Searching for Primary Documents – The obsession with World War I

all-quiet-on-the-western-front-2As I begin the task of constructing my Master’s Thesis, I have found myself occupied with the search for World War I primary documents. I was happy to find a collection of 88 letters and assorted other materials from Ohio. Waiting to get them in the mail is hard: I’m impatient sometimes. Putting together the chapters and researching is going to be a great joy. This subject is near and dear to my heart.

Memory and commemoration of those who served and died in war, and the ways that people on the home front dealt with healing and piecing together their lives during this period is particularly interesting to me. The type of trauma associated with this war appears to be entirely different from any other war before it. This is what I’m discussing in my thesis. If anyone out there has a collection of letters from either the first or second war, and would be willing to let this graduate student have a moment with studying them, I would love to hear from you. I’m on a quest to discover something that’s never been discovered before. Guess that’s why I’m so obsessed with letters and memory.

The ending to the first semester of Graduate School.

WolfIf anyone told me twenty years ago that I would be attending graduate school in my late forties, and at Clemson University, I probably would have looked at them strange. Higher education is something you must be committed too, and ten or fifteen years ago, I didn’t understand that kind of commitment.

It’s taken me awhile to get here. Many ups and downs, lessons learned the hard way and so forth. The past five years, I’ve learned a lot about myself and about others. And now that I’ve finished up the first semester of grad school, I’ve learned some additional things about commitment. Graduate school isn’t easy. There’s a lot of reading, and your writing skills must be honed to perfection, especially when you need to crank out sever 25 page papers in a semester and the research that goes with it.

I also thought I had a clear picture of what I wanted to do for my thesis, but I found after writing a paper on World War I, that I’m changing from the era of the French Revolution to this time period. I watched a film called “My Boy Jack,” which was based off the story surrounding Jack Kipling, Rudyard Kipling’s son, and his death in World War I. (If you haven’t seen the movie, I suggest you do.) The emotion from the film stayed with me for several days. I couldn’t shake it. It was if a million voices of the lost generation called out to me, and I found myself committed to a topic that caught not only my imagination, but my emotions. I guess that’s what fuels commitment, deep and unfathomable emotion. It’s too bad we don’t incorporate that into everyday life. Perhaps the people who are most important to us would feel better appreciated, and understand our love.

The ending to this year is bringing some changes to me. I don’t know if anyone else sees them, but I know they are there. I sense these changes, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you have a wonderful 2014!

Help! How do I Name my Characters in a Young Adult Fantasy Story?

May 6th, 2011 @ 23:14:38When I was creating the series of Legends of Green Isle, one of the biggest obstacles I came across was naming characters. I didn’t want them to sound silly. (I could see them frowning at times when I posed a name that was reminiscent of a comic book hero).

Fantasy characters like my dragons, elves, fairies and the like were dependent upon me to get something that was easy to say.  As a youngster I’ve read many fantasy books with long character names that seemed unpronounceable, and it would confuse and frustrate me to no end because I just ended up nicknaming the book’s character.  I’m sure that it took away from the character’s ‘soul’ and depth, not knowing the true pronunciation of its name, and the writer’s extension of that character. I didn’t want any of my readers to feel the same emotion I did.

Most of my Earthly characters have names which are old family names. My grandmother on my mom’s side passed away during the first beginnings of Legends of Green Isle and out of respect for her, the last names are from her heritage.  One character who shows up briefly has her given name (Martha Gay). Green Isle characters were a different story.  They were the fantasy characters, and thus needed other worldly names.

You may not believe this, but sometimes they just gave me their name. Take for instance, Lamfada, the leprechaun who forged the Sword of Balorn.  He actually had a different name before this one.  It didn’t read well with the story though, and he knew it.  One day, while proof reading, I could hear the Irish tilt of his scorn as the name Lamfada popped into my head; “don’t ye think that ya be namin’ me some fruity name with this one wee lass? Why don’t ya try Lamfada? That be my name and I’m stickin’ to it!”

Some names were derived from research I did on the Scottish and Irish folklore, and delving into the mythology of Atlantis. Elvish names were a little difficult.  I hunted around the web looking for some help with this one.  One website I found, included several tables of prefixes and suffixes of elf names.  I was able to create things which had some meaning for the elf characters and elf places within the book.  I also used some of the names for the Nuada Findi people and the Shadow people of Murias Donn (Druids). You can find these tables HERE.

All in all, I would suggest reading your story out loud to yourself.  Listen to your characters’ voices. (If you’re like me, they are always up there in the attic of your mind hanging around waiting for the next scene.) Does the name fit their personality? Does their name amplify or take away from who they are in the story? Is their name something the readers will be able to pronounce when reading?  Getting the right names are important.  They help create a believable story  around the characters themself.

Happy writing all!  Enjoy some time in your imagination today.

Feeling your characters’ emotions: Writing a great Young Adult story.

fantasy_elvin_country_017009_If there is one thing I could suggest to people who want to be great writers, I would say, “feel your characters’ emotions.”

Everyone can tell a good joke, but there are just some people who are better at it than others. It’s usually the individuals who are able to convey emotion along with their words that can get the punchline out there in a perfect way. Being able to feel your characters’ emotions doesn’t come easy, and like telling a great joke, you’ve got to “feel” it in order to write it and make those who are your audience “feel” it too.

When I was writing the first book in the series, I think I was more intent to get the base story down for the others in the series, that I forgot to connect with my characters. Book two is written entirely different. I wanted to explore and open up for the readers the persona of these people who were running around Green isle, saving that world and Earth. Each chapter is written from the viewpoint of a different character, allowing the reader to see into the emotion and thought processes of several key players. In one of the chapters, I found myself so intertwined with this little guy, Ned Neely, that I started crying along with him at a pivot point in the story. I connected with him, and the others in Book Two, “The Mirror Sliver.” Finding this emotion connection has also brought a deeper clarity of where I want the story line to go.

So happy writing all, and don’t forget, your characters are just as alive as you want them to be.

Do you Live to Work or Work to Live?

fantasy-landscape-1920x1200As I pondered upon grad school this morning, I kept hearing these words in my head; “do you live to work or work to live?” I couldn’t tell you why I was hearing them, they were just there. I kept wondering what this had to do with grad school.  But I answered my own question by looking back at my life.  15 years ago, I lived to work.  I made 6 figures, took the kids on two week vacations, had three cars in the garage, but I can honestly say I wasn’t happy. I bought things to fill an empty hole in my soul. I was an empty materialistic person who worked six days a week. I basically was living my work.

After many unfortunate episodes in my personal life, I found myself out here in the mountains of North Georgia. I was put in a rural community where life is sometimes difficult, and you learn to appreciate going out to dinner because you may not have the money to do it again for another two months. Being here has reversed my perspective on life and now I work to live.  Basically I go to work to have money to buy food and shelter, and I’m happier than I was before.

I can hear people groaning - but its better for me.  I’ve left behind materialism. I don’t have a big house, my cars aren’t new, I shop in thrift stores, I budget for food, I garden for food, harvest fruit to make jellies, live simply and enjoy the scenery.  I think the only time I’ve been remotely stressed has been through undergraduate work, and that was at test time and student teaching when I was working for free. My children grew up here and I know they hated it because the nearest Wal-mart was 30 minutes away and we didn’t have any big shopping malls nearby, but the small community was good for them. Our entertainment was fireflies, taking walks in the woods, the lake and our friends.

I guess I was pondering this because of grad school and my love for history. A long time ago, people did just work to live. They didn’t have credit cards and they paid cash for the things they needed, and if they didn’t need it, more than likely they wouldn’t have bought it. At what point in our history did we fall from that? My boss and I were talking about it the other day, and he said he could remember when he could work 40 hours a week and make all his bills. Side jobs were a thing to have if you needed to buy a big item or pay off a small debt, and you saved money for a rainy day. Now days people are working 12-16 hours a day, at two to three jobs just to maintain their credit card debt, large homes, expensive vacations, big cars, new designer clothes, etc. and they don’t save.  At what point in our history did we become a culture that lives to work?

Heading to Grad School – What’s happening with you?

Don't think too much!Well it’s about that time – heading to Clemson for graduate school in August and I’m excited, yet a little apprehensive.  I remember when I took the GRE a year ago, and how I felt when my scores came in.  I didn’t know if they were good enough, and that made me a little fearful.  How do you know if going to Grad school is for you? That’s a question I asked myself over and over again, especially since I’m older than many of those who are going to be attending with me this fall.  I had a social networking friend contact me with this interactive website that answered some of the basic questions and helped me along the decision making process, and it was fun and made me laugh.  I thought I would share it with you guys who are thinking about taking that big step towards higher education.

As Celine said it’s “an interactive and light-hearted adventure book that helps students decide if they should pursue grad school.” Here is the web address.

I emailed her back and told her that I choose ‘Unicorns and Rainbows.’  And if you’re wondering what the heck that means, you need to go there and find out! :)