BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS

A few days ago, I drove to work in my usual morning stupor only to be stopped abruptly by a line of cars. The gates were down and the train horn was very loud. It is always frustrating when that train comes and backs up traffic past the light at Dillon Rd. and 95th. All the drivers were anticipating a long wait as usual. People had turned off their cars and were already messing with their phones (which I still do not understand why a person is so worried about the next Tweet, Facebook post or Instagram that early in the morning – but that is another story). We heard the long whistle blow its eerie wail. When the train passed the trees and went through the gated intersection, there were only two engines, front to back. That was it. There was no middle – no miles and miles of boxcars, oil tankers, or flats stacked two high with truck trailers – and definitely no caboose. There were only the two engines chugging along. The wait was definitely shorter than we anticipated.

This brought me to ponder a writing analogy and the ensuing life lessons:

  1.  Beginnings always seem to be strong for trains (and writing and love).

The powerful engines have to be stacked heads to tails, sometimes more than two of them to pull their load. So, what was going on with only the two solitary engines with no cars attached?

Locomotives (“engines”) are designed to be ‘lashed up’ so that multiple engines can be controlled by the engineer in the first cab, and used to pull a chain of rail cars (a “consist”) regardless of whether the cars are passenger, freight or anything else.

In writing, beginnings have to be powerful and quick. Otherwise, no one would buy the book! When you begin a story, you are excited about the adventure, about filling the blank pages with a beautiful tale of love, excitement, danger and adventure. You want to express who you are through the characters you write. You know no boundaries, and the adventure unfolds. Sometimes there are two beginnings and two endings. Sometimes there are two tales to tell. Your story is like the cars and their contents following the engines, chugging along the dedicated path.

How many engines needed depends on the interaction between how much of a load you need to pull, and what the grade is up which you need to pull it. If you’re taking a train over the Rockies on a steep grade, you might require a helper engine to be added to even a short train. A long, heavy freight train on a steep grade can require eight engines—or even more! Therefore, the second locomotive supplies power. You add the number of locomotives required to ensure there is enough pulling power. On very long trains, say > 100 cars, a locomotive can be placed in the middle of the train. This is called distributed power. The middle locomotive is controlled from the cab of the first locomotive and add power or braking to manage the in-train forces, called buff and draft forces. One other common reason that trains have two engines, often with one pointing in the opposite direction of the other (and thus running “backwards”) is that it eliminates the need to ever turn the engines around before hooking up to another train because you can run the set of engines in either direction and have an engine pointing forward. On freight trains it’s about overcoming the inertia of the load and then keeping it rolling and then stopping.

Characters are the engines – how many depends on the power of the story and the uphill climb of the saga. The main character can have one sidekick or several depending on what is transpiring in the story line. Sidekicks may be almost as powerful as the main character. As the story unfolds, each character contributes more and more and the group has a powerful impact on the ending. The characters may seem at odds – one headed forward and another headed backwards. The story weaves and provides its own inertia, keeping the movement forward with no sliding backwards, slowly rolling to a stop when it is time.

The locomotive provides so much horsepower to pull trailing tons. The more freight trailing tons you will need more locomotives. The lead locomotive is the controlling locomotive. When you raise the throttle all locomotives also raise or vice versa. The couplers which join the individual freight car can only handle so much pull. When a train is going uphill many times you need to take off some of this pull on the coupler or it will break. The way you alleviate some of this pull Is to have locomotives push from the back of the train or in the middle of the train. In the old days each of these “helper” pushers had a separate train crew than the head unit. The head unit crew consists of a locomotive engineer and conductor. On the “helper” pusher the crew consists of a locomotive engineer, and a lookout (this is a fancy name for brake man).

The writer is the lead locomotive and is the conductor of the story – the horsepower that controls the story. She helps the characters push uphill and tries not to break the couplings along the way. Her main character is the engineer with her helper crew, with a lookout (brake man) to keep the main character on tract.

     2.  Why is the middle sometimes so brief?

What is that train doing? Ferrying an engine to another location to pick up the middle cars? Where is the substance of the train? One can only assume that the railroad companies have to move the engines around and connect them up to other engines for a heavy load. We can always expect a long train when moving freight over the Rocky Mountains of Colorado – a long treacherous and arduous route.

A writer always has to look out for the middle of the story. Beginnings and endings seem to go very fast, the two main engines back to back. She has to constantly look at the substance of the book. As a writer, I struggle with getting the message across without beating people over the head. I try to bring a balance to the middle and give a deeper meaning to every character and every scene. Some writers are extraordinary with brevity. Others fail in giving too few details. What I learn to do a little better each time is all in the details – giving enough to describe a scene but not overwhelm the reader. I am learning to give meaning to each character and event with less verbiage.

  1. Why is there no end to the train? Why are there no cabooses?

As children, we anticipated the end of the train with pleasure, running along and waving at the engineer as he blew the whistle and waved at us as he passed. We knew that he was the lookout or brakeman – maybe even more important than the driver – the engineer. He would let them know if there were any problems along the way. He had an important position. I’m sure we can explain this away with all of the new technology and automation, but it was a sad day when the caboose – and thus the operator – went away in the 1980s. It was an end of an era.

Many books give up before the end. There are fewer and fewer spectacular endings, only references to the next sequel. Endings of books should wrap the story up. It’s what we grew up with: fantastic drama and action. All books should have an abundance of action and drama and page-turning excitement. There should be resolution and hope. There should always be a spectacular ending, even if a sequel follows.

Taking a life lesson from a train, I want to continue to inspire others and give the reader hope for a better world, hope that we can survive no matter what gets thrown our way – hope to achieve lifelong dreams. I want to continue to make a difference, no matter how small. I’m not giving up and you shouldn’t either. As I begin to accept my senior status, allow myself to grow into that skin, I refuse to just get by until I die. I have hope every day that my contribution will make a change in the way we all think and live. I have had a great beginning, am living the life I chose in the middle with a bunch of great co-workers, and am striving for that spectacular ending no matter when it comes.

Happy Holidays everyone from me to you. Enjoy your loved ones and continue to read, hope and dream!

For more information about the contents of my train analogy, please go to:

https://www.quora.com/Why-do-some-trains-have-two-engines

 

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GIFTS OF THE SEASON

You know it’s the holiday season when they advertise the Clapper and Chia Pets on TV. For all of you Bob Ross fans, they actually have a Bob Ross Chia Pet! So cool! I wonder what he would have thought about it if he were alive today. He always seemed so shy, with his happy trees.

Inexpensive gifts are hard to find. Each year I struggle to find things that are useful, interesting, won’t break the first time they are used, and hopefully, something the person will enjoy. I craft and bake, but there is always something knew that my kid wants. And, with a tight income this year, it’s hard to know if you got the right thing. It’s something you think he wants, but it is also something you can afford so it is not as big as what his friends get. Each year is a challenge. I only hope that he is grateful for what we give him every day.

This year I remind myself that it will all work out in the end, that he lives in a great little town, has a warm and cozy home to live in, food in his belly, clothing and shoes on his body and a great school to attend. That is the best I can do for him at this moment. Happy holidays and enjoy the little things every day.

 

 

 

 

 

SNOW AND GRADUATION-2017

It rained, it hailed and finally it snowed. Mother’s Day weekend was amazing, we began planting our flowers, and some of us even started our vegetable gardens. We were so anxious to get things happening. The storms had passed, right? It was 80 degrees and we were ready! Every year we go through this. We should have known. The rain began to fall and then it hailed big, big hail! As the temperature dropped, it snowed, and snowed, and snowed—that thick heavy spring super-wet snow we get in Colorado. Plants were smothered. Rose branches broke, and trees snapped, some into the roadways. By Thursday, people were cancelling their park shelter rentals for their big graduation parties outdoors. Everything and everyone moved inside.

Yesterday, the sun came out, melting away so much of the snow, but the trees are damaged and our plantings have died. Sad, but true. Nevertheless, it was also a happy time because my friend, neighbor and mentor introduced me to the Bloomin’ Seniors. I participated in the annual plant sale. This was my first year that I was involved, and it was a wild chaotic mess at the beginning, setting up for the sale, just as it was when we planted the seedlings. But truthfully, it all worked out. We were quite organized by the end of it and it was a loving adventure, coming together to raise money for the next year of planting.

We had planted all of the seedlings a few months ago and many people tended to them during the course of their development. Lots of love was given to these tiny plants and with everyone’s help, they matured. When they got too big, we transplanted them into bigger pots. Many of us also started seeds in our greenhouses and thus, we pulled it together and had a spectacular sale. Now all of Louisville gets to share in our tomatoes, peppers, herbs, zucchini and cucumbers, for only $1 or $2. I’ve learned a few things from these amazing master gardeners.

Today, I’m moving on with my life. I’m grateful for a new purpose in life, my new group of compatriots in the fight to keep things alive. I’m grateful for my new job and all the men and women who keep the plants alive during this crazy weather of spring and early summer. They are the ones behind the scenes, who go out and cover everything with plastic on those rainy/snowy days, and the ones who have to tend to the trees after this devastation. I am a part of something bigger. I have a nurturing environment to live in where I can learn new things. It helps in my creativity, the writing coming alive after a few months of down time. I am getting close to publishing Frankie & Jamie, the second short story in the Silver Rangers mini-series.

It really is mind-boggling, the stuff we nerds dig, literally and figuratively.

And, even though I am sad that my neighbor and mentor is moving after living in Colorado for thirty-two years, I am helping to create new mentors, ones where we learn together. I will miss her, but just as the young graduates are moving on to a new future, I am moving on as well. Happy Graduation everyone! Do good things. Do epic. Be brave!

IS A CULTURED LIFE WORTH PURSUING? (Spring Break Reading)

Shameless Advertising:  Have you bought your books yet for Spring Break? Go to Drusilla Tieben on Amazon.com and look for Silver Element, Silver Storm and Buck Jones. I promise a great escape if you buy them! And, if you’re ever in Colorado I’ll autograph them for you. (Also available in eBook – don’t know how to autograph those, however.)

Here is something I have been pondering of late:

Apparently, I do not belong amongst the ranks of cultured people. Recently, I saw this great list from a UK site and wanted to reflect on what they listed for being a cultured person. Here is the list. (The ensuing comments are all mine):

SO WHAT EXACTLY MAKES YOU CULTURED? THE LIST IN FULL

  1. Go to the theatre This one is tough. However, I have been to a few shows at the Arvada Center.
  2. Can recognize paintings/art Yes, and I did take one Art History class in college (almost flunked it but I got through).
  3. Visit local heritage sites Does the Louisville, CO Heritage/Miner’s Museum count? (Seriously, I have been to many of these in many different states.)
  4. Listen to classical music  Truthfully, not much.
  5. Go to the ballet  – Well, does the Nutcracker count from one Christmas, a long time ago?
  6. Know what wine goes with what  – Not at all. Didn’t even try since I don’t even like it.
  7. Don’t skip the news when it’s on TV  – Are you kidding? With people so crazy out there. Not going to do it, nope, nada.
  8. Watch documentaries  – Sometimes if they are interesting and are on BBC or Nat. Geo, or HBO.
  9. Can read music – Southern Expression: Used to could…. My son can so I’m set.
  10. Take an avid interest in politics  – Only local stuff anymore. Not interested in the crazies right now.
  11. Read daily newspapers  – I leave this one up to my senior neighbors.
  12. Take countryside walks – I grew up in the country so I did this for many years. Now there’s open space! Yeah, this is a good one!
  13. Read a book before bed – Avid reader, yes, yes, yes! (And before breakfast, during lunch and any other times….)
  14. Choose city breaks over beach holidays – Nope. I’ll take a vacation in Hawaii anytime over cities….
  15. Watch Question Time  – I’m sorry I don’t know what this means….  My kid questions me about everything. Does that count? —-OK I looked it up. It is a UK thing: http://www.parliament.uk › About Parliament › How Parliament works › Daily business Question Time is an opportunity for MPs and Members of the House of Lords to question government ministers about matters for which they are responsible. These questions are asked at the start of business in both chambers and are known as ‘oral questions‘. We may have something similar but I haven’t found it….
  16. Host dinner parties  – Only happens with other kid’s friends’ parents and very seldom.
  17. Know about cheese – I was allergic to dairy for so many years. Today I like cheddar and Swiss, does that count? (Don’t go to any fancy cheese shops, though, can’t afford it – we’re saving money for college.)
  18. Enjoy crosswords or Sudoku – Nope. Does Solitare count?
  19. Go to vintage markets – I left this up to people who live in Boulder.
  20. Know about cuts of meat – Meat good (grunting sounds).
  21. Watch tennis or cricket – rather have a bullet in my head…. Sorry….
  22. Read a book before the film comes out – Yes! This is definitely a good one. I do this a lot more than going to the movies. I usually wait for the DVD.
  23. Watch Antiques Road Show – Is this still on PBS? Never watched it.
  24. Own a library card – The whole family has one. We love our library!
  25. Watch films with subtitles – Nope.
  26. Visit farm shops – Farm Stands in the US. Love our local farmer’s market and the peach stands on the side of the road! So,Yes!
  27. Use chopsticks over a knife and fork – Tried it but when my Japanese Aikido Sensei broke a white kid’s pair at the restaurant and said to him, “You’re an American! Use a fork!” I’ve never picked one up again.
  28. Drink ‘proper’ coffee – not instant – Don’t even like coffee, so no….
  29. Know how to pronounce ‘quinoa’ – Yes I know how to pronounce it and even cooked and ate it. Didn’t like it, though. A bag of it is still sitting in the back of my pantry just in case some of the vegan people dine with us….
  30. Grow your own fruit and vegetables on an allotment – I grow my own vegetables in my back yard. We have a very short growing season so it is “hit or miss” with how much I get out of it. Lots of tasty tomatoes for sauce, though!
  31. Go to music festivals – I can’t say if I’ve ever been to one. Some of my sister’s friends went to Woodstock, does that count? We do go to a nice concert now and again.
  32. Collect music on vinyl – Oh good grief! Had it – didn’t keep it. Now it’s all digital and I can play it on my smart phone!
  33. Read Wikipedia articles – A most unreliable source although I do use it sometimes in researching an article.
  34. Only eat local produce – In the summer, yes, a beautiful bag of green beans, mushrooms, onions, etc., from the Farmer’s Market; sweet Olathe corn and beautiful Rocky Ford cantaloupes, but not in the winter. Can you honestly say you shop at Alfalfa’s or Whole Foods for everything? Have you seen the prices on this stuff?
  35. Get the conundrum on Countdown – Nope. Apparently it is a UK thing…. I don’t even like jeopardy, etc.
  36. Wear bow-ties or brooches – Nope. Bill Nye the Science guy wore a bow-tie. My grandma and primary school teachers work brooches.
  37. Get food from supermarket ‘finer’ ranges – Does this mean from Alfalfa’s or Whole Foods? Or the Private Select brand from Kroger. I can say yes to Kroger….
  38. Drink herbal tea – Nope. Hate it.
  39. Put on an accent to pronounce foreign words – I took French in High School but don’t pronounce anything in it. Too strange so I’m going to say “No (French pronunciation).”
  40. Avoid generic superstore furniture – OK, does IKEA count? I’m sorry but I order from Amazon and go to IKEA so that would be a no.

So I was able to answer true (or yes, or acknowledge that I did these things) 18 out of 40 on the list or 45%. But, in my defense, several of the questions were specifically British so I had to say, “No!”

These are the things that make me who I am:

-Writing fun and mysterious reads, not always erudite, but interesting and different

-Getting my hands dirty in the soil

-Working hard and loving it trying to understand all of the generations from Boomers to Millennials

-Reading the wrong stuff (according to the culture list)

-Being assertive with my point of view when I need to be, but respecting others and listening to theirs in a polite manner and hopefully having real discourse

-Worrying about the future

-And living out west with an independent spirit.

If these ideals do not qualify me to become a cultured person and as some people think, “High culture in America [and the UK] is in serious decline,” I’m okay with that. Still, it’s interesting to know what some people believe makes you cultured. Enjoy your life the way you live it and try to always do the right thing. Enough said.

______________________

If you’d like to read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3240407/Owning-library-card-watching-subtitled-films-skilled-use-chopsticks-traits-make-cultured.html#ixzz4bF1yTgdz Article written by Flora Drury, 09/18/15, published in Dailymail.com

The Cultured Life, and Why it is Worth Pursuing, Article written by Joseph Epstein, 3/20/2017. At http://www.weeklystandard.com/print/the-cultured-life/article/2007147

A PLUG FOR INDIE WRITERS

Buy our books.

For some reason when people hear we writers are independent press, they tell us, “Oh, self-published,” and dismiss us as viable and really good at what we do. We are creators, writers, editors and publishers. And many of us do all of our own artwork. There is no staff. We are everything. The downside is it takes hours and hours and our own money to produce a work, and then hours and hours of making sure it is a publishable piece. The upside is that we have complete control over our books. We own the rights and they will never go out of print.

It doesn’t matter that big publishing companies have not put their rubber stamp on our works. There are so many amazing writers out there who never got the chance to publish with a big house, so they chose to go the way of independent press. Many of us make it to the top 100 in sales through Amazon, but they get that way because people like you and me buy their books, relish them and review them positively. And, we can charge less so readers can afford them.

So, buy our books and enjoy the beautiful and great stories being told. We live and breathe by readers like you. So, let us own and sell our own works and let the author get the rewards, not the publisher. Trust that there are many many good books in the sea of not so good books, just like with traditional publishing.

A GOOD DAY FOR DYSTOPIAN WRITERS

DYSTOPIAN – relating to or denoting an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.

I heard on the news this morning that our illustrious leader ordered the EPA to cut the climate change page from its website as well as any tweets, comments, etc. on government sites, literally denying the existence of climate change science. He also plans on wiping out any climate change initiatives proposed by the previous administration. Finally, he has signed orders for reviving the pipeline projects, furthering the devastation of the environment.

He also will be directing federal resources towards construction of the border wall in his attempt to crack down on immigrants.  So far, he has carried out two of his promises to benefit his friends and phobic supporters. Very sad…..

I never write political blogs but I have made an exception here. I hope people will wake up and see what is happening. It is a sad day for the environment and for our future. It is a field day for all of the dystopian science fiction writers out there.

DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE

On Sunday, we all felt a disturbance in the force. All of the Jedis were saddened when we learned that our dear friend and colleague Kayla Feeney lost the good fight and passed away this past Sunday. She was a young vibrant woman that I had worked with for years. When she smiled her dimples were deep and beautiful. I remember giving her a knitted yellow scarf and she was so happy because she told me it was her favorite color. Her life stories brought laughter and tears to all of us. She was a fan of all of those reality shows back in the day when the Jersey Shore was popular. Everyone at night identified with one of the characters except me. She would tease me and say, “Oh, Dru, you are so out of it and you don’t know the half of it!” and, “The stories I could tell you about my life.” I am sad that I never got that chance to write about her other than using a bit of her past and creating a small character in my first book. I will miss her and all of the crazy times we had together on the night shift. In her world of vampire stories such as the Twilight Zone – Team Edward vs. Team Jacob – she never understood me but tolerated my references from science fiction (no vampires or zombies for me!) and heavy metal. She put up with my tie-dyed shirts, air guitar and obscure jokes. I’ll always love her laughter and joy of life. I will miss you.

Goodbye and we’ll meet again!