Wednesday, May 27, 2009


A True Texas Love Story

My daddy’s oldest brother became blind as a very young man. The event happened many years before my birth, so of course, I only remember him as my blind uncle. He had married and had become a proud father. Something happened between his wife and him, and he found himself alone with no way to work because he could not see.
The only recourse open was to move back to the family home, a small farm in North Texas. As a child, I clearly remember driving there with my family to visit Granny and Papa and our uncle.
The house never had running water, but it did have electricity for the Kelvinator “icebox” and one bulb on a cord from the ceiling in each room. My uncle knew his way around every inch of the house, the yard, the garden, the orchard, and the outhouse. He used a cane to wave in front of him as he walked. He milked the cows, drew water from the well, and fed the calves.
Everyone loved our uncle, including my family and me. My little sister and I enticed him to play with us, hold us, and tell us stories. He had one glass eye, and he’d remove it and let us hold it and wash it with soap and water. We’d ask him the color of our dresses, and he’d finger the fabric and guess pink, blue, or yellow and say the correct one much of the time. Magic!
One day, the Lions Club in town approached him about the possibility of attending a school in Pennsylvania in order to learn Braille and get a seeing-eye dog. If he could accomplish this, the organization intended to give him a small newsstand in town.
My uncle accomplished all this and more. While he attended the boarding school for the blind in Pennsylvania, he not only mastered Braille, he received a wonderful German shepherd named Sam. And now…for the rest of the story…
He met a lovely woman at the school. I believe she attended classes to train with a new dog. Blind from birth, she had never seen the world as our uncle had. With his way of telling a story, he described, oh, a cow, for example, or a field of corn. She became enthralled with the tales, and yes, she fell in love with him. In return, she played the piano and sang to him.
My uncle returned to Texas to take up his new profession. Someone took him to town every day to work in his newsstand. I have no idea how long he did this. Back home at night, he wrote letters to his ladylove—in Braille. On one visit to our grandparents’ home, I leaned on my uncle’s worktable while he punched holes in the strips of paper. Knowing he was writing to his girlfriend, I asked, “What did you tell her then?” Patiently, he told me something, probably to appease me. And he showed me how to use the apparatus to write a few words.
Eventually, Uncle moved to Pennsylvania, married his sweetheart, and set up a home with her and her German shepherd seeing-eye dog, Lady. The Lion’s Club in Dubois, PA helped him obtain a newsstand in the neighborhood, close enough so he could walk to work. His sweet wife walked there at noon to take his lunch and eat with him.
Now, if that’s not a love story, I don’t know what is!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Do You Love Your Book?

Do you love your book? I wrote ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS very quickly, in about three months. I knew the characters, I knew the plot, and I sat down and just wrote. And wrote, and wrote. When I thought it ready for someone to read, I entered the first chapter in a contest. Although I did not place, I did receive nice compliments…except for a few negative comments. “The opening needs to be deleted. Have Cynthia and Ricardo meet in the first paragraph.” “Under no circumstances have Cynthia musing to herself.” “POV is all over the place. Clean that up, and you might, just might, mind you, have something to work with.”
Suddenly, I wondered if my story was as good as I thought. In reality, I became insignificant as a writer, and I wondered if I was good enough to continue. I was afraid to ask anyone read it, as I had all my other rambling stories. But…I loved my story. I could see it in book form.
I loved my book, whether anyone else did or not.

Did your mother ever say to you, “You’d better change your attitude, young lady!”
Ohhh, mine did, especially during my teen years.
Usually, I obeyed relatively well, and life generally ran smoothly in the Davis household.
Sometimes, when she asked me to do something difficult, I might reply with a dramatic whine, “I caaan’t!” Her answer? “Can’t never did anything.”
A good attitude shows our positive side. As an author or writer, “attitude is everything.”

Do you love your book? Do you believe in it, even if an editor or publisher doesn’t? Does a rejection letter seem personal, as if the words on the page describe you? “Sorry, not good enough.”(Interpretation: Sorry, you’re not good enough.) “We like your book, but we don’t love it.” (Interpretation: We don’t love you.) “Your manuscript might be good, if you re-write the entire 300 pages. Make your hero the villain, kill off your heroine, because she’s not worth the paper she’s written on, and while you’re at it, think up a new plot.” Ugh, you say, this goes in the trash.
However, if you write a story that contains three key elements—urgency, intensity, and drama—soon you will sell your book to an editor.

I grew up as the middle sister. Daddy wanted us three girls to look pretty every day. He’d tell Mother to curl our hair, buy new dresses (she made all of them), and tell us to “act pretty.” Since he told us every day we were pretty, I believed it, and although I was shy, I still thought well of myself. I had confidence even as a child.
Confidence is Job Number One for success in the writing business. It means you are a good writer, and you feel competent. You take pride in each accomplishment. If you keep this attitude about yourself, soon you’re willing to take scary risks to reach beyond who you are now. Confidence is acting that way, even when you are not.
Keep telling yourself, “I’m good, and my book is, too.”


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Home, Sweet Home--My Mother


One day Daddy came home with two surprises—a used 1940 Ford and a job with an oil company. Both were significant because we had never owned a car and employment was hard to come by.
The year was 1944. We lived on a small, dirt farm in North Texas near Daddy’s parents.
An oil boom had hit Texas. It began in 1901 with the advent of Spindletop at Beaumont, Texas, and continued until the 1980’s when the oil industry “went bust.” Employment with an oil company was an open door to a better and more secure life, but to become more financially solvent meant leaving home.
For the next six years, we were transient and homeless. Mother could only take that which she could pack into the trunk of the Ford. She selected clothes for all five of us, plus bedding, a minimum of cookware, and a few dishes. There was only room for one more item—her new portable, single-stitch Featherweight Singer sewing machine.
At first, we moved two or three times a year. Oil fields virtually dotted all of Texas, but Daddy’s company covered parts of North Texas and the South Plains. Those first years, however, must have been excruciating for Mother. Housing was difficult to find, especially for a family with three children.
We first lived with an old woman who had built one slant-roofed room with a bathroom onto the back of her small house. At least we had our own toilet facilities, but we came and went through her front door. That meant tiptoeing through to go outside. Occasionally, she invited Mother and my little sister and I to sit in her living room and visit. My older sister went to school, so she escaped that intolerable time. Mother admonished us not to touch anything and don’t kick our feet. A two-year-old and a four-year-old suffered under those conditions, but I’m certain Mother suffered more. She had no living room of her own.
For a very short time, we stayed in a converted boxcar, generally called a “cot house.” Single men usually inhabited them, but they were a godsend when Daddy could find nothing else.
When I was five, we lived in one room in a big two-story boardinghouse. All kinds of people lived there and we ate family-style at a long table. I thought it was fun.
In more than one town, we lived in a motel, known in the South as a “tourist court.” Again, all five of us lived in one room. Here, I first remember how we ate our meals. With the exception of the boarding house, Mother improvised to feed us. She bought breakfast and lunch from the grocery store. She selected food that did not need refrigeration or cooking. That meant frequent trips to shop, and we walked because Daddy took the car. Common meals were oranges and grapefruit, bananas, small cartons of milk, and bologna or pressed ham sandwiches. We especially favored saltines and cheddar cheese. But the most wonderful thing about living there was that we all went to a cafĂ© every night. Daddy ordered for all of us and we dined lavishly. I remember chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, apple pie with melted cheddar cheese on top and cold glasses of milk. Once a week, hamburgers and French fries were a reward for being good little girls.
I thought we were rich.
During the later years on the road, our family moved up to one side of a duplex—two entire rooms. While it seemed spacious, it was the coldest place we had lived. My little sister and I would lie on our stomachs at night and peer through the bars of the iron headboard and the cracks of the wall to look outside. Icy wind and dust also blew through those cracks. But Mother had a small kitchen and Daddy was a happy man to come home to Mother’s good cooking.
Daddy wanted us three girls to look pretty, no matter where or how we lived. He polished our white high-top shoes every night, and Mother kept our hair curled and combed. But that was not enough. We might have been transient, but we never appeared to be. Mother sewed on her prized Singer while it sat on an apple crate, a chair, a dresser, or a suitcase. She often had to sit on the floor while sewing. She bought patterns she could use repeatedly by altering, changing, or transforming the basic pieces. She chose pretty, inexpensive fabric and cut out the pieces on the bed or floor. Adept with any kind of needle, she embroidered collars, bodices, and hems with little flowers. Rickrack edged necklines and sleeves. She even made little red corduroy coats and hats that matched. Everywhere we went, strangers commented that we were pretty.
I thought I was beautiful.
When I was in the third grade, we lived in a real house with four rooms, located on the South Plains, near Lubbock. Even though the furniture came with the rented house, we had a real home again. All of us were happy that year, especially Mother. She cooked, cleaned, and dressed us up for church and school exactly as she wished. She placed the Singer sewing machine on a table and left it there all the time. My sisters and I made friends of the neighborhood children, and played outside with them and walked to school. But at the end of the school year, Daddy was to move to yet another oil field.
By this time, Mother was tired in body and weary in mind. She longed for a permanent home for her girls and a big house she could call her own. Daddy agreed and asked the company to station him in one place and he would commute each week, wherever he was required to work. Weekly separations faced us for the next twenty years. He loved us all so much, he built a nice, roomy house, and Mother never needed to pack up again and move down the road.
I’ve often wondered which of my parents sacrificed more during my growing-up years. Both were required to give up something valuable for the sake of their children. Even though Daddy had to live alone during the week, Mother and we three girls always waited in the comfortable home he built for us. He was happy, even though he was often tired and lonely. Mother, on the other hand, needed a home to satisfy the inborn human yearning to build a nest and to nurture her young.
Mother lives in a nursing home now, and my sisters and I are senior citizens. Her mind wanders, she forgets, and she lives in a world all her own. She forgot our names and other family members. She never recalls her six grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren. But one thing she remembers is “home.” She always asks if she can go there.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


LAUNCH DATE--Thursday, May 14. Title of post? I have no idea. But I'll try my best to have something interesting. Hope to see you! Celia