Story Characters

I’m often asked about the characters in my novel and how I got the ideas for them. Some even wonder if they depict my family members, or maybe even me. “No” and “No.”

The answer to the question concerning where I got the ideas for my characters is, “People watching.” I have always found people interesting and discovered that, based on appearance, their demeanor and actions are often predictable. I people watch at the mall, the grocery store, the airport, in restaurants, and even in church. (For shame!)

I-70 between Kansas City and Colorado is a highway I travel quite often, and this was the highway I again traveled after a wonderful Thanksgiving with family. There are few opportunities to people watch along this highway. One sees lots of cows in pastures, windblown tumbleweeds rolling across the highway, grain elevators, rusty tractors, and prairie land ad infinitum. I find myself anticipating the signs that tick down the miles to Colby, Kansas. The “Oasis” is located there, a huge travel center with junk food, drinks, restrooms, gifts, a Mr. Goodcents, and, yes, a Starbucks – truly an escape from hours of boredom. Around two in the afternoon on our day of travel, we arrived there to join many other travel-weary people.

The break was short. With candy bars, Starbucks, and a fair amount of dread, I returned with Hubby to our car. While Hubby rearranged some things in back, I had my first opportunity of the day to people watch. I was not disappointed. A young woman, carrying a child, came running along the walkway toward the automatic door. I guessed the child was around two-years-old. Close behind, two children who looked to be maybe four and eight, were attempting to keep up with the lady.
As they arrived in front of our car, the mom stopped. This meant the children also stopped. Totally oblivious of the fact that she might be in someone’s view, Mom pulled a nightgown that was sliding toward her sneaker-clad feet up and underneath her winter jacket and secured it there. It was then that I became aware they were all dressed for bed. The older child and the mom were the only ones with jackets. The little guys wore pajamas and sneakers to fend off the cold.

Being the nice person I am, I did not pick up my cell phone and snap a picture. But I do think I feel a story coming on.


Fall Furlough

Seeing the announcement of a “furlough” this Thursday and Friday on the message board of our local high school left me scratching my head. Traditionally, furloughs save money for someone, since furlough days need not be paid days. For college students this means that they receive less education for the same amount of money. However, since public school students do not pay tuition, this could only mean that teachers are not paid for the days off. “Boo!”
I suspect salaries were not taken into consideration at all when replacing the word “Thanksgiving” with “furlough.” In our secular culture, it is more likely that the intention is to ignore the purpose of the holiday we will celebrate, giving thanks to God for our blessings. Double “Boo! “
Each presidential Thanksgiving proclamation is different, but I feel that President Washington’s proclamation in 1789 best expresses the purpose of the day.
George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation 
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. 

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

*Proclamation from Wilstar.com
Clipart from: http://www.pamsclipart.com/clipart_images/a_cornucopia_with_a_happy_thanksgiving_message_0515-0910-1217-2817.html


How Does He Do That?

I read the other day about a modern-day superman. This gentleman, a doctor at a major New York City hospital, finds time in his schedule to write fiction (for which he has won awards), non-fiction, and stage plays, teach writer’s workshops, and lecture at a university. In addition to the M.D. behind his name, he has earned master’s degrees in European History, Philosophy and U.S. History, Bioethics, and Fine Arts. He also has a law degree and is licensed to practice in two states.

All of this 39-year-old’s degrees were earned at prestigious American universities: Brown University, Columbia University, Albany Medical College, New York University, and Harvard Law School. Since these noteworthy achievements apparently were not enough, he became a licensed New York City sightseeing guide.

This blog started out with a question, “How does he do that?” and it ends with a question, “What does one do when depressed?”

Information source: Writer’s Digest, November/December 2012



Since Hurricane Sandy struck NYC and New Jersey last week, I’ve been reading up on U.S. hurricanes. A Google search led me to Wikipedia, then multiple links on that site led to much information about the history of U.S. hurricanes.

A hurricane on Labor Day in 1935 was the most intense hurricane ever to make landfall in our country. Close to 400 people were killed in that hurricane. Even though this was the most intense hurricane with relationship to force, more lives were lost in other early twentieth century hurricanes. In 1900, a Category 4 hurricane hit Galveston, Texas. The official death toll from that hurricane was 8,000 (though the actual number is uncertain, with estimates ranging from 6,000 to 12,000). In the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane, 2,500 people died in South Florida when a storm surge breached the dike surrounding the lake. Flooding covered hundreds of square miles. The earliest recorded U.S. hurricane occurred in 1871. Who knew that climate change was in play so many years ago?

The charts I found on hurricane activity indicate that hurricanes occur in cycles. For the sake of those who live on the coastal areas of our country, I hope the current cycle is over very soon.

Destruction caused by the 1900 Galveston, Texas, hurricane.*

*Postcard picture from FamilyOldPhotos.com