Category Archives: Issues of Interest

The Yellow Dress

Easter

If you’ve read either novel in my Knoll Cottage Series, you know I’ve included a bit of mystic. In fact, there may be a ghostie in that sun porch. I do believe there are angels and spirits all around us.
My sister, Pat, died in November.
She was a devout Catholic, and had a magnificent voice. Singing mostly classical religious works was her passion. And she sang in every Catholic Church choir she could.
Pat didn’t worry about my far flung beliefs in many religions. She never doubted me when I told her my cardinal’s message story or other spiritual events in my life. She loved me dearly and I her.
The summer Missing Emily was launched, Pat and her husband came to Cape Cod to attend the book launch party some dear friends gave for me. Pat and I had coordinated our outfits for the party, but it turned out to be a killer hot day. Instead of the lined eyelet dress I’d planned, I wore a deep pink, print sundress. My sister came up the stairs in a bright yellow sleeveless dress. “It was too hot to wear the other one,” she told me. We laughed about both of us changing our minds.
I have a wonderful close-up picture of her in that yellow dress. The expression on her face is pensive, neither happy nor sad. It has an element of listening to something important. Since she was always smiling and laughing, when I saw that intriguing picture, I printed it out and framed it.
Just yesterday, I asked my brother-in-law if I could have that yellow dress. I want to hang it in my closet so she’s with me every day.
And then, this happened.
It was Easter and I hadn’t gone to Mass for some time. Most of our family knew how much Pat loved the church, and wanted us lost souls to return. I couldn’t yet. On the best of days, hymns make me emotional, and I knew if I went to church and heard the music, I would cry. But it was Easter, so my husband and I went to church.
I enjoy watching all the children dressed up in their Easter finery; one little girl with a wide brimmed hat made everyone smile. At one quiet moment, I looked over at a beautiful domestic scene. A Dad was tying the bow on the back of his daughter’s dress. Her dress was bright yellow and sleeveless. Her mother wore a bright yellow, sleeveless dress, also, with a deep pink sweater over her shoulders.
It took me a few seconds to realize, my sister was letting me know she was there. I cried in church!
My Dad died several years ago. I often think of them together in heaven. So you see, the tying of the dress bow was doubly significant.
In case I had any doubt about my sister’s presence, she drove the message home. As we lined up for Communion, two women went before me in bright yellow sweaters. Guess what the female Eucharistic minister was wearing. A bright yellow jacket.
Pat wanted to be sure I got her message. I did dear sister…

A WRITER’S FUTURE: Gender Neutral Novel?

Royal, not Queen or King

A good writer of fiction will attempt to be sensitive to their readers’ ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual preferences, etc. But gender? Writing dialogue is an important part of a novel. The emphasis should be on the words between the quotes. Sometimes it’s necessary to avoid confusion for the reader by inserting he said, she said. It disrupts the meaning of the sentence less than: Scott said Jane said Scott said. But things are changing. Kids in school (notice I didn’t say boys and girls) are learning not to distinguish between male or female: he or she. How does this work out in a novel? Scott said Jane said Scott said Jane said. Or, the person in a chair, the person standing, the person cooking. Cannot say Prom Queen or Prom King—say the taller of the Royals?

Here you go: Three people talking in a diner:

“So, you’re thinking of ending your life? My God,” the server said.
“You can’t do that! There’s all kinds of help available—hot lines and stuff,” person in jeans added.
“I can’t go on. My life is finished. I have no one. No reason to live,” depressed person said.

Silly, I know. How do I describe a child in my book? A little girl or a tot with pigtails? What if said child poured a glass of water? The child poured a glass of water? Or, she poured a glass of water. Will the child’s mother or father be labeled parent only? “Don’t drink that water!” parent with the apron said.

Must writers beware of “gender normative” terms? Will there be a handbook on this subject?
I’m poking a little fun at our modern mores. Maybe though, just maybe, we might be trying a little too hard to be correct.

A WRITER’S FORTUNE (COOKIE)

Do You Believe?

Do You Believe?

I have to admit, every time I open a fortune cookie, I am waiting for those words a writer longs for. Something like: Your book will be a best seller, or: Your novel will skyrocket on Amazon. Even: You will be a great success; good things are coming your way. Right? Of course, you shake your head and smile, but when you get a good one, you slip that slip of paper into your pocket, pat it, and later put it on your bulletin board. Guilty as charged!
Last evening we went to a Chinese buffet with friends. An enormous buffet. On my last pass, I took advantage of the dessert assortment of ice cream, cookies, pastries, pudding, and fruit. Later, more than sated, we sat and chatted with our friends, sipping the last of our tea. The server came and brought the bill, along with four fortune cookies. Too full to think about eating one, I did focus on the possibility that one of those cookies contained the fate of my novel writing. I waited for someone to hand me a cookie. It wouldn’t work if I chose my own. Finally, my husband placed a cookie in front of me. I ate the cookie—yes I did—as full as I was, then unfurled the bit of paper.
Anyone who cared enough to research the origin of Fortune Cookies would have found the cookie is not a tradition in China. Several theories exist on how they became a staple in Chinese restaurants, but most likely they are based on a Japanese cookie—with a fortune inside. But who cares where it came from. Some of the numbers on the back of the fortune have been lottery winners. So, we all agree, the fortunes are true also.
This fortune was different from any I’ve seen before. A special message to everyone. As a writer, I love when my words come together to draw an emotion from my reader, so I particularly loved this fortune. All four of us felt it. Here’s what it said: Never fear shadows. They simply mean there’s a light shining somewhere nearby.
Those lovely words are on my bulletin board. I am thinking of playing the lottery!

Labor Day and Watermelon

Long may it Wave!

Long may it Wave!

Today, most of us aren’t thinking about the origin of Labor Day. The Department of Labor says it’s meant to be a national tribute to the contributions of American workers to the strength, prosperity, and well-being they bring to our country. If you browse around Google, you are reminded that the holiday was started by a boycott and a strike of workers. On September 5, 1882, low wages and layoffs by the Pullman company erupted in a fiery protest by the workers. The resulting boycott of the railroad caused a tremendous mess and inconvenience. The power of the people. The government made the first Monday in September a national paid holiday in 1884, dubbed as a workingman holiday.

Fun to think about the How of things. But for most of us, Labor Day now marks the official end of summer. We grab one more day to eat burgers and potato salad, before we wake up to pack lunches and get the kids off to school.

As a youth who hated school, I remember wonderful Labor Day cookouts with friends and neighbors. Potato salad is still one of my favorite foods, along with watermelon. Even when I dreaded a return to school, I loved the celebration.

Conditions for workers in the early days of the industrial revolution were pretty horrible. Labor Day celebrates changes in those conditions by honoring the workers of that age and on. But things change. My biggest regret is the change in watermelon. Remember holding a dripping hunk of watermelon is your hands, biting off a big chunk, then spitting out the seeds? No more seeds to spit—where’s the fun of that?

Seriously, thanks to all those workers, starting with the brave men and women who stood up to improve conditions at great risk to themselves, and right up until now, for the hard work they do to give us the most wonderful lives we live in America.

A Writer’s Loves her Work

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The most peaceful reading I have found is The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. When I read this quote, it fit completely with my own love of writing, my spirit, so I had to share. Does it speak to you doing what you love?

“And what is it to work with love? . . . .It is to change all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit, And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.”

Self-Publishing – Is it for you?

Very Early Self-Publisher!

Very Early Self-Publisher!

It has been a little over three months since I self-published my novel, Missing Emily. Some musings on how I feel now.

Every resume I put in for my many nursing positions–as my husband’s career involved frequent moves–contained the words “detailed oriented”. I also listed problem-solving and organizational skills. Those attributes were not my natural talents; they were learned, beginning with my nursing education. You must be sure you are administering the correct medication. You must hand the correct instrument to the surgeon. In order to care for multiple patients on a hospital shift, you must be organized.

When I began to write, I utilized those same skills. It was a huge learning curve. Writing is not instinctive. Over centuries, published writing styles have changed right along with the changing societal mores. Charles Dickens’ writing style gives me a blood sugar spike. Hemingway’s less-is-better started a whole new diet of written words. But few writers make such tsunamis when they publish a book. Most of us write because we must. Because we have stories to share, or a memoir of all or a bit of our lives we want our family to read.

I learned about writing novels. Current trends in reader popularity. I had great helpers along the way, coaches and teachers and conference speakers. When my first manuscript was ready, I began the agent search. More to learn. Query letters, synopses, credentials. I was moving forward, made it to semi-finals and finalist in some contests. Had some exciting manuscript requests, and some bummer rejections. A lot of bummer rejections. I was still climbing the hill when a dear friend, who has 11 million books of her own in print, offered me a hand up to self-publish. Her peeps became my peeps. I formed my own tiny publishing company (another learning curve), worked with a book designer, David Seager, who is fabulous; an eBook converter, Diana Birdsell, who is also fabulous. My friend, Donna Green, the artist with all the published books, who runs a foundation for children with cancer, took time to do an extraordinary illustration for my cover.

My Amazon reviews are all good, even the ones from people I don’t know. No Hemingway or Dickens, just a writer who learned her skills and lucked out with a story people like.

Self-publishing is a huge job. There are years before it that are filled with learning, wins and losses, ups and downs. There are something like 8 million books on Amazon—the absolute best place to sell a book. But think of yourself as a grain of sand on a beach, not a sand sculpture. A star in the sky, not a super nova. It’s wonderful to see your book page on Amazon! The problem is there is no filter for books that are not ready to be published. The filtering that agents and editors do for publishers. So, how do you make your book stand out?

The stigma of self-publishing is way less than it used to be. But because many not-ready books are for sale, barriers exist for self-published writers. One I recently experienced is with our local weekly newspaper here on Cape Cod. They restrict all “author published” books. I get that.

Good News. The industry is still changing. A group of book bloggers are helping to sort the good from the bad. Some publishers offer self-publishing assist and may take on the writer if the book is good enough. Agents are working with self-published authors whose books stand out on Amazon.

Bottom line: Learn your skill. Work at it and don’t be impatient. Enter contests that give you reviews; query agents who may give you some advice or encouragement. Have fun! Go to conferences and yak with fellow writers. Keep learning and keep working.
I may be a wavelet and not a tsunami, but publishing my book is one of the best things I’ve ever accomplished. It’s amazing fun. I wish the same for all of the writers out there!

Memorial Day 2016

Stars and Stripes

Stars and Stripes


Happy Memorial Day is an oxymoron. We gaze up at our flag today, and sadly remember those who died, so that we can raise those stars and stripes. God bless them all. God bless our most splendorous country!!

Invisible

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I wish the water would turn to glass
For only thirty minutes
To satisfy the itch in me
To see everything that’s in it!

News: On this LEAP DAY, I am leaping to a new site! This one will be a full website, which will have my URL: http://www.gerrileclerc.com. My blog will stay the same under: http://www.capecodmagic.wordpress.com. I believe you will be directed to my website blog page to read it in the future. That is, of course, assuming this lady has enough techie in her to build the website. Fingers crossed! Gerri

Writing Romance and Valentine’s Day

When Twolips Meet

When Twolips Meet

I don’t write romance novels, but my women’s fiction books usually have a romance in them. Pure romance novels have, as their main element, an emerging love within a setting of real life situations. Since I’ve been writing, I have heard demeaning comments about romantic novels, but they are by far the most popular and lucrative genre in American Publishing.
Why? If you haven’t experienced romance, you’ve missed something wonderful. But who hasn’t been struck by Cupid’s arrow? It can happen at any age, and it can happen more than once. One definition of romance is an intense and short-lived emotion, idealized love. I agree. It is that first bloom of emotion that fills your heart with joy, hope, excitement. It’s a precious commodity that only lasts for a while, and though it may grow to a deeper selfless love, the emotion of that first kiss, embrace, disappears shortly thereafter.
Some say that initial spurt is helped along by pheromones that lead to procreation, but that’s not romance, that’s evolution of the species.
In my opinion, the popularity of romance novels is due to the fact that the first inkling of love is one of the absolutely best feelings a human can experience. So we love to experience it, even vicariously, over and over.
It is unclear which of three martyrs named Valentine is the man of the holiday. But a Christian priest in Rome defied the Emperor, Claudius the Cruel. The Emperor did not want his young soldiers to marry, causing them to worry about their loved ones when they should be focused on the battles. St. Valentine secretly married young couples. When he was caught, he was sentenced to beating, stoning, and decapitation. Maybe that’s why the color of Valentine’s Day is red?
In spite of the pressures of marketing to say it with flowers, or cards, or gifts, the true essence of Valentine’s Day lives on. I hope you had a great holiday!

On Women: Girlfriends

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If you are lucky enough to have girlfriends, in this case, not the romantic kind, but good female friends, you are lucky! A true girlfriend:
• Lends you her clothes or even shoes
• Goes to lunch or a movie with you
• Plays Canasta with you for hours
• Listens to your problems, with her eyes wide open, for as long as it takes; then she helps you solve them.
• Seals the grout in your new kitchen floor
• Tells you you do look fat in those pants
• Reads your first draft manuscript, and your second, and your fortieth
• Lets you win at tennis once and a while
• Can work seamlessly in the same kitchen with you
• Forgives you
• Holds you when you cry
• Stands by you when you’re in trouble
You do the same for her. In short, you love each other in a special way that’s found in no other relationship. I am lucky enough to have had much-loved girlfriends throughout my life. Relationships don’t always stand up to long distances, but there are always fond memories of your time together. Some may go bad, and those you regret.
One way I celebrate these relationships is to include girlfriends in my novels. I can’t imagine a book without one.
I hope you are lucky in your female friendships, too!