Well Jamie, if you’d give us something to read, maybe we’d stop by more often.
Oh yeah. Sorry about that.
But I have been writing. On that first draft of that first novel. We won’t call the 50,000 words I worked on about five years ago a novel. Nope.
My daily writing goal is 500 words per day hopefully stretching it to 1000+ words like I did a few days last week. *Fist bump* Those days make up for the days I can’t write at all.
My revised deadline for first draft is Labor Day. Right now Scrivener says I have 86,257 words.
The perfect length for a novel. Only problem is those are 86, 257 first draft words.
Words I will slash, wring my hands and shake my head at how bad some of those 86,257 words are. Some of those 86,257 — big clumps and clusters — will be removed because they don’t fit how the story ended up.
Plan is to add another 40,000 to 50,000 words by September 5th and have a complete and utterly riveting first draft.
Can of corn.
I’ll have completed the first step. Of how many, only the Lord knows.
Is that like 12 in dog years? Or 12 human years that seem to last as long as whatever 12 x 7 is?
It does happen though.
The published novel. <insert angelic choir voices>
It’s happened to many of my friends.
Like author Deborah Mantella. My next post features an interview on her writing journey and debut novel My Sweet Vidalia. She’s racking up well-deserved literary praise for her story of Vidalia Lee Kandal’s becoming. Her awakening into a woman who refused to accept a life of abuse and poverty in 1955 rural Georgia.
An exert of Mantella’s words from my question: You’ve lived so many places and been exposed to lots, how did you decide on writing this story? And in the Southern gothic style?
This story, or a version of this story, has been with me for some time. I’ve always been fascinated by the intense nature of mother-daughter relationships, be they good or bad. Water rarely runs lukewarm when it comes to anything parent-child, particularly of the mother-daughter variety. Most folks don’t seem to notice how often the child is called upon to raise the parent. This was the scenario I’d wanted to examine from an omniscient and otherworldly point of view.
Good stuff, right?
So check back later in the week and I’ll have the complete interview.
Yes. Deborah did it. Woo! Her way with words comes by divine gift —
that and while in her mama’s womb, her dang chromosomes for readin’ and writin’ must have linked up darn near straight perfect.
Deborah applied that talent and worked hard. For years. Turning each sentence, each phrase, twice maybe three times, (and knowing her a fourth and a fifth twist) to find the best expression of what she wanted to say.
I’m not there yet. Not where her talent is . . . cause all us writing birds are cloaked in different feathers.
But most importantly, I’m not to the second edit. Or the third or the fourth revision. Just please not 12 years worth of revisons.
So ta ta for now. Hope head out to the porch and peck out a few words in on the WIP.
Can’t remember if it was the $10,000 college tuition check or a $100 insurance refund — but I vowed never to let a piece of mail go in the trash un-opened.
Well . . .
* * *
I don’t watch much television except HGTV. The Property Bros, Fixer Upper, Flip or Flop, Beachfront Bargain. I’m all idiot savant about it.
The one exception being PBS’ Antiques Roadshow. I know. The show that’s been on since Jesus walked the earth. I hadn’t watched it for years, but for some reason — maybe because I’m now antique status — we started watching it again a few years ago.
Monday nights, 8 pm. Sacred.
“We need to go,” I said to my husband last summer. Looking on the PBS site, I learned that you don’t just show up with your grandmother’s faux shark tooth bracelet. No ma’am. In January, you select from the cities scheduled for the next season and enter a lottery. Winners to be notified in May.
Fastforward to this May.
The email said I was a WINNER. And that two tickets would arrive by mail.
Except the arriving by mail part.
You’d think with my sketchy history of tossing away life savings in unopened mail, my guard would be up.
* * *
Last weekend, I reread the email and noticed the tickets should arrive two weeks prior to the event. Which meant, I should have seen them by now. Uh oh.
New Jamie didn’t panic. She waited for the mail to come on Monday. Surely it would be there.
No mail delivered to our basket on Monday.
No mail delivered on Tuesday. At this point, I did something I’d never done. Went down to our post office to ask if they were holding our mail. Had my mail basket finally been condemned by the postal service? It is pretty beat up.
“No. There was nothing back there for you,” the clerk replied with a smile.
New Jamie didn’t panic. She went outside to the trash and rifled through five large bags and a few smaller grocery bags on our driveway. No luck.
Surely it will be in Wednesday’s mail.
That’s when I knew.
I’d thrown it away unopened.
You know the saying I turned my house upside down looking for . . . . I did that and shook it sideways too.
Nothing. Well, a lot of cr@p like bills but no tickets.
In tears, I was so angry.
Here’s the irony.
I don’t really care about antiques. Well, except my husband. I don’t have anything of value to take. If I hadn’t been selected for tickets in the first place, I’d have been a tad disappointed but thought we’ll get it one of these years.
It was that my unfocused, mindless shuffling of paper mistake cost me a weekend away with John. A weekend staying at one of my favorite hotels. It cost me the possibility of meeting a Keno.
For the love of Primitive Windsor Chairs Painted with the Alaskan Flag in Gold Relief!
This called for OYKP. On Your Knees Prayer.
Bending down on the carpet, I clasped hands with fingers entwined.
Dear God. People are in heartbreakingly courageous battles with cancer and others have seemingly insurmountable financial woes. All so very worthy of your power and might. But dear Jesus, if those tickets have not left this property in a garbage truck and aren’t sitting in the Morgan County landfill — please help me.
Search the garbage again.
I got up, headed outside and went through the trash.
First was a small bag containing Chick-Fil-A wrappers. Second bag was bigger. Some mail was on top. Took out a nondescript envelope with a odd stamp. Junk.
Then I saw station call letters as the return address. Opening the envelope, seeing a clock and old stuff —
I thought — cr@p — a letter advertising one of those foreclosure sales on mountain property.
Then I turned it over.
God hears our prayers.
Even those that seem to be taking a bit long to answer.
As far as the Roadshow, I don’t really have anything of value to take, but I’ve got tickets.
I’ve been silent here for a while and nothing like the potential catastrophe of tectonic dinner plates smashing together to draw me to my blog dashboard.
Granted I planted late this year.
But it was so cool till mid April.
Only to turn so very hot.
Eight out of 10 of my Clemson Spineless plants coded.
A prime example pictured above. Alright, a miracle might happen but it is on life-support.
This is very, very bad.
A quick, non-scientific google of my blog post library revealed I’ve blogged on okra more than any other vegetable.
I guess you don’t know how much you love someone till they are gone or continue to shrivel up in spite of all attempts to help them thrive.
In 2014 it was yellow squash. Usually squash sprouts forth like Legos on the floor of a 7-year-old’s bedroom but in 2014 — nothing. The first sentence of that blog post read: Don’t ask me to choose between going all summer without sex or without a squash casserole.
This year the squash potential looks good. So I’ll need to come up with another excuse about the other.
But a summer without roasted okra for lunch? No fried okra for dinner? A pain to fix but something I endure because the kids love fried okra so very, very, very much. (Did I say how much the children love to eat fried okra?)
We’ve had a very hot, dry two weeks. But I’ve watered every night. And yesterday it became apparent, only three okra plants might make it.
Three okra plants in summer does not a happy Jamie make.
So I put on my old, crumpled farmer’s hat and thought . . . Gryffindokra.
No silly. I thought . . . seed.
Maybe a seed cracking open, pushing its roots down into that clay, lapping up my water, growing bit by bit, stretching its leaves, unfurling those yellow flowers. Maybe with seed the odds of having more plants mature would be in my favor. And less expensive.
For those wondering, Clemson Spineless has been around since 1939. Genetically engineered at Clemson, logic infers that Tiger scientists thought spineless was moniker of pride.
With okra it is. As for a football team not so sure.
While buying these pictured seeds today, I mentioned to the woman ringing up the purchase.
“Every okra plant I’ve planted this year has shriveled up. Burnt to a crisp. Anyone else having problems? Any idea why?”
“Soil’s too hot,” came from a tall bespectacled fellow standing beside her, behind the counter.
“I’m going to plant seed hoping it will do better,” I offered in a hopeful chirp.
Silence from the tall fellow in the baseball cap. Well, silence and then he walked away.
Sometimes you get sucked into being the city-slicker-with-faux-dirt-painted-underneath-her-fingernails-in-the-farmer’s-store asking questions looking like the city-slicker-with-faux-dirt-painted-underneath-her-fingernails-in-the-farmer’s-store asking questions —
but I’ve done this a while and realize he’s probably right.
It has been too hot. Too early. But it’s worth a shot.
For pity’s sake, I found a recipe for okra casserole that I’ve got to try.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
Forty-four years ago in Mrs. Brown’s 4th grade reading class, the homework was to create a poem using each letter of your first name to start a line.
When class started, Mrs. Brown called on her pets to read their poems aloud.
I was not one of them. Which was fine and expected.
Then the unexpected happened.
After everyone handed in their work and we were busy at our desks, Mrs. Brown graded the stack of poems at the back of the class.
“Tracy?” Mrs. Brown’s brown eyes looked up and she called my name.
“Did you write this?” she asked.
“Yes,” said fourth grade me who-went-by-my-middle-name-Tracy.
“It’s really very good,” said Mrs. Brown with the lovely brown hair and intense brown eyes.
* * *
I had chosen Time as the subject of my work because Tracy, my middle name, started with T.
I only remember one line of my ditty. The verse starting with the letter C.
Can time be made to rule us?
The question I’ve wrestled my entire life.
When I saw the Finish the Sentence Friday prompt this week:
If I only had . . .
popped into my head faster than the next second clicked on my Fitbit.
More time to clean house.
More time to get to the pool for a swim.
More time to shop for groceries and more time to prepare the greens from the garden for dinner.
More time to sleep.
More time to read.
More time to talk and laugh with friends.
More time to practice that darn backbend for yoga. It’s a backbend for pity’s sake. Forty years ago I could sidle my way to school in a backbend. Attempting one now makes my head spin like I’ve had too much tequila. Half a bottle too much.
More time to slow down.
More time to write.
The irony is if I really had more time, I would spend more minutes puttering around Walmart and Ingles staring at the ibotta app. Do more laundry. Stress more about how I am stressing out. Sign my children up for more activities to fill more time. Lie awake at night more wondering why my body is doing this or doing that. Wondering what the next 20 years hold for my children. Resenting not being able to spend the more time I’ve been given — doing what I want to do.
Time frustrates the hell out of me.
In 4th grade, we measured things by the length of an episode of Gilligan’s Island or how long the wait was for Space Mountain.
Today we measure life in exacting increments.
I slept 5 hours and 0 minutes the other night.
Yes. I scratched out my weight because I’m a coward. Who never has enough time.
I burned 108 calories in a 21 minute, 21 second walk of the dog.
Yesterday took me 3 hours to write two sentences on my novel.
No. The last one is untrue. I wrote at least two paragraphs.
Can time be made to rule us?
I’ve certainly let it lord over me most of my life.
At least I got a good grade on my poem that moment in time 44 years ago.
Looking over this past week, I’m embarrassed to admit what first pops to mind are the things that didn’t happen.
Mainly the lack of writing.
Poor, poor me.
My head screams what a silly ungrateful woman. So many great things happened.
Why does the lack of writing time hang as fog on my positive mojo?
I have quite the powerful inner Eeyore.
Pooh on that. Time to link up with the Ten Things of Thankful crew.
Ten Thankful Things for the week that was.
10. This dog.
A selfie with a dog is a little more difficult than first imagined. Even the world’s best dog.
9. This day.
As you can tell from this photo, it is amazing out on the porch today.
8. This time of year. When everything blooms.
Driving the children to school, walking the dog, any daily task is an opportunity to take in the beauty.
7. Birds still build nests.
This one is in a smilax screen right over my left shoulder. A mockingbird’s work. Haven’t heard any babies yet but she darts in and out every so often.
And yes, that is a Christmas light. I wanted the new mama to have peaceful amibient lighting should she need to feed her babies after the sun goes down.
Or it was impossible to remove 12 strands I stuck in there last December without tearing out the entire hedge.
6. I earned $16.00 yesterday with the ibotta app.
A huge payday for me. Equal to about three decades of ad revenue from my Blogher ads.
I took a 8 mile run yesterday in preparation for a half marathon next Saturday.
This coupled with a Power Yoga class on Friday and my glutes are screaming — as well as the part on the front of your body where your arms attach.
I didn’t even know that was a part. Both left and right of said nameless parts are very angry with me right now.
4. Spell check.
Ibuprophen. (that’s how I first spelled number 5.) An emotional speller, I vagually picture a word and attempt a shot at it. Or I vaguely picture a word and attempt a shot it. With ibuprofen, even spell check couldn’t figure out my first attempt so I had to google it.
My poor spelling analytical ability probably costs me 200 hours of productive scrolling through Facebook or Twitter a year.
Monday mornings since the time change kick my posterior.
There was so much I wanted to accomplish this morning but I got up late — pressing snooze on the alarm for an hour. All morning I felt two, three steps behind. Sluggishly making my bed, a mental flog-fest ruminated in my brain.
How could I start another week feeling down-in-the-mouth and mind?
Then from whence it came from I don’t know . . . the strains of “you’re gonna make it after all” began muscling away at my negatives thoughts.
You know — any of you born early enough to appreciate 1970s network television.
Mary Richards and her hip apartment in Minneapolis. Her job at WJM-TV. Something always going wrong and Mr. Grant getting mad. But not really mad. Rhoda her bestie.
With goofiness and gumption, everything always worked out for Mary.
Have you ever seen this?
I’ve never loved Oprah any more than this clip of her talking about her adoration of Mary Tyler Moore. Watch till she is surprised by Mary around 2:40.
You can’t be a little girl who grew up watching Mary Richards and not love this.
Or be a midlife woman and not have a listing Monday suddenly righted.
New Year’s Day 2015, I resolved to clean out the attic.
This week I made that happen. BAM. One year and three months after my resolution.
We’ve lived in this house 15 years and that’s a lot of time to stuff things into an attic. A recovering pack rat, I tend to hang on to baby clothes, law school textbooks, 1975 televisions and my children’s third grade, third semester report cards because . . . you never know.
I hired the services of a great organizing, cleaner friend and we set to work. After a half-day’s aggressive, ruthless purging, the job was done.
Dust makes a jolly good showing in flash photography. The weight of two carloads to Goodwill, a carload to storage and two and a half trips to the dump lifted off our shoulders (and above our heads).
You know what also caught my eye in the above photo?
These doors. Filthy. They’ve been there covering gaps in the attic flooring since we bought the house. At one time, someone toted them up to the attic but no doubt they’ve been in this house since construction — approximately 125 years.
You wonder what they would look like without 125 years worth of dirt and paint?
When we built a garage apartment a few years ago, we pulled two forlorn doors out of the attic and had them restored.
Pretty amazing that beautiful wood is under all that cr@p. If only the human flesh held up as well.
I’ve been writing as well. Trying to place myself in rural 1940s Georgia.
If only I could go up to an attic and pull a 15-year-old girl from 1948 and ask her what was school like? Follow her to around and see white folk and black folk interacting. What was a segregated society in the Jim Crow South? Water fountains marked Whites Only, and the like.
The old writing adage is write what you know. But what if you want to link the past — or the future — with what you know?
I guess you research as best you can and then put your characters and your creativity in the setting.
My husband loves the Godfather. I doubt anyone would say those films weren’t completely immersed in the mob culture of the time. A brilliant film generated from Mario Puzo’s novel generated from Puzo’s imagination.
That’s why as a writer, I found this quote so inspiring.
“‘I’m ashamed to admit that I wrote The Godfather entirely from research. I never met a real honest-to-God gangster. I knew the gambling world pretty good, but that’s all.’ Who then served as the model for the Don Corleone Marlon Brando played? Puzo looked closer to home. ‘Whenever the godfather opened his mouth, in my own mind I heard the voice of my mother. My mother was a wonderful, handsome woman, but a fairly ruthless person.'” pg. 103, Modern Library Writer’s Workshop
Don Corleone’s personality based on Mario Puzo’s mother? Creative people rejoice!
A black shroud drapes our television. No telling how long it will remain. At least a week or so till March Madness cranks up.
For what is there worth watching? Downton Abbey is as quoth the raven . . . nevermore.
* * *
I woke up Monday morning with that dream hangover feeling. Fighting through mental cloudiness of was that real? A cerebral fog usually reserved for mornings after political debates and Gator losses. Then it came clear to me — yes, Downton Abbey is no more.
Trying to interject a positive to my first thoughts of the day, I reminded myself it all turned out so very well.
A boy for the Bates.
A baby on the way for Mary and her mechanic.
Lord Grantham has his puppy and Cora found her legs standing up against Grandmama and championing noble causes.
Isobel got her Duckie — who doesn’t have that pernicious disease after all. Wonder how many people googled pernicious anemia last night?
Tom is making I-could-be-vulnerable-and-find-love-again faces at Edith’s editor.
Carson’s got the palsy but is saved by Barrow. YAY.
Mr. Farmer Man (can’t think of his name right now) is making eyes at Miss Patmore.
Daisy cut her hair that Anna mercifully saved with that new blowdryer contraption and Daisy finally is giving Andy a little opening.
Mr. Molesley got a full time teaching position and is sweet on Baxter. As she is on he.
What else happened?
A used car dealership for Mary’s cute mechanic and will-find-love-again Tom.
Rose is a mummy.
Anything else? Hmm.
EDITH got her Bertie.
So very not women’s libby of me to hurrah Edith’s landed gentry matrimonial goldmine, but this was 1925 and for a woman with a snippy beautiful sister, Edith hit it out of the park.
The second thing I thought this morning.
They are all so very happy with no knowledge of the future. Those of us with the benefit of having lived in the 21st Century know the effects on Britain of the Great Depression and WWII.
Immediately, I started calculating the age of all the baby boys in 1940.
It says a lot about my emotional investment in a television series when I start my day worrying about what happened 75 years ago and the ramifications on fictional mothers and fictional babies.
First thing I learned when I started watching midway through Season Two was that it’s Downton Abbey not Downtown Abbey.
Last thing I learned. Great writing, great acting, great setting can put me in a small community and make me care a lot.
What are we going to do next January?
I’m betting Downton the movie will be about The WAR.
If the Reverend Donald A. Harp ever reads this I’ll simply say up front, you were right. So very right.
I started visiting Peachtree Road Methodist United Methodist (PRUMC) in the heart of Buckhead as a law student at Emory University needing prayers before a four-hour Tax exam. Then I got married to a fellow law student and we joined PRUMC. This was about the time Don arrived to pastor that grand, aging building with the steeple perched on Peachtree Road.
I grew to love PRUMC. I grew to love Don. I remember so many little things in those 10 years – but this post is not about the many things. It’s about one thing in particular. The one thing here over 25 years later, I laugh about.
Don was raised south of Atlanta in the town of Fayetteville. Today part of the Atlanta metropolis, back then almost as many acres of farmland and pasture as miles separated Atlanta from Fayetteville.
We – the congregants of PRUMC – heard many sermons referencing life growing up in Fayetteville. Stories of wisdom gleaned from the well-worn bible of his Granny Harp.
Every now and then Don referred to his doctor, Ferrol Sams. The doctor he left all the fancy internists in Buckhead to drive the 40 some miles for a check up. The good physician who had been his doctor for most of his life. During sermons, Don mentioned Sams’ late-in-life literary exploits. Books this country doctor wrote and published while in his 60s.
Not only books. “Bestsellers.”
The copy I’m reading from the library.
Bestsellers? Even long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I understood making the NYT Bestseller list was a big deal.
But . . .
Can we talk?
At the time, I stuffed this bestseller information in a file marked from the overly-enthusiastic lovable person that was Don. I was certain his doctor was a nice man. One who wrote books in his 60s. Even a 20-something Jamie thought Ferrol Sams sounded cool albeit ancient. He was a nice physician who wrote books bought by his patients. End of story.
Till 2016 when surfing the Interent when I should have been researching and I saw a book by Ferrol Sams listed as one of the top Southern novels.
This piques interest of now decades older Jamie Miles struggling to pen a first draft of a Southern novel.
* * *
Reading Ferrol Sams Run With the Horseman, I can’t help but laugh. As in this little joke is on me.
After each page of this book, I pick my jaw up off the floor and push it squarely back into joint. How does this doctor from Fayetteville, Georgia – one who swapped stories with my Don Harp over a sheet of white paper rolled out on a table — write like this?
Beyond gifted. Words that paint scenes so nuanced, almost painful in their perfection. Effortless writing about such things as the flatulence of a stubborn mule and a boy and everything that is meaningful and humorous in rural Georgia in the midst of the Great Depression.
As far as the cavernous racial divide existing in the 1930s South, he writes from the viewpoint of a young white male in that region and time:
By the time he was four or five year old, the Southern white was so subliminally convinced of his superiority that later Supreme Court decisions, demonstrations, and riots served to only confirm his belief. Nowhere could there have been a keener consciousness and awareness of race and racial differences than in the close associations of daily life on a Georgia farm.
There it was all laid out. One didn’t talk about being superior; one lived it.
Love goes out to you Rev. Harp. And to the departed Dr. Sams. Who, btw, is in the Georgia Authors Hall of Fame along side Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Flannery O’Connor.
I swear. I didn’t see this one coming but I’m glad I finally did see the light.
Joyously adding to my collection of insanely large teddy bears that sit about our room staring at John and I as we sleep. Along with other creepy things they might be doing like French braiding each other’s fur and clipping each other’s toenails in the shape of diamonds. Snip, snip.
Conversation Hearts. I don’t eat them but my boys (young and old) love them. Their pastel chalkiness in a heart-shaped dish on the kitchen counter warms my heart. This is especially true because they are no temptation to me. Mine is a purely aesthetic love affair.
Definitely a minor holiday, I love that decorations are neither encouraged or dissuaded. No pressure to have a pink and white laser show on the front door every evening. Though I’m sure plenty of Valentine-ophiles search Pinterest day and night for the perfect lamb chop recipe or special sundress pattern to sew for the ginormous teddy bear sitting under her Valentine tree.
That said. I love a little red, white and pink frivolity scattered about the house. And on the porch.
Nostalgia. Great memories of Valentine’s Day at school. You know what’s weird? I loved making the construction paper mailbox we stuck on the front of our desk as much as keeping a stiff upper lip when the cutest boy in second grade said my card flew out of his satchel and under the wheel of the school bus that morning.
Notice I didn’t include chocolate. This is because Valentine’s Day often falls after the start of Lent as it does this year. I don’t belong to the school of you-can-break-your-fast-on-Sunday, because it’s like cheating to me. No judgment of any Sunday break fast observers. It’s just almost impossible for me to get the horse back in the barn once the doors been flung open and he’s out gallivanting in the pasture.
To be completely honest, my most favorite thing about Valentine’s Day is what it represents.
It’s the middle of February, which means we have inched closer to the Great Warm Up. I hate to wish my life away, which I’m not — but of course I totally am.
I choose not to think of it that way.
We’ve pulled the Groundhog out of his lair. Downton Abbey is nearly over for the season (and forever *sob*). The Super Bowl can be checked off. Now the holiday celebrating candy hearts and those we love is in the books for 2016.
What’s that I see on the horizon?
An icy mug of green beer. And green shoots of daffodils appearing outside my kitchen window.
Sooo here’s to the week that was and to the week that will be . . .
The editor reports Ms. Miles averaged 494 words for six days this week on her novel. The poor girl felt sure she had written something on Thursday the 11th but no notations can be found. Alas, that zero dealt the death blow to her average in what felt like a most productive week.