Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Stealing One More Year

My older son turned 17 recently.

It was a family celebration. We took him to a restaurant where he could enjoy a rack of ribs and got him his favorite cake. He also saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2. He’s now deciding how to spend his birthday money. Apparently, there’s an X-box game or two in his future.

He’s currently a sophomore, so he has two years of high school left. It’s going to go by quickly. I don’t know if I’m ready for it.

But it hit me recently that it could have easily been one year left.

When we moved here from Oregon, my older son was in the third grade. However, we moved during the school year. At the time, schools where we lived in Oregon began the school year about a month later than schools where we currently live in Georgia. It was more than a month between the time the kids left Oregon and the time we moved into a house in Georgia.

We enrolled our older son the day after we moved in. The schools were already focused on CRCT prep, tests he really had no hope of passing. After thinking about it, we figured he’d lost at least three months of school.

So we held him back a year.

It was an easy decision. Our son was young for his grade level anyway. Plus he had a learning disability. Re-taking third grade provided him time to mature.

For the longest time, my son complained about it. He often told people he should be one grade higher. We finally got it through to him that it was for the best and that he should move on. He has responded by excelling in school.

When his final two years of high school are over, I know he’ll attend college. I don’t know where he’ll go.

However, when my wife and I made the decision to hold him back, I know that neither of us was thinking about keeping him around one more year.

But it’s good to have him.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Prayer Breakfast

It was around 5:30 a.m. on a school day. My son placed his oatmeal on the kitchen table and sat down, placing a spoon next to breakfast as he did. He then bowed his head, said a quiet prayer, and began eating.

I punched the button on the coffee maker, smiling as I did so. Where did he learn that? Part of me knew. We try to have at least one meal together every day as a family. It’s not always easy. Sometimes, due to team practices in the evening, the boys and I are eating while my wife is still cooking. Still, for that evening meal, we say the blessing as a family before chowing down.

Still, kids behave differently when they’re alone, as opposed to when a family is together. You hope they ingest the lessons you’ve taught them. Pride swells within you when you see that they have.

Granted, my teenager could have been thinking Dad’s here, so I need to pray. At the same time, he didn’t glance at me before he did it. It looked natural, as if he did it even on those mornings when I’m pushing to get myself ready for work and I only see him off to the bus but don’t see him eat. I can never be sure.

I can only pray myself.

And trust to God.

Clip art from www.watton.org



Friday, March 28, 2014

Dragging Dad Into the Modern Age

My family has a problem with my choice in music.

I have satellite radio in my car. When I’m alone, I listen to stations that offer 70s, 80s, and things that were on vinyl or cassette at one time (or that spindle looking thing that Edison used). I also listen to the news. However, when we’re driving somewhere as family, my wife and kids prefer modern stations with current hits. If I try to play my music, they gag. They beg for at least music from the 90s and then press for music produced within the last year or so.

The one who pushes it the most is my 12-y.o. He seems to know every song played on either the current music stations or on Disney radio. I wonder where he hears these things. Apparently, he has a number of these tunes downloaded to his iPod. (I’ve got to check that thing more often.) He particularly likes Imagine Dragons but enjoys all of the modern singers. When I drive him to baseball practice, he wants to listen to the current hits station, just to get himself prepped. Because I really believe it helps him, I oblige.

I really believed I would get sick of these songs at one point. However, after taking him to numerous events in the last few months, I have to admit that some of them are starting to grow on me, if only because I can’t get them out of my head, or have heard them ad nauseum. My 12-y.o. even sensed this, asking me a week ago if there were any of these songs that I liked.

I finally admitted to liking one. Dark Horse by Katy Perry.

My 12-y.o. found reason to barf. Of all the songs on the current hits station, this was the one song he wished was banned. His problem with it? It’s a stupid love song. He then thought about it a little longer, admitting the song would be good entrance music for a baseball player, if not for the stupid lyrics.

However, he’s now starting to notice girls.

I doubt he’ll think the lyrics stupid for long.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Posting Today at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales

I'm posting today at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales (PF&HT), talking about the things one saves when cleaning out a basement. Would like to hear from you. A $10 Amazon gift card is up for grabs on that post. Click here to be taken to the PF&HT blog.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Wing And A Prayer

My 12-y.o. son has his right arm in a sling.

My wife and I think he hurt it a couple of weeks ago. His baseball team scrimmaged another team and he pitched straight through an entire line-up without a break. My son throws pretty hard. It was a cold night. We iced his arm afterwards like we always do. My son said he felt fine.

The truth was, he didn’t.

He would occasionally admit to soreness. We would use ice and rest. Then he would say he felt fine.

The truth was, he just wanted to play baseball.

He had a tournament last week, playing four games in two days. He did great at the plate but couldn’t get anything on his fastball. By Sunday evening, after the tournament was over, he finally admitted his arm had been hurting all this time. He mentioned it as it hurt to swing a bat, too.

I took him the doctor the next day. He was diagnosed with acute inflammation of his shoulder and elbow. Thankfully, nothing was broken or torn. Still, we shut him down to give him time to heal. The doctor suggested about a week.

I’m mad at myself about it. There’s part of me that should have realized he was taxing himself during the scrimmage. Though I wasn’t keeping a tally, I knew his pitch count was high. And the coach from the other team that was calling balls and strikes stopped any pretense of fairness halfway through the line-up, meaning my son was giving it everything he had and having non-swings called a ball. However, I said nothing. For the weeks that followed, neither did my son.

On Sunday, we’ll see if there’s still any pain. If there’s no pain, we can start doing rehab exercises. Maybe even soft tosses. He has a game on Monday. I can’t see him being ready to play, even if there’s no pain. The injury is minor and I pray he’s not hurt more seriously. Still, I want to make sure he’s okay before he goes back on the field. It’s scary to think of it getting worse.

Even scarier was when the x-ray technician told me how often kids come into the office with the same injury.

I’ve since learned there are things like little leaguer’s elbow and little leaguer’s shoulder. Recuperation can take a couple of months. We aren’t at that point yet.

I hope we don’t get to it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Posting Today at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales

I'm posting today at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales (PF&HT), talking about the latest point in my writing life, trying to understand what it means. I hope you'll join me. Click here to taken to PF&HT blog.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Why Do Writers Write: A Blog Hop


Before I start the post...Happy Valentine’s Day to my beautiful wife. I cannot imagine life without you.



“Writer’s write, that’s what we do. Find out why and how in this new Blog Hop for 2014”


Sarah Hegger, a wonderful writer I met at the 2013 RWA conference, pinged me via a couple of forms of social media and asked if I would be interested in participating in a year-long blog hop where writers answer four questions about their writing process. Possessing all the savvy of Inspector Clouseau, I had no idea what a blog hop was. Still, I thought it was a great idea anyway.

To discover more about Sarah and her writing process, please check out the link here (but be sure to come back and finish the post).


On to the four questions:

What am I working on?
My primary focus is historicals set in medieval Japan with inspirational and romantic elements. I refer to my work as “Like Shogun, but the heroine survives.” (For those who don’t know the story but plan on reading the book, I apologize for spoiling that portion of it for you.)  I have a series of manuscripts that take place in central Japan from 1587 – 1591, around the middle of Japan’s Christian century. The first manuscript, The Samurai’s Heart, is the story of a romance between a swordsmith’s daughter and the estranged son of a high-level samurai. This manuscript is under consideration with several publishers.

Subsequent titles in the series are plotted and partially drafted. Both The Samurai’s Heart and one of the unfinished manuscripts have won writing contests. I’m also working on a story set in the northwestern U.S. in the 1870s. As you might expect, that manuscript has a Japanese immigrant for a heroine. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
In one word: Japan. Stories with historical Japan themes have done well in numerous genres. However, I know of no success in the inspirational genre. In my first manuscript, The Samurai’s Heart, the heroine, a swordsmith’s daughter, is a Christian who needs to find a husband to marry into her family and carry on the family business. She seeks a Christian husband, difficult given that Christianity is banned. (This actually happened in August 1587.)  The hero, a non-Christian and estranged from his father, seeks reconciliation with his own family. However, a relationship with the heroine makes family reconciliation difficult as samurai are tasked with enforcing the ban against Christianity.

Though different, the subsequent stories have one common thread: the relationship is always between a Christian and a non-Christian. The challenge in creating the worlds of my stories is two-fold. One challenge is bringing the reader into a world where most readers have no frame of reference possibly outside the movie, The Last Samurai. The second is the names I use for my characters. I have to make the names sound appropriate for the period, yet still make them easy for readers to recall.

Why do I write what I do?
Because part of me feels that I don’t have a choice.

My first story takes place in Himeji Castle, a place I’ve visited many times. Japanese castles have numerous talismans decorating the eaves to protect against fires, typhoons, earthquakes, and other disasters. Himeji Castle has similar types of decorations. Himeji Castle also has a talisman with a cross. The cross survived the ban and its subsequent re-iterations, a time in Japanese history that eventually saw tens of thousands of Japanese martyred. A pastor of mine once referred to these people as “the great unknown martyrs.” Someone has to tell their story.

How does my writing process work?
I start with an outline for the first few chapters and a vague idea of the ending, then I let the characters develop by writing those chapters. After that, I plot the rest of the book. Sometimes I write to the end. Sometimes, I put the plot aside to let the story germinate.

At this time, I am currently editing a finished, but extremely rough, draft of my one non-Japan related work. It’s a story I don’t discuss much as I’m constantly researching the time period. However, it’s a work of Biblical fiction so it’s still targeting the inspirational market. Once I finish the edits, I will return to my 1870’s U.S. novel with a Japanese immigrant heroine. As all scenes are plotted and the story is one-fourth drafted, I will plow through until I reach the end.

I have two exciting writers I want to introduce you to. The first is Dr. Philip Levin, a poet and children’s book author (among other writing talents). He is also an emergency room surgeon who donates his time and skills serving overseas. The second is Piper Huguley, a college English professor and historical writer extraordinaire with a Golden Heart final to her credit.

Dr. Philip Levin

From Dr. Levin:
I’ve always been a writer. I come by my writing skills from both sides of my ancestry. My mother, Beatrice S. Levin, has published almost 20 books and thousands of articles. As well as being the author of scores of scientific works, my father, Franklyn K. Levin, edited the magazine Geophysics for several years, and still is frequently consulted for his editorial skills. During college I edited the college newspaper and paid much of my medical school tuition from articles I sold. During my residency in Corpus Christi, Texas, I was the associate editor and a main contributor to “Coastal Bend Medicine.” Those years also saw me complete the first draft of my mystery novel.

Raising my family and tackling my career were my focus, with few publications during my thirties and forties. Once the children were off in college, I settled down to learning the craft and submitting to contests and markets. I published “Inheritance” in 2007, followed the next year by my children’s photo-book, “Consuto and the Rain God.” I published four stories in anthologies in 2009. I’m writing articles for the state medical journal and editing the writing group’s magazine “Magnolia Quarterly.” I lecture about writing, being the guest speaker in writing groups from North Carolina to Florida and throughout Mississippi.


Piper Huguley

Piper G Huguley is the author of Migrations of the Heart, a five-book series of inspirational historical romances set in the early 20th century featuring African American characters.  Book four in the series, A Champion’s Heart, was a Golden Heart finalist in 2013.  Book one in her new historical series Home to Milford College was a semi-finalist in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest. 

She blogs about the history behind her novels at http://piperhuguley.com. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.