Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Poem Winter in Minnesota

                                         Winter in Minnesota


It's winter in Minnesota
And the gentle breezes blow.
Seventy miles an hour,
At thirty-five below.

Oh, how I love Minnesota
When the snow's up to your butt.
You take a breath of winter air
And your nose gets frozen shut.

Yes, the weather here is wonderful,
So I guess I'll hang around.
I could never leave Minnesota,
'Cause I'm frozen to the grounds.


The author of this little ditty is unknown to me, so I can not give credit where it is due.  But, I am sure it was one of us hardy Minnesotans.

Some folks like to say Minnesnowta.  That is okay with me as I stay inside cozy and warm.

If you have young children staying in the house, they might like to listen to children's stories on Youtube.  Go to Classical Kids Storytime, and there is a selection of many stories told to the children with cute pictures.  If Classical Kids Storytime doesn't work, add the words America Public Media.



Wednesday, December 16, 2020

What Is Christmas?

                                            Christmas Traditions or Christmas?

We now enter the wonderful time of the year we call Christmas.  It has been described as magical. Christmas is the decorations, the Christmas tree, the lights, and family get-togethers. During this year, travel and visiting have been discouraged, but many feel they can not have Christmas without gatherings. 

But, we have surrounded Christmas with these traditions.  Let's look at the first, true Christmas.

Please journey back with me for more than 2000 years to Nazareth.

In the custom at that time, parents could betroth their daughters as young as 13.  They wanted to have an older, stable man making a good income for their child.  We do not know how old Mary was when her parents betrothed her, but scholars think that she was likely about 15.  The parents decided on Joseph, a carpenter, who was around 30 years of age (according to Bible scholars).

The couple would not date nor be alone together.  If Joseph decided Mary was suitable, he would agree to the marriage.  Some parents would allow the girl a say in the matter, and some parents would not. 

A betrothal is more than an engagement but not quite a full marriage.  The marriage ceremony would come a year after the betrothal, at which Mary would enter Joseph's home.  During the betrothal, Mary's mother would instruct her on her duties as a wife and prepare what we would call a hope chest.  Tradition indicates Mary was 15 or 16 when she entered Joseph's house.

Now, for a miracle.  After Mary is betrothed, around 15, and is living with her parents, she is visited by an angel. She is told the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and she will bear the Son of God.  We can read her answer, and it is beautiful, but imagine how overwhelming the news would be to a teenage girl.  Think about when you were a teen.

Did she tell her parents?  If so, did they believe her?  We do not know.  We know she went to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who immediately knows and confirms that Mary will have a child, and the child will be God. This may have helped Mary's confidence and faith.  Were her parents with her to hear what Elizabeth said?  We don't know. To visit Elizabeth, she would travel 80 to 90 miles, so Mary would not travel to Elizabeth's home by herself.  People traveled in groups or caravans for safety. Plus, she would need to be chaperoned.  Scholars think she stayed for three months.

When Mary returned to Nazareth, she was likely showing that she was pregnant.  Joseph found out. He thought of disbanding the betrothal quietly.  A Jewish woman could be stoned or burned to death if she were pregnant and not married.  Joseph did not want this for Mary or shame for her parents.  He decided to send Mary away quietly, where she would not be known.  But then he had a dream.  It must have been One Powerful Dream to have him set aside his beliefs and traditions and take Mary as his wife into his house.  Although they were now living together, he did not know her as a wife.

Mary is likely going through what all pregnant women go through.  She could have had morning sickness, tiredness, and other discomfits.

Then the news comes the men must go to their ancestral home to be counted for the census.  Joseph's ancestors were from Bethlehem.  It is 90 miles from Nazareth.  We don't know where Mary's ancestors were from, but they didn't care about the women in that day.

Scholars think Mary is now in her ninth month of pregnancy.  We don't know if Mary rode a donkey, but some paintings suggest she did, at least on their way to Egypt after Jesus was born. If Joseph had enough money to have a donkey, Mary could ride it, likely bareback and with both legs on one side.

Because the dirt road goes through rough territory, frequented by bears, mountain lions, wild boar, and thieves, the people would travel in groups.  On foot, most people would cover 20 miles in a day.  We do not know if Joseph and Mary could keep up that pace. Some scholars think it was closer to ten miles a day.  Each day the donkey clops, clops, and clops.  Most of the way to Bethlehem is uphill and then down.  The donkey lurches forward, making his rider lean forward up a long steep hill, and then the animal goes down the hill, forcing the rider to lean back.  The swaying back and forth and side to side is not pleasant when nine months pregnant.  Riding a donkey is unpleasant, even when not pregnant, and it often balks and quits when it wants to do so. Riding might have been the last choice of the options.  Most people chose to walk.  Wives walked three paces behind the husbands.  Did Mary?  I like to think Joseph would walk with Mary and support her over the rough spots, which were many.

They likely took bread and water in wineskins with them, and it was the custom that if travelers stopped at a village or farm, the people would give them shelter.  With many people traveling, did Mary and Joseph get shelter?

They may have worn heavy woolen cloaks, and under them, long robes belted at the waist.  On their feet, they may have had tube-like socks and sandals with enclosed toes.

The trip would have taken more than a week for the nine-month pregnant teenage Mary and Joseph to get to Bethlehem.  If Joseph had relatives living in the small town, they must not have been able to help as he had to go to the inns.  They, too, were full.  So, they were permitted to lodge in a stable.  Most stables were caves in the mountains around the town.  As the inns were crowded, the stable caves could have more than one family in them.  The animals were likely more donkeys from travelers.  Sheep would be in the pasture with the shepherds.

The caves would be smelly with the animals and old straw.  Joseph may have found clean straw and then put their heavy woolen cloaks on it for Mary to lay on.  The light was likely a torch (a large stick with one end covered with rags and dipped in tar or oil and lit) which was very smelly, or an oil lamp, which also smelled, or candles which would not be good with so much straw about.  This smell would not help a pregnant woman.  If there was no light in the stable when they got there, they would have to get fire from someone (remember, no one had matches).  The light would cast eerie flickering shadows on the cold walls.

Jesus decides to come into the human world.  If there were other women in the stable, they might have helped Mary, or Joseph may have found a midwife.  I wonder if Mary wishes she was home with her mother and family (tradition says Christmas is all about home and family, and although we are told not to travel, many people still do).  Mary had to travel under challenging conditions, which took her away from her family. The first Christmas was without her family.

Going through the pain of natural childbirth, she yells and cries.  With all its uncertainties and fears in a strange city, her first childbirth, among strangers, with an older man who is her husband that she doesn't know, she becomes a mother.

Jesus enters the world as most babies do.  He is no different.  He is human.  He cries, his face is red, his hands are scrunched up, his toes are curled, and his hair is wet.

After he is cleaned up, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and given to his mother, he is soon nursing. Later he is laid in the manger, not made of wood as the animals would chew on it.  It is made of stone.  Cold stone.

This is the miracle of Christmas.  It is not the traditions we put on it (which I do enjoy very much).  

This is God becoming a human, experiencing everything we experience, and finally lifting our burden of sin so we can become God's family.

The Miracle of Christmas is the best and really is all of it. 

As always, send me your thoughts.  Love to hear from you. 

  

Monday, December 14, 2020

Blessings

                             Blessings

                                    Submitted by Shirley Franklin 

I am thankful for the 30+ years we have lived in this house, from which we are hoping to move to a one-level home (as soon as we find "it"). I am counting some of the blessings of it: the improvements my husband has made from time to time, and especially for the windows on two sides of every room for the sunshine that pours in, even on a gray day lighting our home and our spirits, handrails for stairs and bathroom, and numerous carpet and curtain additions, a spacious deck that holds our extended family all at once...but most of all for light, right now, Christmas lights at night!
Thankful for the love of friends, church, esp. Rachel Circle.  

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Blessings

                      Blessings

I am one of the 'odd ducks' who believe God is involved in our everyday lives when He is invited in. 

Today I am going to share a blessing from Him.  If you have any blessings you wish for me to share on this blog, please send them to me, and I will be delighted to post them.  We need to see His blessings during this difficult time as He cares for us. 

                                         Disguised Blessing

This blessing I title disguised as when it happened, it might not seem to be a blessing. This is my blessing this last week.

My friends Sue and Pam carpooled with me to my cabin in October before my brother-in-law closes it down for the winter. Usually, we go early in October, but this year there was a conflict, so we went on Monday, the 19th, and planned to come back to the Minneapolis area on Thursday the 23rd. 

We arrived, turned on the furnace, got toasty warm, made our dinner, and played our Rummikub game.  We went to bed at about midnight.  Around four a.m. on Tuesday, the cabin was freezing.  In the morning I got hold of a fellow to look at the furnace, he arrived at  4 o'clock p.m.  Meanwhile, Pam, Sue, and I sat in our winter coats, etc.  The fellow fixed the furnace quickly.  It was a sticky value, and all he had to do was lubricate it.   The lubrication was ten dollars, and the labor was 170 dollars as he had to come from the town of Cameron.  The cabin again got toasty warm. So Tuesday we had dinner and played more games, this time Mexican Train.  We went to bed, and all was well.  We woke up in a freezing cabin early Wednesday morning.  No Heat. 

It had snowed about four inches on Tuesday. We checked the weather for Thursday, the day we had planned to come home, and the weather forecasted freezing rain.  

So, we packed up and left Wednesday at 1 O'clock p.m.  The roads and highways were dry, and there was very little traffic.  We got to my house, and my two friends were then able to drive to their homes before dark. Everybody was safely home and warm.
  
My brother-in-law called the furnace repair person and met him at the cabin on Friday, driving was good, and the valve was replaced.  Don't know the cost yet.  My nephew went up with his dad, and they closed the cabin for the winter. 

Now, you might wonder how all of this was a blessing.  This is what I know.
God knew the weather would be freezing rain when we planned to drive home, so He made sure we would go earlier.  How did He do this? By showing us, the furnace value was not reliable.
If we went earlier in October, we might not have been aware the furnace had a bad valve as it did work at times but not when it was frigid.  My brother-in-law would have closed up the cabin earlier, not knowing there was an issue with the valve.  The pipes could have frozen even with the anti-freeze in them.  Yes, the repair costs money, but certainly not as much as frozen pipes.

I know God is involved in everyday life of people when He is invited in.   He is not a buttinski.  Every morning I talk with Him and thank Him for the blessings He will send to me that day, and each night I thank Him again and tell Him how much I appreciate His caring, and my amazement that He knows me personally with all the billions of people on this earth. 

If you want to share a blessing, let me know, and I will post it.  November is coming, and it is the month not dedicated to turkey dinners but to thank God for His presence and blessings.  



Monday, October 12, 2020

Horrors of Horrors! Themes and Outlining

                        

Ready for Lift Off!  






  Horrors of Horrors!  Themes and Outlining!


When I first started writing, I read I needed to write the book's theme, and I should do it before I wrote the story.  I did not even know what a theme for a fiction novel was.  I knew what themes were for high school and college papers as they were assigned by the instructor, but for fiction?  I just wanted to write a story that I thought was fun.  What kind of theme is that?  

Articles on writing said the theme helps to keep the author on track going in the same direction toward the end.  Other articles said a writer can change the theme in the middle or the end of the manuscript. So, I thought, why not wait until the end to begin with, which I do.  

Some writers call the theme the moral of the story, some authors say it is the point of the story.   I view it as a short summary of the story.

In summary, what is a theme? The theme is the point of the story or summary ( as I see it).  It can be what you want the reader to take away from your novel.  The theme is about the conflict or conflicts.  It can be decided at any time, in the beginning, during, or after the story is finished.

This is the story of ______________________________________(finish with 25 words or less).

Or, This story of _______________________________________(finish with 25 words or less).

This is helpful to do if you need to write a short blurb for your book.

My opinion is if you don't know the theme of your story, don't sweat it.  Write your creative fiction anyway, and enjoy doing it.

My theme for the book I am working on now could be the following.

This is the story of powerful and wealthy men justifying their illegal actions as necessary for their survival.        I may change this when I finish the book. 

_________________________________________________________________________________

                           Horrors!  Outlining Your Story!

Outlining your fiction novel is not the old Roman Numeral system taught in grade school.  Yippee!  There are several ways to outline your creative baby.  I will present some ideas.  You can try one or perhaps make one that works for you.

Most authors advise new writers to outline their novels before they begin to write.  Unfortunately, you(like me) may not know the whole story.  So, you can outline the parts, you know.  And, if I may dare say,  "Horrors of Horrors, you could outline your story after you finish the entire novel.  Any missing material will show up for you to fill in.  Do what you are comfortable with for getting your scenes and chapters down, in any order you want.

Some examples of outlines are:

Number One Method:

To me, this is the worse one that has been recommended, but it may work for you.

 1.  Write down all possible book titles.  You can change it later.

  2.   List all the characters and make up their complete biographies, even if you won't need the information in your story.  This would include birthplace and year, education, religion, race, work, anything you can think of for any real person.

   3.   List each chapter and give it a title.  Write the first sentence of each chapter.  Then outline each chapter.

I can not do this method.

Number Two Method

 1. Outline of __________________________ (Name of Novel).

 2.  The Complication (internal,or external, or both).  Use three words.  The first word is a noun, the second is an action verb and the third is a direct object.

__________________________    ____________________     ____________________

 3. Follow this with as many chapter outlines as you need to develop the complication using the same format as above for each chapter.   Chapter One, Two, Three, and so on.  Noun, action verb, and direct object.

4. The last chapter is the resolution of the problem.  Again, it would be a noun, action verb, and direct object.  The chapter must show what the character learned.

Example:

Outline of   Betty Fights for Her Rights  (Title)

The Complication    Company     fires          Betty         Noun, verb, direct object.

Chapter One  Depression   paralysis   Betty

Chapter Two  Betty       regains      confidence.

 Chapter Three     Betty      sues the company.

Resolution        Betty      regains     job.

This method does not work for me as I don't know how many chapters I will need.

Number Three Method

 1.  Use one, two, three, or four-word titles for each chapter (use few words for chapter names).

2. Go back and write a short summary paragraph for each chapter.  If you don't know what each chapter will be about, put in the ones you know.

3.You should put the protagonist, the antagonist, setting, and the conflict in the first chapter.

4. Later chapters explain the complications, obstacles, emotional challenges, etc. and how they are faced by the characters.  The last chapter is the resolution and the growth of the protagonist.

5. Reminder:  You do not need to do the outlining in order.  If you know part of the middle, do that first leaving room for the beginning.  Or start at the end.  This method can go on individual index cards for each chapter so they can be moved around.

I can't do this method either. Planning chapters and their names and summaries when I have bits and pieces not joined is too frustrating.  But it might work for you.

Number Four Method

1. Write a Headline, like a newspaper headline, to state briefly what the story is about.  This is the theme.

2. Beginning of story:  What are the problems?

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

3. Middle of the Novel:  What are the obstacles to be overcome to solve the problem?  (plot)

___________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________

4. End of your creative baby: Solution

__________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

Once again, this is not for me unless I use it after I have written the novel.

Number Five Method  (My Method)

NO Outline!

I see my story in pieces (like watching a movie), and I write the sections I see, and later I put them in order and put in transitions, so they flow.  The characters talk to me, usually late at night, and tell me their side of the story.  After everything is written, I divide the story into scenes and chapters where they seem to fall naturally.  As I do this, the theme of the story becomes clear to me.  Sometimes when I finish a major section or the entire manuscript, I will do a simple outline.  If gaps show up, I will fill them in.  This is why I am not a famous author.

To sum up, do what is comfortable for you.  There is not one that is perfect for everyone.

I hope you have enjoyed the journey on writing tips.  I wish you all the best in whatever writing you do.  Please, contact me if you have questions, ideas, suggestions, etc.  I do want to hear from you.   If you send me your short story or part of a longer story, I will send you my gnomes and trolls short story.  Stay Well.  God Bless  Pat


                                            Lift Off!




Monday, October 5, 2020

Metaphors And Finally Lift Off

            

On the Writing Elephant                                                                   

Finally on the Writing Elephant!  



 Write Your Own Metaphors 

There are times you might like to use a metaphor.  Several metaphors have been used repeatedly, such as soft as a cloud or quiet as a mouse. ( I quit using that last one when a fourth-grade student said that mice were not quiet.  They made so much noise in her dresser drawer she could not sleep at night.)
Be original. Make your own metaphors.  This is my method. (Not original with me. I read it someplace.)

Write a list of concrete nouns, then write a few adjectives associated with each noun or a phrase.

chair         sturdy, hard, four-legged
Blue Jay     noisy, raucous, chattering, harsh sounding, twitter
Moon  reflected light, phases of light, distant, round, close appearing
Dog  barking, snarling, dashing, running, chasing its tail, lap sitting
Violets   purple, white, small, green leaves, scent
Gnome  silly looking, dwarf-like, red hat, mystical, mischievous
Pillow   soft, fluffy
Towel  absorbent, soft, rough
Grey clouds    ominous, forbidding, large, low hanging, spiraling.
Children   laughing, arguing, cranky, slurping, riding bikes, naughty, nice, ill-mannered, well mannered, bratty, talkback. 
___________________________________________________________________________________
Next, make a list of other nouns and pair them up with the adjectives and nouns on the first list, or use a noun from your story that you want to pair with your list. 
(A character's name) absorbed the insults like a paper towel.
Her mood was like ominous gray clouds.
Outside the window, the blue jays argued like cranky children.


                                                                              *          *          *
This will be the last blog on writing unless you are thinking of publishing.  There will be one more blog for those who wish to continue.

A few last tips as we settle ourselves on the elephant and lift off in the writing balloon to new adventures.
First, I need to clarify something I posted earlier.  Adverbs are frowned on especially ly words by agents and publishers, but if your character uses adverbs in his speech than a ly word is appropriate.  Sorry for the misinformation.

I have always had trouble with certain words.  When do I use lie or lay?  When should I use an apostrophe in its?  I took my little demons and wrote them on index cards and taped them together into a flipbook. At a glance,  I know lie means to rest. The past tense is lay, the present participle is lying, and the past participle is have lainThey never take an object Examples:  My dog lies on the floor.  The baby lay among the pillows on the sofa.  There is no object in the two sentences.

Lay means to put something someplace.  The past tense is laidThe present participle is laying, and the past participle is have laid.  They all take an object.
Pam laid her books down. (books are the object and laid is the past tense of lay.)
Please, lay your books on the desk.  (books are the object and lay is in the present tense).

It's equals two words, it is  It's ten o'clock now.
Its means possessive; it owns something.  If I am writing about a lake,  I would say its water is green.

When I read a novel and find words and phrases, I like I copy them onto a list.  They give me inspiration on how to turn a phrase.  And some words do not easily come to mind, such as folderal or snoggled.

Dialogue tip:
"He said, "Come here."  Notice the comma is not inside the quotation marks, but the period is.
"Come here, " he said.  Notice the comma is inside the quotation marks, but the period is not. It is at the end of the sentence. 
Remember when a different character than the previous one speaks begin a new paragraph.

If you think you will want to do more writing and enjoy it, I recommend the program for your computer called Grammarly,  It does cost money, but it does a much better job than the computer spell-check.  You pay for it once, and that is it. You download it on the computer.  It will pop-up and help with your emails and  Facebook as well. 

For those interested in next week's blog, it will be on themes and outlines.  I struggled with these two concepts but have found a way that I can do them with ease. 

Those who wish to stop here, let me know if the blogs have been helpful.  I would like to see what you have written, even if it is not finished or in a rough draft.  If you send me your work, I will send you a free copy of my short story on the Gnomes and Trolls.  Wow!  What a huge offer.  There is no better deal anywhere.  I'm sure you will agree.  The tale does not have a good title, so please submit your suggestions.  If I choose your suggestion, I will send you a free copy of my latest book, Slaves of Passion.  Double Wow! 
You can always email me to talk, make suggestions, have questions, make comments.  Love to hear from you.

Ready to LIFT-OFF!



                                                                       LIFT-OFF!  
                                                                 
                                                            You did it.  Congratulations!  




Pat
pstinson23@comcast.net


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Good Story-Boring Sentences



Loved the Story But Hated the Sentences!

In a previous blog, I said I was writing a story in the Third Person on a gnome named Ansgar.  I write the rough draft in bits and pieces as they come to me.  The following is one paragraph. 

Ansgar returned with the ladder.  He leaned it against a tree.  He sat on the ground.  He watched the night sky.  He watched for the first rays of the sun.  He saw the darkness fade.  He decided to start before it became too light.  He stood and walked to the hole.  


Boring!

I underlined the noun and the pronouns standing for the noun. Notice they all began the sentence. I did not use the tip from last week on Show Don't Tell.  I want to illustrate the point of this blog.

The reader needs to know the character's name in the paragraph, so it is okay, to begin with the name and to begin one sentence with the pronoun, but no more.  The rest of the sentences should not start with the pronoun he or with the proper noun Ansgar.   They may appear later in the sentence but not as the first word. 

 Taking out some pronouns, my story becomes:
Ansgar returned with the ladder, which he leaned against the tree. (Notice I combined two sentences.) Facing East, he put his back against a maple tree and slid down.  The black night sky began to fade to gray as the stars were less visible.  The horizon turned purple, then pink, and began showing a light yellow.  I should start now, or it will be too light for my plan to work.  After he grabbed the ladder, he inched his way to the dark hole. (Italics are used on words the character is thinking.)

Yes, I did change the sentences.  I added more detail; some Show Don't Tell often helps.  However, notice I did use facing as a sentence beginning.  A verb with ing can begin a sentence but use sparingly.  When I was in school, many a long year ago, I was told not to start a sentence with a conjunction.  If you forgot what a conjunction is, it is a connecting word such as and, but, or, however, etc.  However, it is now okay to begin a sentence with a conjunction, but don't overdo.  (See how I started the last sentence, haha.)

An excellent way to begin a sentence is to tell where or when the action happened.  I used the word after to start my last sentence in the story. After he grabbed the ladder. . . . This describes when and moves the word he to the second word.  I could change the first sentence and still let the reader know who the character is by stating, Later Ansgar returned with the ladder. . . . This tells when.

Or, I could begin with the ladder, and write, Against the tree, Ansgar leaned the ladder. This tells where and identifies the character in the first sentence.

Adverbs ending in ly can also be used at the beginning of the sentence, but if you want to publish the story hardly ever, use an adverb.  Agents and publishers don't like them.  Maybe adverbs are used too often. Publishers want strong verbs that don't need help with an adverb.  If you don't want to publish and are writing for yourself and friends, go for it and use adverbs.

Summary of beginning sentences:  use when, where, ing, conjunction, combine sentences and Show Don't Tell. 

I hope this information helps.  Send me any suggestions you have.  Am I going too fast or too slow?  Let me know.

The next blog will be on making your own metaphors and some other little tips that help me.  Those who are writing for pleasure may want to stop after next week.  You can lift off into the atmosphere of creative writing.
Those interested in publishing may want the following week's blog.  Tips that help me to get ready to publish will be posted. 

Whatever your intent for your writing, do it for your enjoyment.  Have Fun.  

One more blog, and we will have climbed the elephant and lifted off into the creative writing atmosphere.