Monday, March 23, 2015

Warrior Writing: Strategic Change

"Act like a man of thought. Think like a man of action." Thomas Mann

Recently I had the awesome experience of attending New York Times bestselling author Bob Mayer's "Warrior Writing" workshop.

I learned several valuable lessons, but the most important one for me focused on change.

What holds you back? YOU! And you can change you. According to Bob, if you aren't where you want to be, you must change. We've all come to a crossroads when we realize that in order to make something happen in our careers, some type of change must occur.

We may not like the change. We'll struggle with it, and perhaps deny that we have to change at all. Then we'll experience anger as we realize that the change is for the best. We'll bargain with ourselves about the best way to change, hoping there will be an easy way, then become depressed when reality says easy isn't best. If we're wise, we'll accept the change and work hard for it.

Change isn't just thinking differently, although this is the first step. And think about this: To make is externally motivated. To become is internally motivated. The successful become.

All of us can change. But we need to show change, not just talk about it. And change requires three things to happen:

  • A Moment of Enlightenment
  • Making a Decision
  • Implementing a Sustained Action
The five stages of change include:
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance
Moment of Enlightenment (MOE): This happens when you experience something never experienced before. Or, when you experience something you have experienced, but it affects you differently than ever before. Think light bulb going on above head.
By itself, the MOE is not change, just a mementary awareness. Denial often blocks MOEs. Anger stops MOEs when it is actually an indicator of an MOE. And bargaining dilutes MOEs.
Decision: Because of the Moment of Enlightenment, a decision is made. But it may not be a good decision. So you're either stuck with the decision (externally imposed change) or you stick with the decision (internally motivated change). By itself, a decision isn't change, but just a fleeting commitment. Bargaining can dilute a decision, and depression can cause you to give up a decision all together.
Sustained Action: Because of the decision, behavior is changed. The changed behavior is sustained long enough to become a habit. In the military, this is called training. Sustained action leads to change. Sliding back on the five stages of change stops this. Acceptance isn't easy because your reality has changed!
Time to expand your comfort zone, by going into your courage zone. Courage is needed on the path to changing you and developing your self confidence!
As mentioned earlier, Bob's workshop was awesome! It was also inspiring and encouraging! Be sure to check out Bob's "Who Dares Wins" homepage at http://www.bobmayer.org/ so you can become a warrior writer!

Are you ready for change?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Reprinted from 6-15-10.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Ina Ray Hutton: Soulful Siren of Swing

Before Madonna and before Beyonce, there was Ina Ray Hutton! Never heard of her? Neither had I until I stumbled across her on the Internet.

Ina Ray Hutton (March 13, 1916 – February 19, 1984) was an American female band leader during the Big Band era of the 1930s and '40's.  She was also the sister of band singer June Hutton.  

Beautiful and talented, Ina Ray carried a secret to her grave.  But before we discuss that, a little biographical info from Wikipedia follows below.

Ina Ray Hutton began dancing and singing in stage revues at the age of eight and attended Hyde Park High School on the South Side of Chicago. In the 1930s she appeared on Broadway in George White's Scandals and The Ziegfeld Follies.

In 1934 she was asked by a vaudeville agent to lead an all-girl orchestra, the Melodears.  Hutton and her Melodears were one of the first all-girl bands to be filmed for Paramount shorts including Accent on Girls and Swing Hutton Swing and Hollywood feature films. 

Although the group disbanded in 1939, in 1940 Hutton led an all-male orchestra that was featured in the film Even Since Venus (1944); it was disbanded in 1946. During the 1950s, she returned to the all-girl format for variety television programs including the Ina Ray Hutton Show for a local station on the West Coast. 

Here's the secret to her story:  Her parents were identified as "negro" or "mulatto" by census takers. According to Blackpast.org.:

Hutton was born Odessa Cowan at her parents' home in Chicago on March 13, 1916.  Her mother, Marvel (Williams) Cowan, was a newlywed housewife, married to Odie Cowan, a salesman.  By the time Odessa was three years old, she and her mother were living with her maternal grandmother, and her step-grandfather, a dining car waiter for a railroad.  That year, Odessa’s sister, June, was born at home.  When the census taker arrived a few months later, their father was not recorded as a resident of the family home.

Odessa and June grew up among black neighbors on Chicago’s South Side.  Their mother played piano in dance halls and hotel ballrooms.  Odessa studied dance with a prominent black teacher and choreographer, Hazel Thompson Davis.  The Cowans' hometown black newspaper, The Chicago Defender, first wrote glowingly of Odessa’s performances when she was seven.  But the next year, despite the fact that she had the same South Side address into her teens, mentions of Odessa Cowan in the Defender disappeared.  By some accounts, that was the year she was “discovered” by a white vaudeville producer.

When watching Hutton perform to the segregated audiences of the day, she's quite soulful and jazzy, almost with an attitude of I'm pulling one over on you--I'm getting away with it--and I'm laughing all the way to the bank! Good for her!  Here she is performing Truckin' and Suzy Q.  Enjoy the show!

Had you ever heard of Ina Ray Hutton?  Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Reprinted from 7/22/13.

Monday, March 9, 2015

How Much Sex is Too Much Sex in a Romance Novel?

Adam and Eve
"I like restraint, if it doesn't go too far." Mae West

Apparently, the sky is the limit on this topic! Like stove top burners, from low to medium low, all the way up to high, romance novels have different heat levels for varying degrees of tastes. From clean and pure inspirationals to erotica so steamy it singes the eyebrows, there's a temperature level that's just right for everyone.

I love lots of romance and passion between a committed couple (that stops before "the act"). And the best lovemaking scenes (in my opinion) are between a married couple. These can be hot and steamy, but lead to a closed bedroom door. Then imagination can take over from there.

In discussing this issue with a writer, I mentioned the types of books I'd like to write. For some lines, she told me to check the guidelines carefully. "You can't mention the word "breast" in a sexual way, and affection even between married couples can't be that explicit.

That's not fun I thought. "I can respect those guidelines," I said, "but if I were reading one of those books, I'd think the husband was having an affair, since he didn't look at his wife lustfully and only showed her sisterly affection."

"Check the guidelines," the writer said, "and before you jump to conclusions, read a few."

I decided to take a look the Song of Songs first, which focuses on the spontaneous and exclusive love between a man and a woman. From chapter 7 versus 6-10 I read the following:

Lover (Man)
How beautiful you are and how pleasing. O love, with your delights! Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit. I said, "I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit." May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine.

Beloved (Woman)
May the wine go straight to my lover, flowing gently over lips and teeth. I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.

That sounds pretty sensual! According to the Oxford Companion to the Bible, some scholars suggest that the Song was a collection of songs assembled as a repertoire for wedding celebrations. And it appears to me that the Beloved here is certainly having more fun than that poor wife with the unseen breasts who's only shown sisterly affection by her husband!

What are your thoughts?

Have a great week, and thanks for stopping by!

Monday, March 2, 2015

"Meatloaf just doesn't get any respect. It never has been able to rise above the rank of  'home cooked meal.'"  From Once a Chef

Although I love exotic, spicy cuisines, I also enjoy comfort food! Remember all those wonderful meals your mom used to make back in the day?

When I was a kid, I hated meatloaf! But now I love it, I guess because it reminds me of the good old days--the days when I wasn't doing the cooking!

I have several meatloaf recipes, but this one, from The Cincinnati Enquirer, is a favorite! It's quick, easy to prep, cheap, and really delicious! Hope you like it!

Barbecue Meatloaf 

1/2 cup chopped onion
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup plus 2 T BBQ sauce, divided
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t Dijon mustard (or regular mustard)
1 t minced garlic
1/2 t dried thyme

Heat oven to 350.  Microwave onion 1 minute on high. Combine cooked onion, turkey, beef, crumbs, 1/2 cup BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic and thyme. Mix. Spoon into 9x4 inch loaf pan. Brush with remaining BBQ sauce. Bake 50-60 minutes. Cover and let stand 10 minutes. Slice and serve. Makes 10 slices.

What's your favorite meatloaf?

Have a great week, and thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 23, 2015

As a Writer, Are You a Poet, Too?

Oscar Wilde
"All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling." Oscar Wilde

I am not a poet, not even a bad one! Some have a natural flair. A friend who used to be in my writing class often brought poetry to share--really beautiful poetry. She could take an episode from her work as a nurse, or a sight she'd seen on vacation, or even a dead deer she'd come across in the park, and create something breathtaking.

My husband, with a statistics and engineering background, also writes beautiful poetry.  When we were dating, he wrote some gorgeous pieces for me!  I know what you're thinking--he was on his best behavior and just trying to impress me. So? It worked! And I know you're wondering when the last time was that he wrote me something. Okay, it must've been 19...well, I can't remember. But he has helped me write poetry!

I'd written a scene involving two wealthy ladies (in the American south of 1936) who are discussing the work of a nationally acclaimed southern poet who'll be doing a reading in their town that afternoon.  Even though this gentlemen writes love poems that practically make women swoon, he's gay.

This poet of my imagination is Bennett Stuart. I'd come up with a sappy sweet title of an anthology, but my writing class suggested that one of the ladies recite a poem, one that sounded pretty awful for comic relief.

Of course that meant I'd have to write something--NOT! Remember, I can't even write bad poetry!  After struggling for far too long and only producing two lines, I asked Mr. McKenzie for help.  After explaining the time period, circumstances, and that it needed to be bad, my wonderful husband wrote the perfect poem. And it only took him a mere 15 minutes.

If you want a good laugh, the finished product is posted below!

Are you a natural poet?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

"Smitten" by Mr. McKenzie, writing as the fictional Bennett Stuart (bad poet) from his poetry anthology (of my imagination), Love's Passionate Bliss

My dearest, oh one of wonderment

I am assuredly smitten.

Admittedly so, I can think

of nothing but your gaze.

Though others hope of golden coins,

be they but hard and cold,

you, my love, my dearest one,

‘tis you that are soft and warm.

My mind is of feathers, floating,

fluttering back to you and your golden hair.

My dearest, my grandest wish is for you

to call me your lover, your beau.

You have captured my heart.

My thoughts are a plenty, full of you,

rather than grits, greens or red eye gravy.

Though you’ve warmed my tummy, too,

you’ve mostly warmed my heart.