or maybe it’s better said, rewrite anyway!

Have a good week!Family Buttons

American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference

What a joy to be a part of the ACFW family! The conference here in St. Louis is filled with aspiring writers and encouraging editors, agents and publishers all here to glorify God! I’m finding myself encouraging others more than anything else, which makes for a great time! Happening at the same time is the Joyce Meyers Convention, so the entire downtown area is filled with people who love the Lord! I even had the chance to give one of her staff a copy of Run, River Currents, as Joyce ministers about her abusive life.

From the moment I arrived it was as though God had a plan for everything. I have been a part of a giving attitude in every restaurant, every store and every coffee shop within a 10 block radius. I hear workers saying to each other that they have never been treated so kindly, tipped so graciously or listened to so intently as these few days. My own maid cried when I handed her a few extra dollars and a book of faith I picked up here. I hadn’t seen her need until then. I was just reacting to the gratefulness I was feeling.

Writers do make a difference, but more than that, people of faith make a difference when we allow God to shine through our actions. I know I am learning techniques and craft here, but the real lessons are coming from the heart.

Go on out today and be a blessing to someone in any little way you can. You never know where God will take your kindness.

P.S. Don’t forget you have until October 12 to sign up for my Goodreads Giveaway of The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance! A “button” bracelet will be included for one lucky winner!

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY SEPTEMBER 12-OCTOBER 12

From September 12 through October 12, Goodreads will be running a contest for 5 autographed copies of The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance. Make sure you take the time to register and tell your friends!

 Read the Goodreads giveaway details here!

FINAL Cover buttons

 

Join me on Goodreads throughout the month as I answer questions about the new release!

See you there!

Ginger

Bios & Blurbs & Blogs, Oh My!

As a new author, having your book accepted for publication is only the beginning of an exciting and madcap adventure! There are so many things that will be asked of you by your publisher, your editor and your agent or marketing director. When I began the journey, little did I understand the demands that would be put on me, demands that are necessary for a novel’s success.

Because the publishing process is a team effort, everyone must play a part, including the often-times frazzled writer. The dilemma for the writer is that they want to write. They don’t necessarily want be involved in the marketing of their work. The dilemma for the publisher is that they may not have a marketing budget for an unknown author and thusly need to see an author is committed to the novel’s success.

So how does a new author prepare for publication even before their book has an agent, editor or publisher? Here are a few tips that I often share with authors during the writing conferences I teach at.

  • Here are three suggestions of documents that you can prepare in advance
    • Bio-make them varying lengths, short, medium and long. Include a bio with writing experience or clips. Have one for speaking, as well as writing.
    • Query Letter-This can be generic, but it should be good, as it shows off your writing style.
    • Synopsis-Actually, you need more than one synopsis, as different agents and editors may ask for synopsis’ of several lengths.
  • Once your work is accepted for publication, here are three items you will be asked about
    • Your platform-Do you have followers in a subject matter that pertains to your work?
    • Social Media-Are you set up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Pinterest, etc.?
    • Whose work is similar to yours?-A publisher wants to know you understand your audience. They may request a list of authors whose work may be in the same genre or writing style as yours. Be prepared.

 This is just a small sample of what you may need as you get started, but I’ll giving a full workshop, complete with checklists and advice at the Hampton Roads Writer’s Conference, September 18-20, 2014 at the Westin Hotel in Virginia Beach, VA.