Writer’s Life

19 10, 2020

Digging Ditches and Writing Novels

By |2020-10-19T08:29:12-05:00October 19th, 2020|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life, Writing Craft|1 Comment

I’m working away — in fits and starts — on the next novella in my Fitzpatrick Family series. But something’s bothering me about the story. The words aren’t flowing.

I attributed my lack of word flow to pandemic brain fog and put the manuscript aside to watch the drainage ditch being dug in our front yard.

Distraction comes easy when you’re stuck.

The ditch work on the main road in our subdivision had finally been completed. We live on a side street and, after three years, it was our turn.

I stood watching like an awe-struck kindergartner listening to his teacher read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel named Mary Ann. Written by Virginia Burton, it was my son’s favorite story book.

steam shovel, Judythe MorganThe shovel bucket started at the top of our rise then went down the slope adjusting the depth with each shovel load.

One scoop after the other. Not one scoop on our side of the street and another scoop across the street.

But one after the other down our side of the road. dump truck, judythe morganScoop – dump, scoop dump. Inching slowly  down the slope.

Scoop – dump, scoop dump. One after the other.

Kinda like a timeline when plotting a story.

As that thought flowed through my head, I realized what was wrong in my Fitzpatrick Family story. My timeline was out of kilter. I’d gone from one side of the street to the other.

Scenes were happening sequentially, but the reader would quickly figure out the passage of time I’d written didn’t allow enough time for what needed to happen.

Like the steam shovel ditch digging, I had to proceed one shovel width at a time to get a properly sloped ditch.ditch Or, in my case, a story timeline that didn’t confuse the reader.

21 09, 2020

Pandemic Fatigue and the 2020 Craziness

By |2020-09-20T07:25:21-05:00September 21st, 2020|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|0 Comments

September is the height of the hurricane season on the Texas Gulf coast. A month loaded with angst as we watch the weather forecasts. This year in particular it’s a nightmare.

Add the pandemic-induced mess of 2020 and I feel like I’m teetering on the brink of crazy.

Days run together. I lose track of what day it really is. My memory’s totally shot. Argh.

Recently, I inserted my Wii Fit DVD into the player to do my exercise. The disc wouldn’t run, I tried to eject said disk. It wouldn’t jump out.

After several failed attempts to get the disc out, I gave up. A short time later, Hubby-Dear asked me what the Wii Fit DVD was doing on the table with the TV remote.

I’d never actually inserted the disc!

Other times, I load clothes in the dryer. Come back later to fold and find I never pushed start.

Attachments don’t make it to emails I’m sending.

Multi-tasking becomes a multi-mess. Stuff ‘s misplaced constantly. Minor things, I know. But, for me it’s frustrating. It makes me crazy.

Maybe, like me, you feel you’re losing your mind while trying to keep it all together and stay focused at the same time.

Well, we’re not crazy because things aren’t normal right now. We’re coping as best we can. Any way we can.

We’re feeling stressed for very real reasons. Who wouldn’t with all the COVID-19 hype? Newscasts filled with horrid visuals of violence and civil unrest. Tropical storms spinning into hurricanes and reeking unfathomable damage. Fires burning unchecked. An ugly presidential election on the horizon.

Any one of which would be troubling alone. We’re got all of the above pounding us daily.

We have “pandemic fatigue,” which means daily stuff may take a little longer to accomplish or may not go as planned.

That’s okay.

We’re getting through these weird times. One day at a time. The next months will likely be the toughest yet. We’ll struggle more, but, I’m confident, we will come through.

All we have to do is stop and breathe. Slow, even breaths. In for one-1000, two-1000, three-1000. Out again one-1000, two-1000, three-1000. Repeat.

Seriously, STOP. Take deep breaths then proceed.

It’s helped me. So do M&Ms, but breathing is so much healthier.

Next time you’re feeling crazy and want to pull the covers back over your head, try taking a few deep breaths. I think you’ll find those provide calm in this uncalm world.

24 08, 2020

Familiar Things in Pandemic Times

By |2020-08-24T10:13:20-05:00August 24th, 2020|A Writer's Life, Finn and Buster, Writer's Life|0 Comments

The limbo of this pandemic keeps just hanging on. Familiar is gone.

It’s hard to adjust to this new normal. At least around our house. Hubby-dear gets out of the car twice when we make our necessary supply runs. Once like normal-happy and carefree. Then again when he returns to put his mask on. I do the same.

We miss the old ways and familiar.Finnegan MacCool, judythemorgan.com

Our Finnegan MacCool does too. How do I know? I found his baby lovey, a blue elephant, beside his bean bag recently.

The little elephant came with him when we picked him up four years ago and it was always the one toy from his basket of toys that he’d carry with him. The breeder’s daughter bought it for him.

We met Finn at eight weeks but, with a long car trip from Colorado to Texas scheduled, asked the breeder to keep him an extra couple of weeks before we took him home. We didn’t think it’d be good idea for a young puppy to be confined in a car for such a long drive.

She agreed and her daughter, Taylor, said she’d watch out for our baby Finn. Taylor was in junior dog handling training for their show Old English sheepdogs. She was thrilled to have Finn to work with.

When we picked him up, she wanted to be sure he had his special lovey to comfort him in case he missed her. At first, he did miss Taylor. Blue elephant was always with him no matter what other toys he had. Other times of stress like the move back to Texas, he’d find his blue elephant to keep close.

Then as he settled into his new surroundings, he kinda forgot about blue elephant. Until this pandemic and blue elephant has reappeared.

judythemorgan.comI don’t blame him. I’m looking for familiar things too. Are you?

17 08, 2020

Walking, walking

By |2020-08-17T07:31:23-05:00August 17th, 2020|A Writer's Life, Exercise, Writer's Life|0 Comments

Walking is my most favorite exercise next to being in the swimming pool. When we lived in the mountains, some days I walked 5+ miles. Lovely weather, lovely views.

My four-legged boys always went with me. Most times, hubby-dear did. We walked no matter the weather.

walking in the snow with an Old English Sheepdog, judythe morganThat’s Toby and Buster walking with me. Toby crossed over the Rainbow Bridge before we moved to Texas.

Old English sheepdog, Judythe Morgan, man walking his dogNow, Finnegan MacCool joins Buster and me.

We don’t have the cool weather walks any more or the mountains. Our view is filled with massive, hundred-year-old oaks that shade our way.

And we go early in the mornings before the sun rises enough to crest the treetops.

Buster’s thirteen so he doesn’t move as fast. Finn turns around and checks on us often. He does not grasp social distancing.

Even though we’re in the dog days of AugOld English sheepdog, judythe morganust with its heat indexes in the triple digits where we live now, I still enjoy getting out of the house for lots of reasons.

Walking’s safe and an easy form of exercise. No added athletic skill needed, no training, or special equipment required. Well, you do need a good pair of walking shoes, but then you need good shoes anyway.

Walking is easy…you might say automatic. No thinking involved with the exception that you do need to make sure you don’t trip or walk into something.

Walking allows our five senses to experience what’s around us. The sound of a bird’s song, the breeze rustling the leaves. The scent of fresh cut grass. The sweet aroma of honeysuckle blooming on a neighborhood fence.

Walking reminds us of the real world around us. One that isn’t from the news or a movie or a tv series. Sequestered inside we sometimes forget the good that’s outside our door.

Walking can help us feel better physically and mentally. When I walk the dogs placing one foot in front of the other and taking in the sights refreshes my brain and my spirit.

Walking can take our minds off these troubling times of this pandemic.

My walking companions and I recommend going for a walk. We always feel better when we do. You might too.

10 08, 2020

Coronavirus and Courage

By |2020-08-09T16:11:19-05:00August 10th, 2020|Monday Motivations, Writer's Life|2 Comments

judythemorgan.comI’m reading more during these days of isolation. I’ve discovered that what makes some stories stay in my head is the heroes.

Stories with heroes who persevered, who vanquished evil, who faced natural and supernatural challenges, who made sacrifices to a greater good. Those stories stick in my head like all the fairy tales of my childhood.

I’m learning courage comes in a variety of forms. Then I look around and realize we’re seeing a lot of courage in real time.

Think about the courageous people out there:

~The parent trying to figure out how to feed their kids when unemployment insurance gives out or never arrives. The ones juggling work from home with family under foot. Or, struggling to make the best decision for their kid’s schooling this year.

~The adult child dealing with an aging parent, who may or may not have COVID-19, in a nursing home or not, impossible to touch or hug.

~The teenager caring for sick parents or waiting on test results themselves.

Then there are the medical professionals worldwide who go to work every day with a lack of medical equipment or PPE while trying to treat too many patients so ill with a disease they don’t know how to cure.

The relief workers, the ambulance workers, the shelter volunteers, the food bank workers, the list goes and on and on.

All of them showing everyday courage to go forward when the world seems to be falling apart around them. Sure, they get mad sometimes or break down completely, sobbing uncontrollably. But the key is they pick themselves up and dust themselves off and go back into the fray.

That’s real-time courage, friends.

Courage is not something you think about or read about. It’s something you do. It’s people who risk their own health and their family’s health to stock shelves or deliver packages every day since this nightmare began. It’s frontline workers risking their lives to save others.

This COVID-10 pandemic demands courage from all of us. And, after this is over (whatever after looks like) these everyday heroes are going to linger in our minds. Same as fiction heroes and superheroes.

We’re not born with courage. If we ask any of these people about their courage, they’ll deny being courageous at all. “I did what I had to do.” or “I didn’t do enough.”

Courage is stepping up to the moment and moving forward, even when forward is uncertain or alarming and just plain scary sometimes.

Look at these people and be inspired. Find your courage. We will get through this. Together.

13 07, 2020

Why the spelling Judythe?

By |2020-07-12T16:27:51-05:00July 13th, 2020|Writer's Life|2 Comments

I’m guessing you read my first name and you thought Judy the Morgan.

Pretty much everyone that sees Judythe in print the first time does. The spelling has been a blessing and a curse my entire life.

In school, I could always tell when the teacher came to my name when calling roll on the first day. There’d be a pause. Some would shorten to Judy. Others wouldn’t know what to do because my last name was a tongue twister too. A few got the pronunciation correct. Most reverted to the traditional Judith.

It’s definitely a unique spelling and there’s a story behind it. According to family tradition, the name comes from my maternal grandmother Julia and one of her sisters Edythe.

Ju from Julia and dythe from her sister Edythe. Put the two parts together and you get Judythe.

In a family with Irish roots you can never be sure if a story is true or simply a great tale. Either way I’m stuck with Judythe.

Not only did my first name have pronunciation issues, my real last name before marriage and after marriage were both also difficult to spell. I figured my books would never be found if I used my real name.

Knowing all this, I used a pseudonym when I started writing. But not a totally different name.

An author needs to found in the gigantic sea of so many books. I knew readers would remember Judythe. I chose to keep my first name and use hubby dear’s middle name.

On the other hand in the age of search engines, the spelling of my first name can be tricky. Look at these two search results on Amazon.

Judy the Morgan; judythe morgan

Option 1 you only see two of my books not a complete list of all. That’s okay if the person searching knows how to get to my author Amazon page.

OR

Judy the Morgan; judythe morgan

Options 2 you have to read carefully and see that Amazon’s algorithm searched with Judy the Morgan to find zero of my books. You must read below and click to search Judythe Morgan.

It’s perplexing. And, I’m sure, not something my parents took into consideration when naming me.

22 06, 2020

Nothin’ Better than a Homegrown Tomato

By |2020-06-22T08:44:08-05:00June 22nd, 2020|Writer's Life|2 Comments

Hubby-dear loves fresh tomatoes. Growing them in Colorado was hopeless without a greenhouse, which we didn’t have.

Our first year back in Texas’ warmer climate, we bought small tomato plants.

We babied the plants. Fed. Watered. Positioned the pots around for the best sunlight.

Nothing. Not even a bloom for the birds and squirrels to nibble.

Determined, we tried again the next year. This time we picked a different grower for the bedding plants. Birds or squirrels ate all the blooms.

Hubby-dear threw up his hands in frustration. We’ll buy from our lovely farmers’ market.

Then this year, I spotted a couple of marked down tomato plants at the grocery store and decided we’d give homegrown tomatoes one more try.

Both plants had blooms proving the plants could, at least, produce blooms. Those blooms quickly dropped off once the plants were in our backyard.

Hubby-dear was so disappointed.

“Wait,” I said. “There’ll be more blooms.”

New lovely blooms did appear. We attached festive windmills to discourage birds then sprinkled with special tomato food. I remind them every day, how much Hubby-dear loves fresh tomatoes.

One day when I went out for our daily chat, a tiny green marble-size ball appeared, then another and another.

Patience and persistence paid off. We currently have eight baby tomatoes.

Hubby-dear is counting the days until he can have a juicy slice of his first homegrown Texas tomato.

Me, I don’t even like tomatoes. Don’t eat them.

But the pleasure of watching him enjoy the red juicy fruit is priceless.

18 05, 2020

The Difficult Puzzle

By |2020-05-16T13:37:52-05:00May 18th, 2020|Writer's Life|3 Comments

I enjoy working jigsaw puzzles. And word puzzles, but jigsaw puzzles are my brain sorter for plot issues and escape from reality.

Working a puzzle, I can focus on fitting all the pieces together and when it’s finished, I have a lovely picture. Usually.

Didn’t happen this year. Not with Mary Engelbreit’s Puzzle A Girl’s Best Friend, which I love putting together for Mother’s Day every year.

All those black and white squares on the frame were my downfall. If my grandson weren’t here while his college is shut down for the pandemic, I’d never have finished.

At one point I took out the tape measure to confirm the side measured 20 inches. I decided maybe pieces had gone missing in the last move.

I took the sides apart and started again multiple times. By the fourth time, I was extremely frustrated.

Enter grandson with sharp eyes and nimble fingers. He got the frame together while I worked the middle, which with all the similar colored patterns did not prove much easier.

With Mother’s Day three days away, the middle was finished and only the floral border between the inner picture and the black and white edge remained to connect.

Grandson had a major project due, so I was on my own. A piece would fit the black and white edge but not connect to the middle pieces. Happened not once but several times.

I pulled the edge apart and reassembled. Still the floral border pieces wouldn’t connect.

Mother’s Day and the puzzle still not finished, I admitted defeat and, threatening to throw the puzzle away, went to bed. Next morning, I found this.

Grandson had flipped top and bottom edge pieces and finished.

I’m not throwing the puzzle away. But I’m not messing with edge again either.

I didn’t cheat and leave them connected when I took the puzzle apart, though I was very tempted. I coded the backs of all the edge pieces then stored them in their own little bag in the puzzle box. Next time, I’ll know which border pieces belong on which side.

Maybe I’ll work the puzzle again next year. Maybe not. Grandson won’t be here. I’d be on my own. But, at least, I won’t go blind trying to connect the pesky frame.

20 04, 2020

A Birdhouse Legacy Returns

By |2020-04-20T09:03:00-05:00April 20th, 2020|Writer's Life|2 Comments

When I remember my mother’s father, it’s always in his workshop. At the old house, it was a small dark area shared with my grandmother’s gardening paraphernalia at the back of the garage.

They built a newer house next to the old one after World War II, his shop was a casita with windows and French doors attached to the back of the garage.

He was always working out there. I’d stand in the doorway for hours watching. He’d never let me inside when the jigsaw was going.

He built stick horses with one dimensional heads. I rode those horses for many an hour practicing for barrel racing.

He made rocking horses. The kind you could sit in like a rocking chair.

And he designed a doll bed that flipped from rocking to steady. My dolls and my daughters’ dolls slept many a night in those beds.

My favorite thing he built was birdhouses with tin roofs. He created assorted sizes in different shapes and hung them along the heaves of his little casita’s porch. In the Spring, birds made nests in all the houses. We’d sit on the porch with coffee and cookies to dunk and listen to the baby birds. After Opa was gone, I received the birdhouses.

Today, they hang around my porch.

I think about Opa and what a legacy he left with his birdhouses. He didn’t have social media, no television. Just him in his workshop with his saw and the radio.

One of his birdhouses has a nest this year. I’m excited. This horrid pandemic may have forced me to stay home, but I’m kinda happy to leave the rush and noise to sit on my porch and listen for the baby birds like I did with Opa and Oma.

23 03, 2020

Coronavirus – Crisis, Chaos, and Change

By |2020-03-22T17:31:37-05:00March 23rd, 2020|Make Me Think Monday, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Crisis, chaos, and change are the three components of every major event.

Remember the existential edginess of 9/11? It’s returned.

During that crisis, we hunkered down at home with loved ones close, glued to our televisions, as the world around us changed. Our hearts trembled in fear that day. We survived.

Crisis, along with its bedfellows of chaos and change, happened again during the Colorado wildfires of 2013.

Maybe not everyone, but edginess and uncertainty ruled with mandatory evacuations for us. We piled two cars with our most precious belongings, two dogs, and ourselves. Our home was spared, but our world changed. We survived.

Crisis struck again in 2017 when Harvey dumped torrential waters and once again uncertainty, losses, and dramatic life-changes swirled around us.

Now a pandemic called COVID-19, coronavirus swirls worldwide crisis and chaos.

There’s nothing good about this crisis. Fears are rampant.

No one escapes the chaos of bare grocery store shelves or quarantines, voluntary and mandated. NO toilet paper, really?

As we grope our way along through the chaos, here are six suggestions (paraphrased by me) from Writer Unboxed blog contributor Sarah McCoy.

  • Buy Flowers. Splurge on a bouquet at the store or pick some wildflowers or plant some seeds.
  • Get Outdoors. Self-isolation doesn’t mean we are locked in jail. Isolate yourself with a walk in nature. Drive to a nature trail, if necessary, where there are crowds.
  • A Song. Listen or sing your own. Songs are the medicine of angels, and it will resonate in you for hours… days… however long this quarantine takes.
  • Cook. To create a nutritious, virus-free dish for yourself and your loved ones is a simple recipe for joy.
  • Write A letter. To another person or yourself in a journal. According to the World Health Organization, the coronavirus can only live on paper for 24 hours. Letters sent through USPS take 2-3 days. It’s safe.
  • Read. For a writer like me, that’s a given. It’s my way to escape even when there’s no chaos.

Choose one or all of Ms. McCoy’s suggestions. Doing so requires nothing and will offer great relief from “the toxic fear plaguing us as tenaciously as this microbial foe.”

Take heart in knowing we got through 9/11, wildfires, and floods and so many other crises. We can rest in the assurance this darkness will give way to the light too.

Be safe, dear ones.

Load More Posts
Go to Top