The other day I came home to find the men I hired to build my patio sitting in my backyard looking at a stump. This was not a normal stump. This was a giant. Paul Bunyan, Big John kind of stump. I sat down with them and I, too, considered the stump.
“George had to get his chain saw for that sucker,” one of them finally said.
“Took two hours to get it out,” another offered.
“I think it broke George’s saw,” the first chimed in.
“Why didn’t you leave it in the ground,” I asked. “You know, pour the cement around it?”
“We thought about it,” the third said. “It wouldn’t have been right.”
They told me that they had managed to cut it up into the piece we were looking at but that it had been twice as big and buried deep in the ground; a remnant of a primordial tree. Their task had been Herculean. They told me that if they poured the cement over the stump, the darn thing could rot and my steps would fall in, and I would be upset with them because they had poured cement over a stump the size of San Francisco.
“It looks petrified,” I said. “How many years do you think it would take to rot?”
The first guy shrugged, “Twenty. Thirty years.”
I shrugged back. I would probably be dead by the time the stump rotted and my stairs fell in. I guess it was the principal of the thing. They would have known the stump was there.
We sat in the hot sun a while longer. Someone suggested carving the stump into the likeness of the contractor. I liked that idea but no one knew how to carve. I thought we could make it into a table. Eventually, we all stopped looking at the stump. The men moved it out of the way and started work again; I went inside to make dinner.
That stump has now been in my backyard for months. I can’t bring myself to get rid of it. But, like all things that are hard to get rid of, it eventually served a purpose. It taught me a few lessons:
1) Everybody has a stump. It might be in your real backyard, your professional backyard or your personal backyard, but it is undoubtedly there.
2) What you do with your stump will tell you a lot about yourself. Either you will dig it up and deal with it, or you will leave it to rot.
3) If you’re stumped and need help there is always someone willing to work hard with you to take care of it as long as you work as hard as they do.
4) You can never go through a stump but don’t panic. You can go around them, over them and sometimes even under them but that takes the longest.
5) Sometimes stumps are not as big as they look and sometimes they are bigger. Size doesn’t matter. Stumped is stumped.
SECRET RELATIONS, book #3 of the Finn O’Brien Thriller series is available now.
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What makes you a writer? Is it the act of picking up a notebook or sitting at the computer and filling a blank page? The desire to put the fantasies in your head on paper? Does it happen when other people read your work? Or when you see your work in print? How about when you’re paid for your writing? Is it a writing degree? What makes you a writer? And are you a writer even if you feel like everything you write…well, it sucks?
I’m pretty sure I’ll never feel like I’m A Writer. I mean who the heck am I to call myself writer? I’m certainly no Anne Rice, or Danielle Steele, but I know that nothing can keep me from writing. I eventually turned nearly every ‘real’ job I had into a writing job.
I was hired as a secretary for the marketing director of a luxury automobile accessory catalog company. Catalog copy crossed my desk every day, eventually I started writing my own copy and putting it on her desk, and before long, I was writing most of the new product copy that was written in house.
Later I worked for a high end furniture store in customer service and began an employee newsletter. Then I worked in human resources for a medical staffing company and wrote an employee handbook, a newsletter and a television infomercial. I worked as a receptionist at an advertising agency where I slowly started writing television commercials instead of answering phones.
And eventually I freelanced for magazines and wrote regular columns in four different publications.
My first fiction released in February! Such an amazing feeling, but I still can’t say that I feel like a Real Writer.
So what does it take? What makes you a Writer? Does it even matter? At this point I’m pretty sure that no matter what else I do in my life, I’ll always write. Maybe when I see my book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble I’ll know I’m a writer, or if I’m lucky enough to make a best sellers list. In the meantime, I’ll just keep writing.
Whoops, I’m a bit late with my monthly update. Soz!
Here’s a fun thing I found on the internet this week: I Write Like
I Write Like uses a Bayesian statistics algorithm to match up your writing style with that of a famous (and prolific) author. Its accuracy has been called into question by some high-profile authors over the years – authors who have found their own work likened to Dan Brown, for example – so I offer no guarantees against the result. However, it is an enjoyable time-waster, and the procrastinator in me is always on the lookout for those. Feel free to share your likenesses below…
I got Anne Rice for one of my excerpts, and Agatha Christie for another.
Greetings to my fellow history nerds. It’s time for another installment of my quarterly blog on historical topics.
To refresh your memory, Quarter Days were the four days during the year when rents were paid, servants hired, and contracts commenced. My Christmas blog inspired some comments about when New Year’s was celebrated. Marianne said:
“New Years used to be celebrated on the First Day of Spring. But when we changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian’s calendar, New Years change to January 1st. That’s why September, October, November and December are named the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th months—even though they no longer are. While the Gregorian calendar was introduced in October 1582, we didn’t start using it until September 1752. April Fools were people who still celebrated the New Year in the Spring.”
In fact, that first day of spring on which the new year was celebrated was March 25th!
I mentioned before that most of the Quarter Days coincide with astronomical events (like the Vernal Equinox) and Pagan or Christian holidays. In the Catholic tradition which dominated most of Europe until the Reformation, March 25th is the Feast of the Annunciation, the date on which the Angel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary. Thus it’s called Lady Day.
I blogged a bit about the calendar changes in a 2016 Leap Day post. In short, the year began in January when the world ran on the Julian calendar (inaugurated by Julius Caesar) until 1582, when Pope Gregory introduced the Gregorian (what else would you call it?) calendar. With the implementation of the Gregorian calendar, countries adopting the calendar lost ten days.
Given that the calendar was devised by Catholics, England resisted and ran on the Julian calendar until 1752. Imagine subtracting ten days (or adding them) to line up your calendars. And vital statistic records, like births, deaths, and marriages? What a mess! As I mention in my 2016 post, George Washington’s birthday in 1732 was not February 22nd but February 11th.
As the first day of spring, Lady Day was the most important Quarter Day for landholders and tenant farmers, and these contracts would run at least a full year to allow for the cycle of planting, cultivation and harvesting. Kathryn Kane has a thorough and well-researched post on this subject at her blog, The Regency Redingote.
Kathryn mentions that Lady Day apparently initiated goose-plucking season. Throughout the warmer months, quills (needed as writing implements) and down were harvested. And when the summer ended with Michaelmas, I seem to remember a feast of roast goose! Poor birds!
I know these are all little pieces of trivia, but as a historical romance author, I never know when I’ll be able to snag a detail or two to add to my story. Or maybe even craft a holiday-themed story, like I did with my latest release, A Leap Into Love, a Regency romance built around Leap Day traditions. I hope you too can find something useful here!
Happy spring! I’ll be back again in June for Midsummer’s Day.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons