I Believe



I'll make this brief.  I wasn't going to post at all today, but today of all day's this needs to be said.

This is the first year our youngest son entered the holiday season conflicted.  Everywhere he turned, his schoolmates, the media, even his own innate intelligence was telling him that Santa Claus wasn't real.  But you could tell that deep down he didn't want it to be true.  He didn't want to face the fact that his parents had in fact been lying to him all these years, playing an elaborate shell game designed to pull the wool over his eyes.  I could tell he preferred to think that there was indeed magic in the world.

Things came to a head last week when we were discussing his present list and made mention that Santa might possibly bring him a couple of them.  His face turned all serious, he set his jaw, and then he said, "There's no such thing as Santa Claus.  Why don't you just admit you're Santa?"

My wife looked at me and I could tell she was psychically asking me, "Do you want to handle this one?"

I didn't miss a beat.  I looked him squarely in the eye and said, "Son, I think its time you learned something.  This world is filled with people who believe different things.  There are people who believe in ghosts...a lot who don't...and those who just don't know.  There are people who believe in little green men from outer space....those who don't...and those who aren't sure.  There are even people who believe in God....those who don't...and many who aren't sure what to believe.  You have to make up your own mind about what you believe in, and that includes Santa Claus.  And those beliefs are yours and yours alone, and you don't need to justify them to anybody.  I can only tell you two things...one, that I believe 100% in the spirit of Santa Claus...and two, that people who believe in Santa get more presents than those who don't.  Time to make up your own mind."

He went away satisfied, and more at ease.

What about you?  Do you believe?

Merry Christmas!
 

Be Jolly By Golly Blogfest



Today we take time-out via Melissa and Jen's awesome idea, the Be Jolly By Golly blogfest.  Here's the gist of it. 
 
1. Post pictures of your decorations, holiday lights and Christmas tree.

2. Share your favorite holiday treat (Feel free to share the recipe so we can all share in the yummy).

3. Share your favorite holiday drink (Either alcoholic or non, share your recipe if you please).

4. Don't forget to visit everyone else (the list is here), share in the holiday spirit and spread the cheer.

Why don't we get started...welcome to my home everybody.  First off, here's a picture of our outside decorations.
 
We selected a picture from last year when there was snow on the ground.  Just seems to add a little something to the to the festivity of the season, don't you think?


Here is the archway just inside our front door.  While your taking the tour, how about a glass of SLUSH? It happens to be my favorite holiday treat and drink.  I'll tell you how to make it after the tour.

From here on out I'll let the pictures do the talking.


















































Want to know how to make some SLUSH?  Well you take 5 cups of water, bring it to boil, then mix in 2 cups of sugar and allow to cool.  The steam heat 2 cups of water and 4 tea bags.  Allow that to cool.  Mix all of the above with 12 oz of frozen orange juice, 12 oz of frozen lemonaide, and 2 1/2 cups of Brandy.  Freeze and serve with 7 up or Sprite.  YUM YUM!!!

I hope everyone enjoyed the tour...and the drink. :)  And don't forget about the SIGNIFICANT OTHER BLOGFEST on January 21st.






Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

The Significant Other Blogfest


We’ve all heard the saying…behind every successful man or woman…there’s a person who supports them unconditionally.  Nowhere is that more true than with us writers.  Who else would put up with our 2 AM wake up calls to solicit opinions of a shiny new idea? Our whiplash inducing confidence swings?  The hours upon hours in front of the computer monitor, with nary a grunt or nod when they attempt to disrupt our creative flow?  The compulsive need to check email on our Smartphone’s for that reply we’ve been waiting so anxiously for?  Or reading the fifty-seventh revision of our first chapter?

 
It takes a special person to put up with writers idiosyncrasies…and we believe its time they had their say!  That’s why I, along with my blogging buddy across the pond Talli Roland, are teaming up to host THE SIGNIFICANT OTHER BLOGFEST.  We’re joining forces to urge everybody to relinquish control of your blogs for one day, January 21st, so your significant others might assume the reins and tell us what it’s like to support a writer.  I got the idea after reading Talli's recent post where she describes her husband, and it got me thinking...why can't he describe Talli to us?  And there’s no begging off because you don’t have a spouse (thus the politically correct title), choose a sibling or someone else who can tell us what it’s like to prop you up day after day.  But you’re not allowed to censor or coach them in anyway, we want the hard-boiled truth!  The good, the bad, and the ugly!  We’d really like to see them step out from behind the curtain and tell us a little bit more about you…and them.

We realize this may take some coaxing on your part, but just think how much fun this will be.  They have an entire month to organize their thoughts (and emotions), but the important part is that they won’t be alone in doing this.  No one will be critiquing or judging that day….PROMISE! 

At the bottom of the page is the famous Mr. Linky to sign up with and we’ve included this nifty badge to use in promoting the event on your own blog, if you’re willing.
Please sign up, then spread the word! This is a chance for your significant other to support you one more way. 

We really hope you'll participate.

*Edit - Although our first choice would be to have your significant other post their own material, it is acceptable to interview them and post those responses.  The only catch is that you must include these three questions.

1. What food or drink is guaranteed to return your loved one to a good mood, even after a bad day writing?
2. What one thing would you change about your others writing habits?
3. How hard is it to sit by and watch someone you care for struggle to attain a dream...knowing there's very little you can do to help?

Also, we want to reiterate that your significant other can be a child, sister, brother, close friend, etc.  It does not have to be a husband/wife.

Talli & DL 


Little Pillows – R.I.P.

(Editors note - This is the second part of a short story I originally posted Dec. 2009.  Part one is here if you missed it.)

The siege has ended and order had been restored, but that doesn’t mean I can rest easy. Apparently, my work is just beginning.

I say that because of the comments some of you left on my previous post. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read things like…cute…wonderful things…homes should be filled with soft colorful pillows…and they were the lifeblood of good decorating. It became obvious that what I experienced in my home wasn’t an isolated incident, and that homes all across America were slowly being taken over by this fluffy menace. I can’t sit back and do nothing. I have to tell the rest of my story in hopes that others will come to their senses and take action before it’s too late.

I ended my first warning expressing my concern that the pillows had become aware of my suspicions. As always, it was in the subtle things. When the wife and I would sit down on the couch to watch television, a wall of pillows would form between us, attempting to cut me off from her and drive us apart. Anytime I picked up the phone to place a call, I would hear a mysterious click on the line, a sure sign that someone…or something…was listening in to my conversation. I even had to start making journal entries about what was going on from my computer at work because one day I found one of the little devils lounging in my desk chair… and this blog was on the monitor.

I didn’t know what to do and I was at my wits end. The rest of the family wouldn’t listen to my concerns, oblivious to what was going on. Whenever I brought up the subject of pillows they looked at me as if I had just confessed my dislike of ‘American Idol’. I began staying later at work and finding other reasons for being away. The dread I felt in my own home was palatable. But my worry for what the conniving cushions were planning continued to fuel my search for a solution.

The answer came by way of accident, in more ways than one.

With the temperatures outside dipping below freezing, we decided to let our dogs spend the night in the garage. I opened the back door and started leading the two of them towards the garage, then noticed that both had become very still.  Their eyes locked on something inside the rec room. Our dogs are always full of energy and rambunctious, so their behavior was mystifying. Before I could open my mouth to call them, I detected a low growl coming from the male. Instead of urging them into the garage I retraced my steps to see what held their interest. I followed their predatory gaze… to a single black pillow perched on top of the chair back. Glancing back to the dogs I noticed the hair standing stiffly on both of their backs.

The seed of a plan began to form.

I had to wait until yesterday before I could set things in motion. The wife needed to go to Little Rock for a day of shopping and much to her surprise I volunteered to accompany her. The house would be empty for hours. Just as we were loading into the car that morning, I remembered my forgotten cell phone. I ran inside, grabbed the phone I purposely left behind, pulled opened the door to the backyard, and left.

When we returned that evening, we discovered the tattered remnant of the first pillow just inside the front door, like a homecoming gift. The carnage was everywhere. Pillow guts covered everything. My wife was near tears, but I did my best to feign shock and anger at the obvious culprits. I found them curled up near the back fence, pieces of pillow still dangling from their jaws, no doubt worn out from their pillaging. After walking through the entire house and seeing the full scope of the bedlam, it became clear. Every single pillow had been torn to shreds. I discovered the pieces of black pillow partially underneath a couch, where it had no doubt attempted to crawl to avoid the massacre, the scent of dog urine heavy in the air around it.

But as I said, the battle is not over. I still have to find some way to prevent my wife from bringing the infestation back into our home. I also need to convince all of you about the peril that is lying beneath your feet or behind your heads. I can’t be the first to have discovered this threat. Maybe there are others with dismembered bedding, unaware?

Please hear my plea! Colors are not the only thing they are coordinating. Consider yourself warned.

Little Pillows

(This was previously posted 12/31/09 as a two part series and its one my real-life firends and family mention most often. Like all good short stories, it’s simply an exaggeration of the truth. I’ll post the second half Wednesday.)

My mental state has gradually progressed from irritation, to concerned, and now alarm.

It started innocently enough, as these things usually do. I’m fairly certain the place of origin was in the bedroom, but my mind is so fragile that the facts could easily be jumbled. Where it started is hardly the issue anyway. It’s survival! It’s either me or them!!

It all began six months ago when we brought home a new comforter for the master bed. The bundle we purchased included a set of matching pillow shams. We never used shams before, so in addition to the two pillows we each slept with, now there were two more sham pillows. That’s six pillows total. After my wife made the bed each morning she would carefully place the sham pillows on top of the others, eliciting the desired decorative effect. Whatever satisfaction my wife drew from this totally eluded me, but I let her do whatever made her happy.

That’s when the other pillows started to appear.

According to my wife, the smaller throw pillows were necessary to “bring out” the color of the comforter and tie it in with tones and hues present in the room. That was their only purpose! At first there were only two pillows, but when more and more started to appear I began to wonder just how many colors we had in the room to tie together. Nobody ever laid a head upon them, used them to prop up an arm, or even stuck them under a shirt to fake pregnancy. Their whole existence revolved around adornment. Soon it wasn’t just the bed space they occupied. It became a 15 minute ordeal to remove the pillows at night and toss them in a semi-organized pile in the corner of the room. Sometimes they didn’t all make it back onto the bed the next morning and hung out elsewhere. It wasn’t long before they were everywhere in the room, under-foot and in the way. However irritating I thought the whole situation was, I humored my wife and kept my mouth shut.

The pillows soon took advantage.

A month ago I was sitting in my recliner reading a novel, when something caught my attention. I peered over the top of the page, scanning the room for anything out of the ordinary, when I spotted it. Nestled in the corner of the couch, half-hidden underneath a lap blanket . . . was a red throw pillow. I didn’t recall seeing it there when I sat down, and nobody had wandered through the room. At first I thought it could have been an escapee from the bedroom, attempting to blend in as it made its way toward the front door, and freedom? But it wasn’t a color I recalled seeing before. During an intense cross examination of my wife that evening, she admitted that her practice of using pillows to accent color combinations had spread to the living room. My mood switched to concerned.

Slowly, but surely, the pillows spread. At one point I swore that the little buggers were procreating, evidenced by the fact that I’d go to bed with three pillows on the couch and the next morning I’d find four. Of course my wife told me I was crazy, letting my writers’ imagination get the better of me. The words echoed in my head…my writer’s imagination. Regardless, I had seen enough. I put my foot down (ironically on top of a pillow) and told her NO MORE PILLOWS!

Despite my edict, soon our daughters room was infected, and then the playroom. There was nowhere to sit without moving a pillow. I was at a loss trying to figure out how they were getting around. My concern even drove me to slipping out of bed one night, easing out the backdoor and peeking in through the porch windows using my son’s night-vision goggles in an attempt to catch some sort of nefarious night time activities. But I saw nothing. The bedroom pillows must have warned the others what I was up to.

Finally, I went on the offensive and stuffed a handful in the hall closet, only to have them reappear in their original position the next day. I was reaching the end of my rope.

The rope broke last week. I caught our eleven year old son walking through the kitchen on his way to his own room, carrying a pillow. THEY HAD TAKEN CONTROL OF MY SON TO MIGRATE! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

So now I’m alarmed and what’s even worse, I think the pillows are on to me. Just the other day I woke from an afternoon nap, out of breath. A pillow was covering my face!

I have to find a way to turn the tide. After I finish posting this I’m going to print a copy and place it in our lockbox next to the life insurance policy. If I should die under mysterious circumstances, especially if there are PILLOWS nearby, at least the truth will be known.

This battle is only beginning!

Agent Empathy

As the query letters starting arriving in my in-box following my post Tuesday, a familiar feeling started to come over me. Actually it was a wave of three different feelings and the last time I felt them was a year ago when I previously undertook this challenge. The first feeling was excitement from the fact that people were actually taking me up on my offer to read their query letters while the real agents were off on holiday break. That feeling was quickly replaced by dread, a paralyzing fear from knowing that I had to choose one or two of them to post here as representatives of books I would be interested in reading. And the last and final emotion was relief. I was relieved by the realization that my decision, as enormous as it seemed in my own mind, bore no real impact on the future of each of these writers.

Were I an actual agent, I could not say that last statement. With each rejection I couldn’t help but see myself wetting the tips of my fingers and extinguishing one of many flickering candles that author had lit. In order to survive as an agent I’m sure you can’t worry about that mountainous pile of wax with charred, but cold wicks. Their focus must be on the flames that burn just a little more brightly, turning them into torches with dreams of becoming a full-blown blaze. But just as sure as I am that the literary landscape is littered with cold, unfeeling agents who could care less about the hopes and desires of the rejected, I am just as certain there are agents who live with heaviness in their heart for them. Those are the ones that write personalized rejection letters with advice on how to improve your manuscript. That is the agent I hope to find.

Anyway, all that being said I have my first selection to show you. As I stated in my previous post, I’m not holding this up to you as an example of a good query letter, just a book I personally would be interested in reading, or in this case recommend to my son to read. Enjoy. Oh….and keep those query letters coming!

A monster rages inside seventeen-year-old Ella, yearning for release.

She is the Destructor, a foretold warrior capable of bending air, wind, and fire to her will. And with these elements at her control, Ella must fight and destroy a fallen angel with a god-complex and his army of worshipers before he has a chance to plunge the galaxy into eternal war. Problem is, if she can’t get her power under control, it won’t be the fallen angel the galaxy has to worry about.

It is only the newfound love for a man who cares for her as a father and her hunger for the sexy winged boy straight out of a myth—fairy dust not included—that keeps the monster contained.

That is until one of them dies.

ELEMENTAL is a 67,000 word Darth Vader meets Tinkerbell Young Adult novel.

Keep Those Query Letters Coming – Ver 2.0


No. I’m not an agent. Nor a publisher. I’m just a regular schmuck…like you… trying to get somebody interested in my novel. But it’s difficult when half the literary agents in America are taking a hiatus for the holidays. On top of that there’s plenty of advice being passed around that suggests that even querying the ones that are still accepting them might not be in your best interest during this time of year.

I can’t say that I blame the agents for stepping back though. They work awfully hard year-round. And not just for themselves, but their clients as well. So they’ve earned the right to take a break from reading our confusing, rambling, unfocused, misguided pitches that are just a step up from smelly fish bait. The never-ending search for a diamond in the rough takes a toll. So, enjoy the time away Mr. and Ms. Agent.

But just because they’ve turned off the spicket shouldn’t mean that we writers have to break up our submission routines, whatever they might be. Don’t know what to do if you can’t send out a letter this month? Does it make you feel like you’re going to explode having to wait until 2011, all dressed up with nowhere to go? This is where I’m willing to step-in once again and help. While the agents are away, go ahead and send your query letters to me. Were you about to send one off to the Bookends agency, or one of the many others before you read the notification they were not accepting any until next year? Send it to me instead. I’ll read each and every one of them and I’ll even post a few here on my blog (with your permission). Don’t worry, I’ll redact (wow – that’s the first time I used that word in a sentence – fun) any personal information first. The ones I post won’t be for ridicule (I’ll do that in the privacy of my home), or held up as an example of what works or doesn’t work (like anybody really knows anyway), but rather because they’re about books I WOULD BE INTERESTED IN READING.

This will be my second time offering my query reading services. Last year I think I had 10 followers when I first had the idea, but then Rachelle Gardner twittered about my little venture and the letters quickly started pouring in. And that’s not the best of it! After I posted one of my favorite query letters, an actual agent contacted me and wanted to know how to get in touch with the author!! (*waves to Amanda*). Yes, they are out there lurking!

Submission guidelines: From now until January 7th, send your query letter to dlh(dot)hammons(at)gmail(dot)com. No synopsis or partial manuscripts. You can consider your submission an instant rejection, because I won’t respond back, but I will post the ones that really stand out (unless you request me not to).

I’m glad to do my part and give back to the community that has given so much to me.

Keep sending those query letters! :)

Today's Mission...The Hating Game

I’m on a mission. What mission you ask? I’m doing everything I can to help one of my blogging buddies, Talli Roland, push her debut novel THE HATING GAME into the Kindle bestseller list at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk by spreading the word to everyone I know today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers. But in order for this to work, you need to get your copy today!  Get it here.




Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at http://www.talliroland.com/.


About THE HATING GAME:

When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Come on, pitch in and purchase a copy? I promise you won’t be disappointed!

The Unlit Christmas Tree


As per our family’s tradition, the Christmas tree’s started going up the day after Thanksgiving.  Yes, I used the plural because we put up as many as seven (eight if you count the one I decorate in my office at work) tree’s.  Of course there’s one main tree in the living room, but various sized specialty tree’s are also spread throughout the house as well.  There’s the cute and cuddly teddy bear tree in the sunroom, the eclectic world travel tree in my wife’s office, the reverential LSU tree in the playroom, and other creative interpretations scattered here and there.

I think I mentioned we get into Christmas around here.

Early this morning as I was making my zombie march from the bed to the coffee pot, I paused and admired our twelve-foot centerpiece tree.  Even in the semi-dark, unlit, it was a vision that filled my heart with pride & joy.  Truly an impressive sight.  But in the back of my mind I heard it calling to me (it was 6:30 in the AM after all), begging me to let it become what it was created to be.  So before I went any further, I was compelled to flip the switch and send currents of electricity through the miles of intertwined wire and awaken the hundreds of slumbering crystals.  The tree came to life with an explosion of twinkling lights and reflective shimmering, lifting the corners of my mouth along with my spirits.

After the coffee was brewed and the morning paper retrieved, I settled down at my desk to check emails and catch up with goings-on in cyber-land.  After a few minutes, I had to glance back over my shoulder to take in the awesomeness of our tree one more time, and when I turned back I happened to focus on my printed manuscript pages laying on the corner of my desk.  My affinity for analogies led me right where I needed to go.

For the past month I’ve been dragging my feet as far as my book is concerned, trying to muster the energy for some final revisions before pushing forward into the querying process.  As I stared at it there collecting dust, I realized that my manuscript was not unlike an unlit Christmas tree.  Impressive in its own right, but begging me to flip that switch and send it out to realize its true potential, what it was created for.  An ornament here, some tinsel there, and it would be ready to dazzle.  And like a Christmas tree, no two were alike…but all of us are drawn to certain types.  Even Charlie Brown’s tree had its admirers.

What about your unlit Christmas tree, how close are you to flipping that switch?

The Santa Claus Equation - 2010

The countdown has begun.

I can almost hear the groans echoing throughout the internet as everybody reads this. At the time of this posting, there is only thirty-four days remaining until Christmas. That means making lists, watching newspaper ads, and scouring the internet for any deal that will save precious dollars.

Everybody goes about their holiday shopping differently (feel free to post your own particular habits in the comments section) and my family has tried almost all of them. I’ve shopped extremely early, months and months ahead of time, but that left me with premature consumerization. Then there were the years where the bulk of the shopping happened during last-minute runs to Walmart, and I'd like to apologize to all of you who received presents from me during that time. I’m sure they’re still collecting dust in the back of a closet somewhere, or been used multiple times as dirty Santa gifts. I've even gone Christmas commando and subjected myself to Black Friday a couple times. Let me just say this about that experience . . . it is not for the feint of heart. Hell hath no fury like a woman shopper, at four in the morning, who's just watched the last cabbage patch doll pulled off the shelf!

Thank goodness the process of shopping has changed dramatically over the years. I’ve gone from running around the state in search of that one item that nobody seems to have in stock, to buying 75-85% of the presents on-line and having them delivered to our front door…gift-wrapped.

But no matter the personal toll, to me it's all worth it because I love Christmas! Just ask my wife. I’m the largest kid in our family during this time of year. I love giving presents and I’m not ashamed to admit I get excited receiving them as well. I guess my parents are partially to blame for my yuletide enthusiasm, having spoiled us kids year after year. They did so regardless of the family’s financial standing, or the state of the economy. Inside our bubble we kids were oblivious to those problems, always awakening to mountains of presents under the tree.

My wife is the pragmatic one in our family when it comes to money matters. It took awhile, and I still have to go to regular meetings and be faithful to the 12-step program, but she finally made me take a hard look at my Xmas addiction. The burden of debt the holidays put us under when I was in charge of the present buying was crippling. Now we’ve adopted a budget for our holiday spending which includes swearing off credit cards and the evils of other same as cash incentives. We decide on a number we think we can afford and work backwards from there.

When it comes to buying presents, the equation for working within a budget isn’t as simple as you’d might think. It’s definitely not as straight-forward as this:

$$ ÷ #people = $ per person

There are all sorts of other factors influencing the formula. For instance, factor #1 = relationship. Your children always receive the largest slice of the pie. It’s a golden rule that cannot be fooled with. Parents, bothers & sisters, nephews & nieces, and co-workers are left with the scraps. Then there’s factor #2 = age. The younger the recipient is, the higher the gift quotient. Christmas is for kids, after all. Then there’s what happens when you combine factors 1 & 2, what about grown kids? That’s when sub-factors come into play such as distance, both physically and emotionally? Does a child who stops by and calls frequently deserve a more substantial gift than one who you rarely see or hear from? And then there’s factor #3 = the reciprocation factor. How much do you spend on the relative whose presents to you look like re-gifts from a dirty Santa party?

Think that's complicated? We're just getting started. Now that you've broken down how much $$ you can spend on who, there are the other sub-factors to consider as you plan how Christmas morning will play out. Will the children be opening up an equal number of presents? This can be a real challenge for families who have both tiny tots and older kids whose gift lists are loaded with items where a single choice could consume their entire $$ alotment. What about the size of the presents? You have to acquire at least a couple gifts with enough bulk to fill out the space beneath the tree. I won’t even try to address households touched by divorce.

Were a scientist to interpret all of these decisions, it would probably resemble something like this.


Oh. . . I left out the most important element of all. It’s the one component of the whole equation that’s a wildcard multiplier, impacting each and every part.

Does the gift recipient believe in Santa Claus?

After all, everybody knows that people who believe in Santa receive way more presents than those who don’t.

I do!

Mom

(I post this same piece every year on this date. I appreciate your patience with me as I remember her again.)

My mom died on a Monday. It was chilly outside and the sun was trying to peek through a gloomy grey sky. I know because I was looking to the heavens a lot that day. Her death wasn’t expected, but neither was it a complete surprise. She went into the hospital a healthy woman with a minor case of Pancreatitis, which she suffered and recovered from previously, and two months later she was gone. There were infections, multiple surgeries, breathing problems, kidney failure, and a long list of other complications that led ultimately to a coma. In the end it reached a point where it became a family choice to discontinue the life saving measures that were keeping her alive and prolonging her suffering. When she slipped the bonds of her tortured body and moved on to her next journey, I wasn’t in the room. I couldn’t. She was 69 years young.

A few days later, just prior to her funeral, I was alone in the basement of my parents home when my Dad came to me with a question. He wanted to know if I would say something during the service. I had already been contemplating the notion, so I agreed without hesitation. My dad appeared relieved. I realized then that this rock of a man, who I had watched wither away emotionally as much as the woman he loved was doing physically, wouldn’t have been able to stand up in front of our friends and family. He knew that even as shy and withdrawn as I am, my work had provided me experience communicating in front of groups. It was important to him, and me, that somebody who knew her well speak for her at the service.

Even though my parents weren’t regular church goers, my mother was raised Methodist and the services were held at a quaint little church not too far from where they lived. The two of them had only lived in Loganville for ten years, but you wouldn’t have known it from the number of people who made it to the funeral. Family and friends overwhelmed that poor little church.

The service was performed by a priest I had only met that very day, and that my mother had never met. It was generic, as only it could be, until he asked if there was anybody who wished to offer a few words. I stood up, nervously stepped to the podium and looked out over the gathering. A rush of panic momentarily seized me, constricting my vocal cords and raising the temperature in the room to 120 F. But a calmness settled over me when I found my father’s eyes. I was ready.

Although what follows isn’t word for word what I said back then, it’s pretty close.

“When Dad asked me if I wanted to speak here today I immediately said yes, but then I spent the next couple of days thinking about what it was I wanted to say. The more I thought about it, the more this single question kept popping into my head. Before long that question was all I could think about. It tormented me day and night. When the answer finally came to me, I realized it’s actually the reason I’m standing here right now. I also realized that many of you might be asking yourself the same question. I hope I can help answer it for you.

First I want to tell you of two memories of my Mom that I keep not in my head, but in my heart. They represent who she was to me and to a lot of you as well. The first one took place when I was just 7 or 8 years old and we were living in military housing at Quantico Virginia. For some reason I was in a different school system than my two brothers, which meant I had to take a separate school bus. This really terrified me, but I never let on to anybody. One morning my brothers were already gone off to school and I was dragging my feet getting ready, feeling especially alone that day, and mom asked me what was wrong. I can still see her standing there in her white housecoat that was three inches too long and dragged on the carpet wherever she walked. Of course I said nothing, but she must have known something wasn’t right. She asked me if I wanted to take the day off. The DAY OFF? You can do that, I asked her. We sure can, what do you want to do first? We never left the house that day. She made me pancakes, we played game after game, she watched cartoons with me, it was great. It was one of the best days ever, and it came at just the right time. And she knew it without me even saying a word.


The second story occurred years later when I was a sophomore in college. I had just broken up with what was my first serious girlfriend and I had crawled home to lick my wounds. Of course I didn’t come out with it right away, but Mom again knew something was wrong. Eventually she got me to open up and I cried my eyes out to her. The whole time she was calm and soothing, letting me just spill my guts out. After a while I felt much better, so she told me she needed to run into town to pick up some groceries. What I didn’t find out until much later was that when she left the house she drove to the first gas station she could find. She called Dad at work from a pay phone and cried her eyes out to him over the phone. She didn’t want me to see how my pain was tearing her up inside.


That’s the way Mom was, and I think that’s why Dad asked me to speak to you today. My Mother was not an emotional person on the outside. It was hard to tell where you stood with her sometimes. Everything with her ran very deep, with very little showing on the surface. But she always knew when you were down or needed a little extra attention. She was very in tune to peoples feelings, even though she didn’t demonstrate much of that herself. And I’m the same way. Of all us in this family, I’m the one who is most like her.


That is how I figured out the answer to the question upsetting me, because I’m like my Mom, and she was like me.


And what was that question? Did she know? When she left us, did she know how much I loved her, how much we all loved her and will now miss her? Did I tell her enough? Did I show her enough?


I can tell you now that the answer is yes. She may not have been the hugging, kissing, or fussing type, in fact that may have made her uncomfortable, but she knew how we felt just the same. Just as I would.


She knew we loved her, that I loved her, and will miss her terribly.


Goodbye, mom.

A parent’s passing is a loss that cracks your very foundation and makes you question your every step. I feel cheated that now that I’m a father with older children of my own, and I’m really starting to appreciate what it truly means to raise a child, that I won’t have her here with me so that I can thank her all the more. But writing this blog helps me keep her alive in my thoughts.

I miss you Mom!

Squirrel!

They’re everywhere you turn, lying in wait for an ambush. No, not the furry nut collectors, the clock robbers… time suckers…chronometrical pick-pockets. We break off finger-nails clawing for every minute of writing time we can hoard, fighting against the forces determined to deprive us of that desperately sought after compositional meter. Still, there’s never enough. Especially this month, with so many NaNo-nites (my own term) hunkered over their respective computers in a race to finish an entire novel in 30 days. How can they possibly cram 50,000 words into 43,200 minutes? Where can they find the time?

But that’s not the really interesting question. Nope. What’s fascinating is that even when we do manage to wrestle away some precious writing time (and yes…I’m including myself in this group), why is it that we are so easily distracted and end up pissing it away? Seriously! Facebook, twitter, blogger, text messaging, random internet surfing, alphabetizing your CD collection, playing bejeweled, re-grouting the shower, cleaning out a closet with boxes older than your eldest child, planning a trip you could never afford, checking the batteries in the smoke-alarms, reorganizing your CD collection to group them by styles of music, cleaning the dust off ceiling-fans no longer being used, preparing to take a long walk, driving to Walmart to buy new socks for walking, cleaning out the car, making room in the garage for the boxes you pulled out of the closet, re-sorting your CD collection again, this time by gender/music style/alphabet.

I think you get my point. I’ll admit, this happens a lot more when I’m revising (oh…the pain!), but it’s a pretty common problem just about any time I’m writing. Is it a writer’s nature to be easily sidetracked, or is it just human nature? Maybe…just maybe, the root cause is more primal. What if it’s a genetic throwback to the times when we were all hunters…and hunted…and survival depended on paying more attention to the world around you? Rationalization at its finest!

In fact, the next time my wife slaps the back of my head and complains, “You weren’t even listening to me”, I think I’m going to reply with, “Did you hear that? It sounded like a bear.”

:)
Those of you wondering what the title of this post has to do with distractions, really need to see the movie UP!

Six Guaranteed Ways to Boost Your Sex Hits (Oops, I Meant Site Hits)

I’m postponing my return to regular writing-related content for one more day so I can share a few insights I’ve gleamed from my years of surfing the internet. Specifically, I want to show you how to increase the traffic on your web site or blog. I’m not talking about high-brow methods such as making sure to post quality content, utilizing interviews with published authors or the occasional contests to give-away ARC’s. No sir. I’m talking about those low-rent techniques you’re more likely to find being used on web-sites your security filter would deem restricted. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure this stuff out, just observant, and willing to lower your standards a bit. So, without further adieu…here are my six simple tips

1. By far, the single most important element in getting web-browsers pointed in your direction is the title of your post, or web-link. Every self-respecting salesman has ever been taught, “Getting them to walk through that door is half the battle.” And one of the most popular tricks used is structuring your blog post in the form of a numbered list. If you look around most popular browser home-pages such as YAHOO or DIGG, you’ll see multiple examples of what I’m talking about. This is a sampling just today of the real articles seeking attention on my own startup page.

Nine Most Badass (And Possibly Insane) Sports Of All-Time
Five Dance-Pop Remakes So Bad You’ll Puke
Ten Disappointing NFL Teams
Five Scary Cancer Questions
Eight Reasons you should watch Stargate Universe tonight
Five Things We Want to Know about MC Hammer’s Jaz-Z Diss Video
The 25 Hottest Women Born in November
Five Reasons Why Bert & Ernie Should Come Out of the Closet

2. Whenever possible, use the word GUARANTEED in your title. Let’s face it, most people are gullible and will fall for that gimmick every time, at least enough to get them through the door and reading the first paragraph of your blog.

3. Technically, this could be considered 2B because it also involves the title. Find a way to work the word SEX into your title. Do I really have to explain that one?

4. Change your domain name so it includes key wording used in the most frequent Google searches. For example: http://dlcruisingaltitude.dallascowboycheerleaders.blogspot.com.

5. Window decorations never hurt!





6. Finally, it doesn’t matter what you do to get the traffic flowing in your direction because unless you entertain them once they arrive, they won’t be back. So you’d better make sure you elicit one of four things from your visitors while they are here…a nod of the head, a chuckle, a sigh, or a tear. The internet is vast and counter-oriented to our attention spans, so here…more than anywhere…make every word count!

I hope everybody understands that my tongue is firmly planted in cheek, and I would never actually utilize any of these techniques. I do have some measure of self-respect, after all!

*wink*
 

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