Cherry Blossoms


Cherry Blossoms, a.k.a., Sakura.

The above is our second and shy third cherry blossoms this spring–less one petal. The first blossom fell to the recent cold front that also sent blizzard Stella roaring into the northeast. The weather has warmed. Robins peck about in the yard. Along the fence, buttercups dip and rise with a warm breeze.  Overhead white clouds glide across a light, blue sky. Soon there will be hundreds of cherry blossoms.

The cherry blossom holds a great deal of symbolic significance in Japan. It signifies, among other things, impermanence–the transient nature of life.  Thinking along these lines the other evening, while drinking a glass of wine and watching clouds, I pondered the issue of instant technology as it relates to the lengthy process of writing. I felt quite philosophical at the time. It could have been the wine. Maybe it was the clouds

I’m over halfway done with my novel, but for the past two weeks, I’ve been stuck on a difficult scene. I keep deleting and rewriting. I know. I know. I’m supposed to get it down on paper. Well, screw all that. I couldn’t let this scene go without its being at least half-way right.

Essentially as I write my first draft, I do a good bit of rewriting and indeed, revision. For instance, let’s say I’ve just finished Chapter 15. I realize that Chapter 14 doesn’t ring true. I scroll back and in the most severe case, rewrite the whole chapter, or I might simply revise one or two passages. And then on to Chapter 16. Since this is a first draft, I find myself punching the DELETE key—a lot.

When I have a complete first draft, I print out the whole thing. Then, I edit—with a pencil. Once edited, I return to the computer and type in the marked-up manuscript. Once done I let it sit for a few weeks and allow it to simmer–then I print out the second draft and start over.

This back and forth process can go on for several months, or God forbid, years. The point is, I end up printing out numerous versions. How many copies—versions—do I print? Four, five, six, ten! They pile up like the very tower of Babble, reaching hopelessly to Heaven.

My question is this: With our computer circuitry that operates in nano-seconds, does it take looonger than before the hi-tech revolution to write three pages? Do we use a hundred times more paper?

How does the cherry blossom figure into all this? Beats me. It was pretty.

So, what are your thoughts? Is our belief that technology makes writing go faster an ironic illusion? Without our realizing it, does the computer slow us down?

A Model for a Novel


I’m halfway (50 K) through my novel. Early on I realized the setting—a girls’ summer camp/late spring—was becoming complicated. There were cabins for girls, cabins for counselors, a large meeting hall with a cafeteria, an outdoor stage, trees, gazebos, a parking lot…hedgerows, a house for the groundskeeper—sidewalks. I was losing control. I decided to sketch a map of the place.

The above map worked up to a point, but things started moving about…a life of their own, as it were. Then I started making notes on the map! As the novel progressed the map became more and more important and more and more cluttered. It became clear to me that I needed to move things to a HIGHER LEVEL.

I bought a large white board, a pack of construction paper, glue sticks, balsa wood, dowels, all kinds of stuff. I became a Hobby Lobby freak. At first, I used pieces of cut-out construction paper of various colors, to identify buildings as well as to mark their location and black strips to mark roads and sidewalks, then I cut out circles for trees. I kept it all loose in order to move things about as deemed necessary. Much “deeming” later, I went 3D. OMG!


Silverbridge Summer Camp for Girls

            The cabins were easy to construct—I used pine and miter saw. Painting them was time consuming. The gazebos were the toughest items to construct. I used my scroll saw for the cut-outs. After two or three tries, I had something I liked. I was especially proud of the cupolas. The whole model isn’t built to scale…but things are—more or less—depicted in a relative manner, so it’s not too out of whack. For instance, cars are nothing more than tiny blocks of wood painted various colors. No need to get too realistic.

Materials breakdown:

  • Roads and sidewalks – Corkboard with adhesive backing.
  • Cars – small painted blocks of wood.
  • Trees – dowels and Styrofoam.
  • The grass in the central area – green construction paper.
  • Green cabins for counselors – painted pine.
  • Yellow cabins for girls – painted pine. Four girls to a cabin.
  • Gazebos – painted pine with a balsa wood cupula.
  • Rose bushes – fluff balls. Got them at Hobby Lobby.
  • Green border hedge – square dowels.
  • Main building (red and black) painted pine. Tiny letters from Hobby Lobby.
  • Groundkeeper’s house—painted pine.
  • Boulder next to the flag—a rock I picked up while walking Cody, our black lab.
  • Windows and doors of buildings are construction paper cut-outs and glued on.

Now you may wonder how the writing was going during all of this? Constructing this model while writing its narrative provided an interesting source of depth. On several occasions, each caused revision to the other. I was amazed to literally see the landscape in a 3D aspect as opposed to the imagined. One or two scenes improved because I had a clearer vision of the physical space involved. I could see what my characters see from any vantage point. I used a small clip light to get an idea of the effect of morning sun and shadows. I could turn the whole shebang around and get an evening view…which I did. In short, I’m having a great time with this. Next project: a model of my protagonist’s cabin…why not?

This is the first time I’ve ever done this sort of thing, and it wasn’t planned. So! What are your thoughts? Suggestions? Have you done this sort of thing? Did your model or map, or drawing help you with your novel?  How so?

Just how BIG is a big word?


After a recent discussion on the use or non-use of BIG words in writing, I had to stop and think…what exactly do we mean when we say BIG WORDS? And to what extent is it okay to use these so-called BIG words in our writing?

If one Googles “SAT Vocabulary,” you will get a list of words a student should have mastered by his senior year in high school. Are they big words? For example, is discern a big word? It may not be so big to us bloggers who have been around the vocab track for some years now, but yes, it may be big to a sixteen-year old who reads maybe one book a year, and he’s forced to do that. And yet, discern may not be so big to another sixteen-year old who reads over fifteen books a year or more! But it’s quite possible neither one uses the word in casual conversation, a fact which brings me to an important point.

We all possess different vocabularies for different situations. We have a speaking or working vocabulary. And we have a reading vocabulary, which is usually the larger of the two. Now, I would hazard a guess that most readers out there – such as the young girl who reads novels on her e-reader—does not consult a dictionary, e-wise or paper, whenever she comes across a word she doesn’t know. If she can’t get the meaning via its context, then she just keeps on reading and that’s that. So, where does that leave us: the writers?

I think it means that we can use words with which our readers may not be familiar, but give strong contextual clues to help them out. For instance, my fourteen to eighteen-year old readers may not know the meaning of discern, but I choose to use it in my YA novel, then why not thus:

Without his glasses, Gerald could not recognize the young girl coming through the woods. He tried to visualize her as best he could but it was useless. He could see the shape of her head, the cut of her hair, which was short like his sister’s, and he noted she was thin, but he could not, hard as he tried, discern the features of her face, especially the tell-tale scar.

I think in this example, I give enough contextual clues that a young reader can easily understand the meaning of discern without having to look it up, and in the ideal world, my reader will learn a new word in the process.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

To be or to really be?


Buzzard drying his wings here in Alabama.

It’s been over a month since the election. And during this time I have questioned myself on more than one occasion: What is my responsibility as a writer?

The only answer that makes any sense to me is simply: to write as much as I can. That is all any of us can do—and should do. W.H. Auden was right to say, “Poetry makes nothing happen.” What we write in the late hours of darkness and cloudy days will lie about on lifeless sheets of paper or in flickering electronic digits. It does nothing. But with time and patience and enduring hope, our words will make it past our desks and into the hands of another human.

And who knows? It may be your romance novel that stirs the heart of a young woman to get a job and help her single mom with the bills. It may be your fantasy novel that arrests the young man’s attention just long enough for him to think about the poor family down the street. It may be, dear writer, that what you write may give another person pause to consider the miraculous beauty just beyond the back door of his home—the vast heavens or the single yellow pansy growing at the bottom of the frosted steps.

And thus, out of nothing comes something.


Is there hope? What are your thoughts?


The blog that inspired this comment of mine is Ruminationville: a gated community for the overthinker. If you get a chance, drop by and check out Leslie’s informative and insightful blog at Ruminationville: a gated community for the overthinker



Let’s Get Meta: a look at analogies and why we use them — M. Miles

As I read a novel, I like to collect some of its most evocative phrases and store them in my journal. Leafing through that journal, I’ve noticed that analogies (metaphors, similes, and the like) far outweigh all other types of phrases, which has led me to ponder the allure of the gems that make up […]

via Let’s Get Meta: a look at analogies and why we use them — M. Miles

View from Japan (2)


It’s been a challenging two weeks of walking in Japan so here I am soaking my feet in a public foot bath. They are wonderful!

The trip has been absolutely wonderful. My last post on Japan focused on the places we visited so this time I thought I’d put more pics of folks! First of all one of the things you learn when visiting Japan is that in the busy train stations one lines up on the right of the escalator. This allows anyone who is in a hurry to catch a train to run up on the free side. It’s a good system.


Folks are often in a hurry not because they are late, but because they have little time between trains. Businessmen, a.k.a. salarymen, have to purchase a ticket then run for the train.


If you do find yourself with some free time you can perhaps read. I noticed that many Japanese men and women do just that while waiting and riding the trains and busses.





Speaking of books we visited several bookstores in Tokyo. I was as happy as a puppy in a dog biscuit factory!




If reading leads you to meditate upon the insanity of the world then you can visit as we did the Bonsai Village in Saitama.



The greatest part though of coming to Japan is being with family. Sadako’s family are a remarkable bunch. We never fail to have a great time talking, laughing, enjoying each others’ company. Here’s sister-in-law and our two nieces working together to prepare our meal for the evening.


Here is Masako’s kitchen. It’s a remodel and very nice. The cabinets have self-locking doors in case of an earthquake which in fact DID happen. We had a 7.4 mag earthquake two days ago. We were in Ogane, a small town in Tochigi Prefecture. It was my first earthquake and I still don’t know how to describe the sensation.


Here I am with Sadako’s mother, Masako-san, who happens to be 82 years old. We’re heading out for our morning walk.


And here I am with my dear, sweet wife, Sadako.  She doesn’t like her pictures, but this one she agreed to let me use. We’re in Osaka. Sadako does all the planning and scheduling. I’m constantly amazed at how well she puts these trips together.


We did eat well as well. I’ve gotten to where I can eat and enjoy traditional Japanese dishes. The three things I can’t eat are raw squid (two rubbery), tofu, (zero taste), and natto, (just plain nasty). But I do like sushi!


The above meal was great. I also love Okonomiyaki. see below!


We had the above at Masako-san’s house. It’s delicious. And of course I LOVE noodles, soba and ramen. Below is ramen with a side dish of fried rice.


I hope you enjoyed these pictures. We have had a terrific time and tomorrow we catch the ride home! So here’s a final pic. I don’t know who this woman is but she is a perfect example of the fact that you’re never too old to have fun!



Views from Japan!


Looking out a window of the Adachi Museum at the Adachi Garden. The idea being that art need not be contained in a frame and displayed on a wall.


Matsue castle. Not a large castle as castles go, but very impressive architecture all the same.


Shikansen, aka bullet train. They are definitely fast and extremely comfortable.

dsc_9654Local train, not as fast as Shikansen, but a lot of fun.

dsc_9759Temple garden in Kyoto.

dsc_9828Japanese maple


dsc_9816A temple view from a tatami room.

dsc_9601Koi in a temple pond.

img_4554Ugly me!

dsc_0286-2A kite, much bigger than our red-tail hawk. Very impressive bird. Their favorite prey is fish. This fellow is soaring over the Sea of Japan.

img_4223Moon rise over the Sea of Japan. This moon was a particularly large moon due to the closeness of earth to our dear orbiting partner.

dsc_0250Elementary school children posing for a picture before they take off for a field trip. I’m standing to the side, hence a few of them are smiling my way. I love it!

dsc_0311Mt. Fuji. It is as beautiful as it looks!

dsc_0315One more time. Notice the reddish tint. It actually goes a bit red with the sunset. I nearly stopped breathing. Hokusai, a great nineteenth century Japanese artist, is famous for painting a red Fuji in a series of paintings: One hundred views of Mt. Fuji.


Well that’s all for the moment. We’ve been here for a week and we’ll be here for another week…having fun with family and friends. We’re in Fuji, Japan now and the two pics above were taken from our room’s balcony. It’s around 10:30 p.m. and in the past hour or so, Fuji-san has come into view from the rising moon. Sadako and I have our wine ready for a great moon viewing with Mt. Fuji.