When the calendar changes to September, the days begin to quickly change. The neighborhood kids walk to school with brand new backpacks and shiny lunch-boxes, and I can hear the morning announcements from the elementary school one block from my house. The leaves will soon turn oranges, golds and browns and slowly drift from the trees, and the air will turn brisk and nippy… okay, well maybe not here in Los Angeles, but it’s happening somewhere besides my imagination. Autumn is a time of renewal, exciting and fresh with lots of possibilities.
Passing Labor Day for me still means putting away my white clothes…although here in Southern California we never really put away our summer clothes… working on holiday projects and planning new menus.
I re-evaluate and update my goals for the year, and I remind myself to count my blessings, as we head toward the end of the year.
So now that Labor Day has passed and the days are moving quickly toward autumn, have you paused to take stock of your goals and count your blessings and do you put away your white clothes for another year (or is that just me)?
Before I began writing fiction I was a food writer. I thought I’d share one of my favorite autumn recipes with you.
Autumn Delicious Cake
1 spice cake mix
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
1 cup canned pumpkin
½ cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1-2 T cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a Bundt pan with cooking spray.
Combine cinnamon and sugar and set aside.
Put cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, pumpkin water and oil into a large mixing bowl and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed for 2 minutes. Spread half of batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with ½ of the cinnamon sugar, then top with the remaining batter spreading it evenly over the sugared layer, reserve half of the cinnamon sugar.
Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a fork or skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes, then flip onto a serving platter, sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar and cool completely. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
On my bookshelves are a lifetime of beloved books, mine and those of our three sons, all now adults. I’ve always loved books. I grew up in a little Amish town in Ohio, with no library, or bookstore. We did however have the bookmobile. By the age of eight the librarians knew me, knew that I would read however many books I checked out, and would often put aside books they thought I would enjoy to bring on their next trip into town with the bookmobile.
And my father read to us when we were young. Tornado warnings were fun because my father would take us down into the basement with our favorite books and read until the coast was clear. I don’t remember ever being afraid.
My oldest son also loved books. He was reading by age four and loved our library time almost as much as I did. Taking away video games was never much of a punishment because he was happier reading a book anyway. Not just comic books or graphic novels, he read mythology, religion, science fiction and classic literature. I think his favorite authors in high school were Ambrose Bierce and Edgar Allen Poe.
Reading didn’t come as easily for our middle son. When he wasn’t progressing in school, we eventually decided to home school both him, and his younger brother. I wasn’t a teacher, but I knew that reading opened so many doors in life…and that not reading kept doors firmly shut. I scoured the library and bookstores for books that might motivate my eight-year-old son. Eventually, I stumbled on the Star Wars Junior Jedi Series, and caught middle son’s interest. Each day we sat on the sofa, he’d read the first sentence on the page…which he seemed to find torturous, and I’d read the rest of the page. As he progressed he read the first sentence of every paragraph, and eventually we took turns reading paragraphs. It made me happy when he finally began looking forward to our reading time.
One day, he came into the kitchen while I was cooking dinner, a book in his hand and asked. “Mom, what’s this word.”
Startled I looked at him and the book and asked “What are you doing?”
His expression told me what a ridiculous question I’d asked. “I’m reading, if I wait for you I’ll never find out what happens!” He answered, and I knew he was a reader. I hugged him, told him the word, and sat down to cry happy…relieved tears.
The other day I was sorting through years of schoolwork that I’d kept for proof of the work the boys and I had done during our homeschooling years. I came across a book report by my youngest son. The book was Mystery of the Dinosaur Graveyard, and we’d checked it out of the library. The last sentence youngest son wrote was “I didn’t want the book to be over.” It was the first novel that he’d ever read. I remember reading that report for the first time and knowing that all three of my sons would be lifelong readers. I tried to buy a copy of the book but it was no longer in print. It was nowhere to be found. I was ready to commit the most heinous of crimes, and tell the library that I’d lost the book and pay their fines.
This was in 1998. We didn’t have the internet yet (or so I thought) because I thought the internet was a betrayal of the library. Oldest son was in high school, he got onto his video game system, accessed Amazon and asked them to search for the book. Within a week they’d found the book, I’d made my first internet purchase, and my son had saved me from life in the ‘Big House’.
I can’t imagine a life without books. Library books, print books, ebooks, there are never enough, although my husband, and friends and family who have helped us move may disagree. And although my sons’ bookshelves are filled with Brandon Sanderson, Tolkien, Ambrose Bierce, and Terry Brooks, and mine are filled with Phillipa Greggory, Sarah Dunant, Rebecca Forster, Erika Robuk (and so very many more) I’m so glad that we share a passion for reading and books.
What’s on your bookshelves? And who shares your love of books and reading? What are you reading right now?
However, as I get older, my perspective has changed, and the scene has more real meaning to me.
Time seems to be moving faster and faster, birthdays piling up, kids growing older, so much that I still want to do with my life,
“and the rowers just keep rowing…”
Birthdays and New Years are my big times for reflection and self evaluation. For me these are timed perfectly. My birthday is in July, halfway through the year. It gives me a motivational boost to prioritize and push myself to keep reaching goals through the end of the year…
My life has changed dramatically in recent years, my boys are all adults now, and my identity as a ‘mom’, while every bit as important has become less central, my priorities have become more personal. Write my books. Take care of my health. Spend more time with Hunky Hubby. Not necessarily in that order.
“And they’re certainly not showing,
Any signs that they are slowing.”
This year my goals are big, well, they are to me. I’m finishing work on a book, writing a novella, and at least the first draft of a second novel. I’m working on my health, trying to get in shape, get my cholesterol down, that kind of thing. After all the rowers keep on rowing, and I want them to row for as long as possible.
So, halfway through the year, are you achieving your goals? Have they changed since the beginning of the year? Do you love Gene Wilder?
While I consider myself the Queen of Run-On Sentences, because I tend to write the way I talk…in run on sentences, I also tend to write very lean. I know, that may seem contradictory, but it’s true. While author friends are trying to bring their word counts down, cut description and wordiness, I find myself short of my word count goals by as much as 20,000 words. Not a small number. And, fiction editors and critique readers tell me that sometimes I need MORE description.
I’m sure this comes from my non-fiction background. When I wrote magazine articles, I generally had a word count goal around 2,000 words. While each word should count in everything you write, when you’re this limited, each counts double. Every editor I knew had the same mantra, ‘Cut the Fluff’.
This works for me. I want to get to the point. Don’t dilly dally and draw the story out with unnecessary details, or you’ll lose me. TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED.
So, I find myself reading for details that matter. Why did an author put that description there? Was it necessary? Does it give the reader a better picture? Does it move the story forward? Is it something I would normally just skim over as too much detail when I’m reading? Does it make the reader turn the page?
You would think that because of my preference for clean sparse words that I’d read (and write) primarily short stories and novellas, but it’s not true. I read long, I read short, I read flash. I love a good story told in how ever many words it needs.
So back to my problem. Writing too short. I’ve decided it’s not a serious problem. The solution is of course to read, read, read…one of my favorite things to do. And write the words that matter, that of course is the hard part. I’ll keep working on it.
And what about you? Do you find that you write short or long? Sparse or fluffy? War and Peace? Or Flash Fiction?