Tag Archives: writer

Our Annual Pilgrimage for Custard

This last weekend my husband and I took what is quickly turning into an annual trip 3 & 1/2 hours northwest of our home to get Culver’s Custard.

custard

We go to the mountains of South Carolina — where you will find the only Culver’s Restaurants in the state — so we can get a taste of home and some of the best custard we’ve ever had. There are Culver’s restaurants all over the greater Milwaukee area in Wisconsin where we are from and we love the custard. Those of you who live near one, know what we mean. The flavor of the day would entice us there even on days when we had other plans.

My favorite flavor is Bonfire Smores.  Chocolate custard with pieces of graham cracker, marshmallow creme and little chunks of chocolate.

My husband’s favorite flavor was red raspberry. Vanilla custard with raspberries in their natural juices. They don’t seem to have that flavor anymore, so he’s changed it up a little – chocolate raspberry, chocolate covered strawberry and double strawberry.

All are delicious. I mean, just look at it. How do you not love that?!

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But it makes people laugh when we tell them we are going that far just for custard, so we make weekend getaways out of it.  We’ll search out a waterfall and go to a local race track. This year we also went to a flea market and to just get out-of-town to celebrate my birthday.

But don’t ask whether or not we tried any new restaurants, because we didn’t.  We can try new restaurants back home in Charleston. It’s a foodie town, after all. We drive the three hours for Culver’s custard, so we eat every meal there except breakfast.

That was a fairly long pre-amble to get to this:  not much writing has happened this last week.  I wrote, but not as much as I could have.

In my defense…well, I guess I don’t really have a defense.

But dang, that was some GOOD custard!

Word count: 41,888

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Writing Calendar Success!

So, last week, after my post, I actually….

wait for it…

…WORKED ON MY BOOK!

Can you imagine?  Actual writing getting done because I set myself up on a schedule! I didn’t write a lot, but I finished a chapter and that’s something to celebrate.  I’ve come to a crossroads in my story. Remember the character I couldn’t get to come back when he walked off the page? And then finally he came back?

Well, he’s now just died. As was his purpose.

So, we have come to the climax. The fork in the road. The s**t or get off the pot moment.

My main character has some decisions to make and I’ve gotta say, I have no earthly idea what’s going to happen next.  Well, I know what’s going to happen in the next chapter, but after that, I’m walking in the dark without a flashlight. You might recall my story is based on an actual person and I know a little of what that person did with the rest of her life from census records.

But being loosely based on a real person and writing a biography are two completely different sections of the bookstore, and I want my version of this person to decide what she wants to do and not what historical records say she has already done.

I mean, I’ve been following her lead this whole way, so why would the rest of the story be any different? I just wish she would give me a little more advance insight into her plans, because fly by the seat of my pants writing has gotten me stuck in more than one pickle jar as I’ve gone along.

It’s a good thing I like pickles.

 

Word count: 37,576

 

 

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Compliments Will Get You Everywhere

I had two compliments last week in my day job that have spurred me on to really focus on my writing.

I do a bit of writing for my employer…newsletters and blog posts.  The thing is ~ it’s a boating organization, of which I know little.  So, I’ve been plugging along, learning as I go and enjoying the ability to live vicariously through these boaters.

boats

Well, two different people were so impressed with things I had written that one complimented me directly and the other one complimented me to my boss (which is probably even BETTER).  Haha!

One of the ladies was surprised to learn that I’m not really a boater because the information I wrote for a route segment on the website sounded so authentic she  thought it was written by someone who had been out on the water. That made my day.  That means two things:  First, that I’m starting to understand things like shoaling and tides and what type of boat a Catamaran is. Second, not only am I beginning to put it all together, but I’m doing it in such a way, that I sound experienced and knowledgeable!

The second woman, has been boating for a long time. We wanted to highlight her in a blog post and she sent me pages of typed notes that she had been assembling of her travels with the hope of turning it into a book. Right now, it’s more like journal entries, but she’s got some great information there with some beautiful experiences that she does a great job of expressing.  She warned me that what she sent me was pretty long and she wasn’t sure if there was anything there I could use or not, but I was free to do as I may.

So I did.

And after the post was written, she told my boss that I did a great job of taking her pages of notes and turning them into a story.

Now, when she’s ready to turn her experiences into a book, I hope she keeps me in mind.

In any event, I’m feeling pretty good about my writing chops these days, so I really needed to put my butt back in my writing chair.

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I’ve tried this before and been unsuccessful, but I created a little schedule for myself. I have so many things I want to work on, that I can never seem to decide what to work on first.  So, I’m going to work on different projects on different days of the week, with the weekends being free days.

I have a craft day, writing day, genealogy day…you get the idea.  That way, I’m getting my hands on everything that makes me happy at some time during the course of a week. We’ll see if I can make it stick this time.

If you haven’t already figured it out, today is writing day.  So, from here, I’m going right to my novel and I’m going to write until I start to fall asleep at the keyboard.

So, till about 8:30.  haha!

 

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Local Writer in the Newspaper

So, in the paper today, I stumble upon a small article in the Life section about a local author.

The author is a 5th grade student, who not only wrote a book, but she self-published it as well. It’s available on Amazon.

Part of me wants to burn what I’ve written so far and curl up in a corner and cry.  The other part of me is like, dammit, if a 10-year-old can do it, I can damn well do it.

As the two sides battle for dominance, I’ll be clipping coupons and going grocery shopping. For ice cream, cookies, and donuts.

You know…for the time in the corner feeling sorry for myself OR as fuel for the mad crazy writing session that may happen later today.

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If Genealogy was an Olympic event, I might be on the podium.

I’ve got to say, I was disappointed by the Olympics coverage by my local TV channel. I only watch figure skating during the winter Olympics.  I don’t have any interest in skiing, snow boarding, the luge or even speed skating.  Figure skating is all I want to see. Prime time coverage in my neck of the woods was largely everything BUT figure skating. I had to go to another channel, covering the Olympics 24/7 to catch it.

But that was enough to fill my entire evening for…what, two weeks?…a week and a half?  In fact, I still have the final skating exhibition to watch – I think I’ll hit my DVR next.

So, of course, no writing happened during this time. The U.S. didn’t fare well, and I got into the competition between the two Russian skaters, Evgenia Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova. I was as outraged as everyone else when Zagitova all but stole (in my opinion) the gold from Medvedeva.

And, I say I have no interest in skiing, but I did watch Lindsey Vonn. I caught a little bit of snow boarding and saw Shaun White win gold again.

As you know, I came back from my Mom’s house with all those boxes of family history.  I still haven’t gone through the photos, but the documents I found, were amazing.  And most of them provided fewer answers than they caused more questions. I was as dedicated to going through these documents as if I was training for an Olympic competition.  That’s all I did for several weeks.  I would call my Mom every time I found something interesting and it got to the point where she stopped saying “Hello?”  And started answering the phone with, “What did you find now?”

Like, why would your great grandparents, who spent their whole lives in Wisconsin (as far as we knew) get married by a Justice of the Peace in Illinois? And why would your great grandma have joined a church in Chicago 4 years before the wedding?

This same great grandma kept a receipt from a drugstore for Diphtheria anti-toxin in 1931. Had she been sick? Had my grandfather been sick? I found it in her Bible and it seemed like a strange thing to keep all those years. And why was the mother on my great grandfather’s birth certificate crossed out and replaced with a different woman’s name? Was it just a clerical error or something else?

And this is just TWO people from a family tree that includes one known Civil War soldier and one Revolutionary War soldier (not the same side of the family, but you know what I mean). What other things will I find? It’s so exciting to think about!

My 2 times great grandma kept the baptism record for her baby boy who died at 6 months old in 1898. I know because I have the document hanging on the wall in my office. She was born in Germany and most of the documents I have for her are in German (the one for her son included). She came to this country with her parents when she was 8 years old. I’m so interested to learn more about her.

I love reading my grandma’s diary from 1947.  Each day, I’m reading that same day and thinking about what was going on in her life all those years ago. On the 4th of March, 1947, she and Grandpa had gone to see Easy Come, Easy Go and then went for a drive. I wish we had found more diaries.  I don’t know if this is the only one there was or if perhaps others of them just hadn’t survived.

So, I have started trying to do some research.  I started with my great-grandparents, figuring those records would be more current and perhaps easier to find.  So far, nothing about this whole Illinois phase. I wish I had unlimited resources and could do a So Who Do You Think You Are approach to learning my family history.  Traveling around…making appointments with historians and genealogists who do all the searching for you and hand you the documents when you arrive. How awesome would that be? Ah, if only money grew on trees!

Basically, I was so deep in the Olympics and the family records that I blinked and February was over.

 

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Derailed By a Bad Knee

Not mine…my mom’s.

And really, if I’m being truthful, I could absolutely have written while I was there, but I didn’t.

My mom had knee replacement surgery on January 3. So, being the dutiful daughter I am, I went up to Wisconsin for two weeks to help her get through the early part of the recovery.  Yep, I broke my cardinal rule about never going back to Wisconsin in the dead of winter. And let me tell you, after the freak snow storm in Charleston and my flight being cancelled twice, and then having to sit in La Guardia for an hour waiting for the plane to be de-iced and then stepping out into the bitter cold Wisconsin air…well, I should have stayed home.  Oh, and did I mention I was sick?  Yep…it is the perfect time to get your annual winter cold, right before you’re about to fly to your mom’s when she has been instructed by her doctor NO germs in the house because of her surgery.

Welcome to my life.

I made sure Mom understands I will NEVER come up in the winter again. I was never built for cold and I’m for sure not able to handle it anymore, having been away from it for 6 years now. There are perfectly nice summer months for her to have the other knee done. I made sure my niece understood I would not be attending any winter weddings, so she better tell any future fiance with a dream of a Christmas wedding that it’s absolutely not gonna happen because Auntie Julie will miss it. Unless, of course, they come down to Charleston (or some other place warm) and have a winter wedding. that I could do. They both giggled, thinking I’m kidding.

I’m so not kidding.

In any event, I had a week vacation and I could work half days and spread out the vacation hours for the whole of the two weeks. I could write when I wasn’t working, because, certainly Mom wasn’t going to be feeling like doing much of anything.

That was my plan, anyway.

What actually ended up happening was that I got involved with her in TV shows I never watch at home. I saw more episodes of Tanked in one day than I’ve seen…well, ever. It’s a neat show, but not something I would normally take the time to search for and watch. But here’s the thing, when Chris Jericho gets a custom fish tank (for the WWE fans among us), you watch. And then you are hooked and you sit down for the next several hours watching other celebrity athletes (who you couldn’t pick out of a line up if your life depended on it) get their custom fish tanks.

It was all I could do to not get sucked into The Young and The Restless. I’m not a soap opera watcher, but when you are listening to it in the background for two weeks, it’s hard to not get a little bit involved in the story line. Thankfully, I escaped Y & R‘s clutches just in the nick of time.

So, maybe on the weekend, when I wasn’t doing my half day work shift. Maybe then I would have time to write.  Well, no.  Because the weekend I was there I had to go through the boxes from my grandparent’s house.  It took, literally, all weekend.

For real.

The boxes were full of old family photographs, albums and other memorabilia. And when I say old photographs, I mean, there are a few that are tin! So, I have photographs of family from sometime back in the 1800s!!  Now I just need to figure out who they are.

In addition to all the photos — many of which had some type of labeling (thanks, Grandma!) or Mom knew who people were and was able to tell me the stories — there is a journal that my grandma kept the year my mom was born. I have a recipe “journal” from my 2 times great grandma – in her own writing!  I have an autograph book for my great grandma who had all of her siblings sign it – we didn’t know all their names and mom had actually forgotten about one of great grandma’s brothers.

I could go on and on…there is so much unbelievable stuff!  I had to mail three boxes home full of pictures and other treasures.  The scrapbooks I had to carry back in my carry on bag, which prompted a bag search at the airport. Just imagine your underwear falling out of the suitcase for all the world to see because you had stuffed them around the edges to give the old scrapbooks a little protection. Oh, it was delightful.

But we all made it back safe and sound. Now my next project is finding a place for all of it to live. Right now, it’s piled up on my work table, waiting patiently for me to figure out what to do with it all.

Oh yeah…and I’m going to write.

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Letting Your Story Marinate

I can’t believe two months have flown by since my last post. In my defense, I had two work events – the one where I wrote my last post and another one in November. And by then we were sailing straight into Thanksgiving. And now, we’re tumbling right into Christmas and the New Year.

On the plus side, I DID write as planned at my work event in October.  Sadly, I haven’t written a word since I’ve gotten back.

But I’ve read that just as much of the writing happens in your head when you are not writing as happens when you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Sometimes the story needs to sit in your head and marinate for a bit.

When I was figuring out how to bring my main male character back home after he walked away, it took a bit to come up with a satisfying story line to explain his absence. And then I had to find a way to bring him back because he needed to get sick and die. It’s what causes my main female character to take some chances. To get up out of the rut she has allowed society to box her into and make some changes in her life. It’s her chance to grow. His death – caused in part by the society they lived in – will give her the strength and determination to rise above. After all, she has children to raise. And she wants to be an example for them to follow. Her babies are the first generation born free and she will not allow them to accept being treated as slaves.

In any event, I had written myself into a place where I needed some time to mull it over and find a way to bring him to the illness to which he succumbs. A diphtheria epidemic rolls through Charleston and their youngest child becomes ill.  In working with the general idea that illness generally is hardest on the young, the elderly and the weak, it’s going to take him and the young child. This is going to be the most painful thing my main character has ever gone through (even having been born into slavery) and it’s going to be the fuel she needs to make changes.

Don’t ask what those changes are, because right now, I haven’t a clue. I have to wait for the story to get that far so I can see what direction she wants to take. Will she leave Charleston? Will she stay and fight for her rights? I expect she will stay, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned through this process is that you can never assume you know what your character wants to do until she’s right there, having to take action.

Word count 38,068

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