Thursday, October 24, 2013

It Always Starts with a Dream!

My first book

My latest book

I’ve always been a dreamer. Back in Van Horn, Texas, my family lived on Summer Street, which in the 70’s was called the New Addition. On Summer Street in front of my house, I would roller skate for hours up and down the sidewalks, dreaming. I had the roller skates that required a key. (Wish I'd kept them.)
In those dreams I was Robbie Walton, John Boy’s wife or Robbie Brady, the 7th of the bunch. I was the Jacks Champion of the World, when I had time to compete, because of course, I was also the Roller Skating Gold Medalist, narrowly beating the East German competitor.
My dreams were my friends and we hung out a lot.
In all those days, though, I never once dreamed of being a writer. (Speaking is another story – I think I’ve wanted to be a speaker since I was 8 years old.)
Writing was what I did in my diary – the most boring diary ever written, by the way. 

 February 16th - Nothing happened.

But I would write songs for Donny Osmond since I knew it was only a matter of time before he came to Van Horn and asked me to join the group. I’d be ready. Writing was also what I did in making up little skits for our Girls in Action group at church or later on, our youth group.
I just did it and continued to do it in my many, many journals and in writing skits and plays for church and school. But I never dreamed that it would BE anything.
Then came Noah.
I was blessed to be able to stay home with Noah for a while here and there during his early years, but as he grew up and started preschool, my heart starting hurting. I didn’t like him being at after school care for so long and my long rehearsals after school with drama got to be draining.
God was changing my mind and my heart about my chosen vocation – teaching.  During a high school chapel service led by Chapin Marsh, God called me to start dreaming…about writing.
I thought, well why not write a novel? Naively I thought it would be no big deal. I’d taught English for years. Noah was two.
Today Noah is fourteen and yesterday I received boxes of my first novel, the same one I began when he was two. I’ve rewritten it at least ten times and it’s been rejected somewhere around 20 times. And in the last twelve years, I’ve dreamed of opening that box thousands of times.
It all started with dreaming – God-called dreaming. Then came the choice to actually sit down and write. Next the choice, covered by lots of prayer, to endure and persevere, when editor after editor and editor said no.

Today as I looked through my novel, I prayed a prayer of gratitude to the Father. And my mind went back to that little girl on Summer Street. She didn’t dream of writing, but she dreamed. She exercised her imagination which was the foundation for every fiction story or book I’ll ever write.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Now That's a Knife!

My husband was raised three blocks from the Pacific Ocean in Redondo Beach, California. He is not a surfer or a tree hugging liberal, but he is definitely a Californian through and through. Even though we now live in Colorado, we are still self-proclaimed weather wimps and the informal feel of shorts and a polo shirt could easily be John’s uniform of dress for the rest of his life.
When he married me, a Texan, he received some kidding from my siblings and especially my dad. 

“So you’re a Yankee?” My dad asked him with a hint of a smile.

“No, sir, I am from California.” John replied.

“Yankee.” Daddy stated this as if the matter were settled for all time.
At my father’s funeral, I am positive Daddy watched from heaven and let go that loud laugh of his. There was one particular moment at the funeral I am positive Daddy watched from heaven and let go that loud laugh of his. 

I have to back track for a minute.

We drove from San Diego, California to Van Horn, Texas for the funeral. On the way I drank Cherry Lime Sodas we had bought in San Diego and put into an ice chest.  I liked them poured over ice in a cup. To finish up this cocktail of choice I would squeeze a fresh lime on top and then put the cut up pieces of the lime into the drink. Just delicious! 

Round about Yuma, Arizona I decided to have my first Cherry Lime. However, we had no knife to cut up the limes. No problem, John indicated he would pick up a knife at the next gas stop.
And he did. He bought a 99 cent little pocket knife at a truck stop somewhere in Arizona. The little ¾ inch blade did the trick and I enjoyed my beverage of choice as we traveled through the desert.

Fast forward to the cemetery. We had just finished the short service and people were beginning to say goodbyes to those who had to leave immediately. Lots of hugs going around.

My stepmother asked a question about an arrangement someone had given. It was a welding helmet attached to flowers. (My dad was a welder.) “I would surely love to take the welding helmet home with me.  Let’s leave the flowers but I want to take the helmet home.”
A couple of folks proceeded to pick up the helmet. However, it was attached in some way to the big bouquet of flowers.

Loreen asked another question. “Does anyone have a knife to cut this?”
My husband is a servant. Of course he stepped up with five or six other men, and he proceeded to proudly pull out his 99 cent pocket knife to help out the poor widow.

As soon as he did, he noticed the other five or six knives. 

Not a 99 cent one in the bunch. Nope, these were knives three or four times larger than John’s lime slicing deluxe model.

Quickly as he could, John stepped back and as inconspicuously as possible slipped his knife back into his pocket.

From heaven above I am sure that my Daddy laughed. “Yankee.”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Miraculous Arm of Walker Floyd

Daddy in his twenties. 

Mama and Pop

If my father were alive today to drive through a fast food joint with my son and me, he would shake his head in disgust. Noah can choose chicken strips or nuggets, hamburger or cheeseburger, usually with bacon, fries, onion rings or fruit cup, Sprite or Root Beer. He always orders no mustard, no onions and extra pickles.
When the Floyds drove through a Dairy Queen, we four kids would also inform Daddy of our choices:
“I want a cheeseburger and not a hamburger.”
“Can I have onion rings this time?”
“No onions on mine.”
“Let’s get Dilly Bars, too.”
Dad would glance at us as if listening and maybe even nod, but he wouldn’t say anything as we spouted our dining guidelines.
He’d then drive to the speaker and state in a low monotone, “We’ll have 6 burgers, 6 cokes.”
Lots of my memories of growing up in Texas occur in our 1969 Pontiac Catalina. Perry and Karen sat in the back by the doors, with Phil and me sitting in the middle and our parents up front. We drove two or three hours to see cousins or little weekend jaunts that centered on my dad and uncles making music. And we went grocery shopping in El Paso, two hours from Van Horn.
The four of us would often get in squabbles in the back seat and in midst of this, we’d witness a miracle.
            Daddy’s arm, of average length and build, would stretch in Gumby fashion, reaching back from the driver’s seat. He would then slap all four of our faces domino-style. The car never slowed down.
Sometimes Daddy’s arm was not “slap-ready” and he would inform us, not warn us, but inform us that he would pull the car over if our squabbling continued. We would comply, but after a few moments of silence, Phil or I would draw each other back into brother/sister torture. As Karen and Perry joined in and venom spewed from our mouths, we each, one by one, would notice that the Pontiac seemed to be slowing and veering to the shoulder of the freeway.
My siblings and I would immediately engage in a love-fest. We hugged each other and promised each other our first-born children. But the love-in was to no avail. The car stopped.
My father would then tell us to get out. We knew to assume the position. He would take off his belt and administer blows to our behinds, even as station wagons carrying other fighting siblings would roar by.
If the same scenario occurred today, the authorities would haul Daddy off for abuse. But it wasn’t abuse by any stretch of the imagination at the time. It was love. I never heard the term corporal punishment as a kid. But I knew Dad would “tan my hide” if I disobeyed.
He taught. I learned.

In my new novel, Cecilia Jackson's Last Chance, the character of Vern Jackson has that strong and gentle outlook my dad had. I was blessed to have him as a father.

What was discipline like for you as a child? 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Don't Mess with My Texas - Memories!

A picture of my hometown's main drag. 

Van Horn,Texas is 697 miles away from my home here in Denver, Colorado but only a nano-second from hundreds of memories. 

In Van Horn, population 2800 in the 70's, my dad had a belt. When it come out, the four of us would promise each other our first born in order to show Pop how much we really loved each other. To no avail.
We were not abused.
We were disciplined. 

We didn't have cell phones, but we coud walk all around town in the dark with no fear. But if we got home after Mama said be home, well, we had plenty to be sceered of. 

I grew up on fried chicken, fried okra, fried squash, fried eggs, fried potatoes...and hamburger gravy. Yep, I've dealt with weight issues all of my life. Did kale exist in the 70's? 

Memories are colored with rosy shades of perspective and gray tones of fact. But as I look back on those years between the ages of 4 and 18 - the formative years they call them - my memories always paint a picture of gratitude. 

Van Horn was a wonderful place to grow up. 

I've written a novel set in Texas called Cecilia Jackson's Last Chance. In preparation for the book launch on November 15th, I'm going to tell some tales of my time in Texas. I invite you to read and maybe visit your own childhood. No matter where we're raised, many of us share the same characters and scenes. 

Tell me, were you raised in a small town or a city? Which would be better?