A Writer’s Journey ~ Come On Write With Me

It’s been awhile since my last post, but sometimes life gets in the way, and you have to attend to other things. My goal is to continue this online journey. Though for tonight, I will just share some rambling thoughts…

I have always loved traveling on trains. Somehow they just draw me deep into the very spirit and essence of my past. It could be because I grew up as the daughter and granddaughter of railroad men, and trains have always been an essential part of my life. We lived just a few short blocks away from the tracks, but at night I could still hear the long, lonely sound of the train’s whistle as it rolled down the tracks. It was a comforting, homey sound to me. Today, I still love to hear the sound of the trains as they roll by, except of course if I’m running late for work!

My dad worked for the Texas and Pacific Railroad. The station he worked at still stands today, but only as a museum. You can still wander down through the tunnel under the tracks to get to the station house. My sisters and I loved to run through this tunnel and make as much noise as possible, just to hear our voices echoing back at us as we ran. In those days, the station was open and lively with folks rushing in to catch a passenger train. Freight trains rumbled by regularly, too. We spent many afternoons wandering through the station or standing out on the porch and watching the trains roll by. There was always the thought in the back of our minds that we might catch a glimpse of a hobo riding in an empty boxcar. My dad taught us early on to respect the power of trains and to always stay back from the railroad tracks. There were always horror stories of what might happen if we encountered a moving train. Yet, it was still an exciting experience to walk beside the signalman as he swung his lamp to signal a train that it was fine to pull on into the station.

Several poignant memories of this old railroad yard still prevail within me. I remember the first time I rode all by myself on a passenger train to visit my grandparents. My dad tucked me up in the last car with the conductor and instructed me to stay put. I was only six at the time, so I did just that. It was really cool when the conductor took time to sit with me and chat. He even took me up to the dining car and bought me a snack along the way. The next few summers I traveled up to my grandparent’s house on the train with my sister. I loved the swaying of the train as you walked through the cars, and it was always a thrilling adventure to go on the open platform between cars and see only a chain separating you from the outside world and hard ground below.

We took several trips on the train in “sleeping compartments”. This was a really unique experience and quite an adventure for my sisters and me. We loved how the bed pulled down from the ceiling and we had to be lifted up into it because it was so high up (at least in our eyes).

Years passed by and the passenger trains were slowly phased out. Only freight trains rumbled through the depot for quite a while. Then came an earth shattering event. At least it was to my dad. I was fifteen at the time, and there was nothing I wanted to do less than this… but the first Amtrack train was going to stop at the depot… at four a.m.! My dad rolled us all out of bed in the middle of a cold winter’s night, and we all bundled up and headed out to watch as the first passenger train in years rolled into the station. I can still see us standing there huddled together, everyone excited except me. I was a teenager, and you know how teenagers can be! Even so, that treasured memory has remained with me all these years.

Sometimes I think it’s rather sad that our children have never had the “train” experience. Next week, we’ve planned a trip to East Texas to take our grandsons on a steam train ride through the David Crockett National Forest. I hope this train ride will evoke happy memories for the boys when they look back on it in future years.

I’ll leave you with a potion of an Arlo Guthrie song, and I hope I have stirred up some special memories for some you who understand that haunting pull when you hear that lonesome sound.

“Riding on the City of New Orleans, Illinois Central, Monday morning rail, fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders, three conductors, and twenty-five sacks of mail. All along the southbound Odyssey
the train pulls out of Kankakee and rolls along the houses, farms and fields… Good morning America, how are you?Say don’t you know me, I’m your native son. I’m the train they call the City of New Orleans, I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.”~ Arlo Guthrie

Intermission Stories (20)

Pacific Paratrooper

2. Robert Rader

Cpl. Robert Rader

Easy Company/506th PIR/101st A/B

Robert Rader was mentioned in the book, “Band of Brothers,” by Stephen Ambrose, but was not part of the HBO miniseries produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.  This story was condensed from the book, “A Company of Heroes: by Marcus Brotherton.

It was Rader’s idea to volunteer for the 101st Airborne, along with his hometown friends, Don Hoobler and William Howell, and the buddies were sent off to Camp Toccoa.  The three young men together with their Appalachian accents inspired them to call themselves “The Three Hillbillies.”

On the plane to Normandy, a shell went through the plane and between Rader and Johnny Martin, so close they could feel the burn.  Later, the troopers discovered that their plane had been hit 250 times.   Once on the ground, their first encounter with the enemy was with Russian and Polish troops fighting for…

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A Writer’s Journey ~ Come On, Write With Me

As with all things in life, it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. It may appear that I am very slow in accomplishing my goals, but I will never be a book a year author. My goal is not to rush through and push out a new book, rather it’s to let it grow of its own accord. This cocoon is squirming as metamorphosis occurs. My original plot struggles to survive and hopefully emerge renewed as my research continues. My hope is that time and patience will soon reveal an exciting plot and realistic characters to me.
I recently reread the first few “pages” of my proposed book, and I know that somehow these characters will make it into my next novel, but oh my goodness, the primary sources I’ve had the privilege of interviewing are amazing and are totally overwhelming me. I believe I have enough for three or four novels. Now, I must sort through and let the music of these souls speak to me as they come together to share a story with you.
It will be extremely fulfilling to complete this endeavour after these many months of pondering and pouring over the most fascinating information, but as they say, “Good things come to those who wait.” I am excited for the wait to end and the story to take control of my keyboard. It has already taken control of my heart.

A Writer’s Journey ~ Come On, Write With Me

Conflict… not something we want to deal with in our daily lives, but it’s there, slithering along like a snake waiting to attack us when we least expect it. Is the conflict in our lives as intricate as that which the characters in a novel experience? Probably even more so, although we don’t spell it out and condense it to two or three hundred pages. We live it day to day and hope that we will overcome whatever the “giant” in our lives is. More often than not, childhood dramas follow us, sneaking into relationships, haunting us at every intersection, and driving us to strive harder to resolve the inner conflicts we struggle with.
What does this reality have to do with writing a novel? Ah… the plot must thicken, the blood must curl, and every novel must have a deeply seeded conflict within its pages in order to succeed.
When I delvelop a plot, I usually have a major form of contention in mind, which I hope will intrigue my readers. Yet, this conflict must revolve around many minor conflicts as it moves along in the story. The major conflict isn’t always addressed directly throughout the storyline, but it lies in wait, ready to spring to the forefront at the slightest twist of my pen. Many minor conflicts present themselves at just the right moment to pull the reader more deeply into the storyline and help readers emotionally connect to the characters.
Do the minor conflicts always support the major conflict? Yes and no… most minor conflicts occur and are resolved within a chapter or two, although more often than not this minor skirmish only enhances the underlying conflict that draws the reader more deeply into the story. Most minor conflicts hold a clue or a foreshadowing of what is to come. They keep the reader guessing, “Do you think that…” or “I wonder if…” . You know you’ve written a good story when your readers are asking themselves if they’ve really figured out the plot or the ending. And adding a “little twist” to keep the readers on their toes is always a nice touch.
Remember, don’t make the conflict too obvious or easy to solve. Most readers want that intrigue or suspense that keeps them guessing. They want to peel away the layers within the story, search for clues that they think will help them resolve the conflict, or try to determine how the characters will react when that “climatic moment” finally arrives.
Some readers ask if the conflict has to be resolved within the novel, or should it be carried on within a sequel. For me, I want the major conflict to be resolved to satisfaction. Then if a sequel follows, it should have its own special conflict, even though that original snake may at some point raise its head to strike and remind the reader of conflicts in the past.

A Writer’s Journey ~ Come On, Write With Me

What grace we are given to live each day, to touch others’ lives, and to be touched by the lives of those around us. The Christmas season is always a time of reflection for me. How did I make a difference in the lives of my family, my friends, or even of strangers whose paths have crossed with mine? Did I help them along in their journey through life or did I hinder their growth in some way?

I have always been a very traditional person. I treasure the values and the truths instilled in me since childhood. I love the traditional candlelight services at Church on Christmas Eve, spending the holidays with family and friends, and I even take special pleasure in giving and receiving gifts. Yet, in the midst of celebration, I often wonder why and how my life is important in the grand scheme of God’s plan.

There have been numerous books written and movies made that help the lead character examine how the world would be different if he/she had not been a part of it. Of course, one of my very favorites is Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”. To some this movie is slow, outdated, a good film to fall asleep to, or to poke fun at.  Although for me, this movie seeks to help us all understand how the smallest kindness or the least likely encounter can truly change another person’s life.

We are given but a short span of time to carry out God’s plan .We live our lives each day taking it for granted that we will still be around the next day, the next moment, the next second. This is the way we should live our lives, not in fear of death, but in pursuit of life and of life everlasting. I can think back through the many relationships and friendships I’ve built in my life, and know that not only have I impacted their lives, but they have also left their imprint upon mine. Some moments I would love to be able to go back and “do over”. There are words I’ve regretted saying and words I’ve regretted not saying. Sometimes a chance to share only comes around once, and then is forever gone.

Each day we are offered opportunities to change lives, to show the love of Christ to others, and to give of ourselves. Should we accost each person we meet and try to force our beliefs upon them? Would this make a difference or would it scare others away? If we follow in the footsteps of Christ, we can see the pattern his life took. He gave freely of himself each day. His love was not overt, not pushy, but through simple acts of kindness he drew multitudes to their knees. Christ performed many miracles in his short reign on Earth, but to me it was his honesty, his kindness, his spirit of love that drew his disciples to follow him.

I believe in miracles. I believe they happen every moment. I believe my very existence is a miracle of grace. Through this grace I too must offer God’s love to those around me. It might be a mere smile or even opening a door for someone. At times, it might be redirecting someone’s footsteps back along the path of righteousness.

I am not a prophet, I am most definitely not a perfect person, I am merely a small breath of God’s love that exists in his world. And though I strive to follow in his footsteps, I often stumble. Yet, as I reflect back over my “wonderful life” I realize that even through many times of trouble and many times of joy, it is how I cope with each event that reflects to the world the person I am in Christ. As I travel through each day of my life I can offer my friends and family the love which lives within me through Christ. To those lives mine gently brushes, I can offer small acts of kindness to share a little glow of Christ’s love with them.

And so, as my ramble concludes, I offer these simple yet powerful words as my Christmas gift to you.

New International Version (©1984)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

A Writer’s Journey ~ Come On, Write With Me

I wanted to express my extreme gratitude to all the men and women who serve and have served in our armed forces. You are remembered and respected not only on Veterans’ Day, but everyday. It feels inadequate to merely say, “Thank you for your service”, so I will add thank you for my freedom, for all that I have become because of the freedom your service has provided, thank you for taking on a job that is dangerous, frightening, and hazardous to your well-being. Thank you for protecting me and my loved ones. Thank you for your bravery and your service to all. For those of you who are in active service, I send prayers for your safety and pray you are reunited with your loved ones soon.

When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect. ~Adlai Stevenson

But the freedom that they fought for, and the country grand they wrought for,
Is their monument to-day, and for aye.
~Thomas Dunn English

In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.  ~José Narosky

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!  ~Maya Angelou

Lord, bid war’s trumpet cease;
Fold the whole earth in peace.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes

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A Writer’s Journey ~ Come On, Write With Me

There’s just something about music that deeply touches my soul. I’ve often been asked about my writing style, and one of the sparks that generates writing within me comes from listening to and singing songs that “tell stories”. There are so many songwriters that have touched my soul with their beautiful words and music. Their songs evoke emotions of love, romance, mystery, sadness, or great joy within me. Music inspires me and the lyrics intrigue me, comfort me, and imprint vivid images in my mind. It’s often hard to explain, but I am a very sensory and tactile person. I feel the words and the music. You can ask me about a song I loved many years ago, and I can quote it word for word.  Although, if you asked me what I wore the day before, I’d most likely not remember. Listen and “feel” the words of Rich Mullins, John Denver, Kenny Loggins… There are just too many to name because so very many have touched my life.

One of the songwriters who touched my life most was my mother. Her writing came from her heart, and her songs conveyed the love of God to all who listened.  My mom wrote many gospel songs, but I think the song she wrote for her mother, “Around My Mama’s Knees” always meant the most to her. Now that my mama’s at home in Heaven, it means the most to me. This song relates to the scripture “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) And this is how she raised all of her children.

Almost from the time I could talk, I remember singing with my mother. The songs I most remember singing as a very small child are “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, “Deep and Wide”, and “Jesus Loves Me”. These are most likely the very same church songs you sang as well. As I grew older, my mom would often enlist my sister and I to sing “special songs” with her at church. Her favorite hymn was “I’ve Got a Mansion”. I remember the feeling of standing next to her by the piano as Mrs. Groom played, and we all sang out with our hearts and souls to the congregation. This became quite a routine, and amazingly I never felt the shyness I often possessed when I spoke in public.

As I’ve said before, life experiences deeply influence a writer, and my early life experiences most definitely left their impression on me and continue to shape who I am today.