About Me

Monday, October 29, 2012

Karate, Karaoke and other 'borrowed' words

Don’t you find our English language fascinating? The two words, karate and karaoke,  muddied up my thoughts as I woke this morning. Just had to Google them to find out more about their origin.

Karate is a martial art developed in the Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan. It was developed partially from indigenous fighting methods called te (literally "hand"; Tii in Okinawan) and from Chinese kenpō. Karate is a striking art using punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes, and open-handed techniques such as knife-hands. Grappling, locks, restraints, throws, and vital point strikes are taught in some styles.

Karaoke (portmanteau of Japanese kara "empty", and ōkesutora "orchestra") ( listen)) is a form of interactive entertainment or video game in which amateur singers sing along with recorded music (a music video) using a microphone and public address system.

What amuses me is that they are both imports from the Japanese even though they refer to two totally different activities. Both are fairly recent additions to our usage of them as English words. Can you think of other Japanese words we’ve started using as English.

Have you ever stopped to think of where some of the words we use on a regular basis come from? One of my novels, The Red Feather (WIP), has a character who is a French law officer working in England. Every so often when he speaks, I decided to throw in a word in French rather than English to help emphasize the reader’s perception of his character. Even though my first language as a child was French, I felt the need to acquire a French/English dictionary to verify the accuracy of the French words I’d incorporated into his dialog.

Interesting to note our language is compiled of ‘borrowed’ words. Many words we take for granted began life in another language. English is now considered an international language with its words originating from a myriad of languages.  

One of the reference books on my shelf is English Through The Ages. The book organizes its content in time periods based on when a word came into common usage. It finally resolves that age-old question: which came first? The chicken or the egg? According to this source, Chicken came first; it entered the English language before A. D. 950. The Johnny-come-lately egg didn’t show up until sometime before 1340.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Recapping my writing life

Decided to take some time today to share how I came to be a writer. I promise this is a rare entry. I don’t intend to bore you each time I write by focusing the spotlight on myself.

Of my many interests, writing is the warp tread in my life's tapestry. Books and reading remain an important part of my life. But, sometimes a bend in the path reveals a brand-new vista.

I sort of entered my writing career by the back door. When our family made its back-to-the-land move over thirty years ago, the growing of herbs caught my interest. As I became more knowledgeable, other people asked my advice. As a means of passing on what I had learned, I self-published a couple booklets on the subject. This led to submitting articles to magazines. The first piece I sold was a definitive 15,000-word brochure on herbs. And just like that, I became a published writer.

My only formal training was a creative writing course taught by Bea Scantlin at Kilgore College. However, I'm a voracious reader and there remains few volumes in the 808. section of the Tyler, Longview, Gilmer or Hawkins libraries I've not read. Used bookstores are also a  favorite haunt, even when I’m on the road, I hunt them out. If I should see a book that interests me on your bookshelf, I won't hesitate to borrow from your personal library.

The ability to read is something I consider a vital function of life. This led to my involvement in an Adult Literacy program where I received training and did volunteering for a time as a tutor. I went on to create an adult literacy program within my community and spent enjoyable hours tutoring others who wanted to know how to read or achieve their GED.

I especially enjoyed writing short stories or essays in the beginning. Poetry-writing has never drawn my interest but sometimes one will come, full-blown, by inspiration. Several of my  short stories are now available in digital format on KindleDirect through Amazon.com.

I’m presently editing a romantic/suspense tentatively entitled The Red Feather and am mid-way in a family saga-type novel about two high schoolers who remain friends throughout their lifetimes despite their opposite personalities and goals in life.

A novelette for young readers about George Washington as a young boy/man still remains tucked away in a drawer. I am drawn to write about ordinary people in a historical setting. Of course, George Washington wasn’t known as an ordinary person, but the period of life I focus on shows how events affected his life’s path.

Troubled Times is about a group of free blacks just previous and into the Civil War period. Twist of Fate records the fictional life of a girl abducted and raised by Native Americans on our Western Frontier in the late 1700s.

My need to write escapes in other ways. I enjoy corresponding with others by email. I presently edit and publish the monthly newsletter for North East Texas Writers Organization, to which I belong. I’ve discovered blogging and post here twice a week as well as submit a posting to Venture Galleries http://venturegalleries.com/author/gayingram/.

Now you know more about me than you really wanted to know.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Came across this writing prompt recently I found quite thought-provoking. It asked the writer to list ten expectations you have of yourself. Wow! Now that will stir up the brain-juices.

At the top of the list I have to say I expect myself to always do the very best at whatever project I undertake. There are few times I actually reach the perfect mark, but I’m not a splash-dash, get-it-done type of person. I will give it all the time and attention needed to do the very best I can.

Another expectation is that I always remain alert to the feelings of others. I’ve lived long enough to know we all carry unseen burdens. I have no way of knowing what kind of a day you are having or what stressful circumstances you are forced to cope with. So I need to keep in mind this might not be a good day and you are doing your best for the moment.

I expect to continue to keep learning until the last breath. This universe we inhabit contains so much mystery. Every day discloses something new and sometimes challenging, like this world of internet, for example.

I expect myself to remain sensitive to the needs of others. We are so blessed here in the United States and yet there are those who for whatever reasons are not able to enjoy so many of the comforts of life I take for granted. I want to keep my eyes open to ways I can share what I have with those without.
I expect myself to maintain a forgiving nature when someone causes me hurt. One of the most valuable lessons life has taught me is that forgiveness on my part is required for my peace of mind, not that of the one who hurts.

The prompt actually asks for ten expectations but I’m thinking if I can manage to achieve all of the above, I will have achieved some important life goals.

I hope you’ll take time to give this topic some thought. I’d be interested in hearing about your expectations of yourself. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Son The Santa

Today being my older son David's birthday my mind is flooded with memories. I decided to share one of the last pictures I received and the story behind it.

This is a picture of David dressed in a Santa suit holding his six-month-old granddaughter, Alexi. When David got the news that he was about to become a grandfather, one of the things he decided was that he would allow his beard to grow. When asked why the hair-growing binge, his reply was, "I want my grand-daughter to meet a 'real' Santa the first time she does so." From the look on her face, I suspect she is really puzzled by the familiar voice emitting from such strange surroundings. Don't you agree?

Which reminds me -- how many times have I been caught unaware when meeting up with a well-acquainted person in unfamiliar surroundings? When this supposedly strange person greets me with such familiarity, you can imagine my confusion, can see those brain cells scrambling to make some kind of connection. It's a bit embarrassing when the 'stranger' reminds you of the connection between the two of you. I'm thinking this is just one of the fun things that are going to happen over and over when we move on to our eternal home.

Shortly after he died, God gave me a picture of David playing his beloved piano, my mother by his side singing and beside her, my grandfather sawing away on his fiddle. To the side is my grandmother, beaming and clapping her pleasure. Sure am looking forward to all the good times.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Changing my style a bit with this post as I'm participating in something called a Blog Hop. I want to thank Pattie Ball aka Ann Everett, author of Laid Out and Candle Lit (http://amzn.to/TrVtj3) for the invite.

1. What is the working title of your book? My most recent novel is entitled Second Time Around

2. Where did the idea come from for the book? When I began meeting with a new critique group, I needed something to bring to the meetings, so I wrote this novel.

3. What genre does your book fall under? It has a little romance, a little suspense but will most likely be classified as Women's Fiction.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Interesting question. I've never spent time envisioning any of my books as movies. Would like to see Jodi Foster play the main character; not sure who I'd consider as her love interest.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Is Douglas Martin the first love of Dolly Summers who was presumed dead twenty-three years ago ? 

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I recently submitted the story for publication by White Bird Publications, a POD house.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I spent about a year writing the story, including the research to make it correct to its historical setting. 

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  I've come to realize I'm not a genre writer; my stories generally focus on ordinary people living extraordinary lives. 

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book? As I mentioned earlier, this story came about as a need to present something to my critique group. 

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? It's a snapshot of what life was like in Dallas Texas during the 50s. I write about a mature, strong female who must come to terms with what life has dealt her.

Here are some other folks who will be participating in this blog hop:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Books, books and more books

One step inside my home and you immediately know...books are a big part of my life. Every room other than the bathroom (that space is reserved for my ever-growing collection of figurines) has a bookshelf. The picture shows one way we found to cram more books into our little farmhouse.

Books have always been a vital part of my life. Growing up poor (we didn't know we were poor at the time) in the country where libraries were not available, I early-on discovered books were a doorway into a bigger world than the one I occupied. Growing up without television, books were the only alternative to exploring other lands and other people.

Books gave me the means to learn more about anything I became interested in.(You should see the library of books about herbs and writing I've accumulated) I find it very hard to dispose of a book once  it has become a part of my life. Some of the books on the above shelves are over thirty years old.

Which brings me to talk about the 'book revolution' happening these days...Ebooks, or digital versions of books. Being an author, I have no choice but to stay alert as to the preferences of the reading public.

Just this year I took the plunge and produced copies of my published books in E-format. A friend, Evelyn Byrne, who's connected to White Bird Publishing, graciously created ebooks of four of my short stories as Kindle Shorts. All of my books except Trouble Times (which as yet has not had its copyright reverted back to me) are now available in digital form and can be purchased through Amazon  or my website, www.pineywoodsbooks.webs.com.

For some time, I bucked the trend as far as my personal reaching choice. But, even though I haven't succombed and purchased an E-reader as yet, I do have a Kindle app on my computer and my list of downloaded books to read is steadily growing.

I don't expect to reject the familiar feel of a printed book in hand; that is, as long as a local library is nearby to keep me supplied.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pépè' Played The Fiddle Sundays

Legend has it my grandfather rescued the violin after it was used in a bar-room brawl. The black tape holding together the case's several splits certainly gives evidence to the tale. Pépè's early years, so I’ve been told, speak of him being a heavy drinker until God got ahold of him.

By the time I came along, he came across as a gentle peace-loving family man. His musical talent was God-given; he’d self-taught himself to play both the harmonica and the fiddle by ear.

Sundays growing up meant sons and daughters, along with a passel of grandchildren, would all come from their scattered homes and gather for the day. Everyone brought something for the dinner but Mémè provided the pies for dessert. They would like the warming shelf on the coal-burning stove and uncles would glance that direction upon entering the kitchen, checking to see if their favorite was there.

Daughters took over the chore of setting the table and serving the food while Meme supervised from her rocking chair. Extra leaves were inserted in the round oak table and chairs crowded close to fit as many as possible.

Once the meal was over, we kids were sent outside to amuse ourselves and some of the uncles strolled down to the VFW to toss down a beer or two. Late afternoon found us all crammed into the living room; sleeping babies on the bed nearby while kids took up floor space at their parents' feet.

That's when Pépè put harmonica to mouth and began to play. When one tune ended, someone called out the name of another. He worked that harmonica until there was no more breath to play. Then took up the fiddle and continued to play requested songs.

Mémè constant request would be for Amazing Grace and Pépè acted like he didn't hear her as he played one tune after another. Finally, as if he knew she'd reached the end of her patience, he's begin those familiar notes, He always kept the best for last.

Lengthening shadows signaled packing-up time. Sleeping babies were carried out to waiting cars; washed bowls collected for kids to tote with them. We who shared the three-family house my grandparents lived in stood along the porch railing, waving as each car pulled out of the driveway.

Already we were looking forward to next Sunday's gathering.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Are We Really Better Off?

We've become a nation of maintainers. Our need to maintain our possessions has become such a time-consuming chore we’re kept too busy to enjoy the simple pleasures of our surroundings.

Case in point: We live in a country setting of seventeen acres. My retired husband enjoys the activity of keeping the land looking park-like. This requires an arsenal of equipment and tools. Yet, he spends more of his time maintaining all this equipment than he does actually using them.  If it's not the tractor needing a broken part replaced, then its the riding lawn mower that needs an engine tune-up. Or, perhaps the chain saw doesn't want to run, etc. etc.

I am a part-time writer and find myself going around in the same kind of circles. If I’m not being frustrated by a slow-acting computer, then I’m fighting with a printer that keeps jamming the paper. Instead of writing, I find myself in the car, taking the computer to a tech to have a new hard drive installed. Or making a run to town for replacement ink cartridges when the printer starts spitting out faded text.

I thought all of these modern inventions were supposed to free us up, complete our tasks more quickly, give us more free time. Instead I find myself growing more and more frustrated as I watch the minutes tick past while waiting for a site to load on the internet. Or the reception of a TV program blacks out at a crucial moment because the transmission’s been disrupted.

Maybe you think these are little annoyances but spend a couple minutes recalling just how much time you spend maintaining all these additions to our lives that are supposed to make life more care-free.
Nor certain where I am going with this other than letting off steam. But there are days when I know I've taken three steps backwards to the one step forward. How about you?

Makes me yearn for those days when we weren’t so dependent upon new-fangled contraptions. Think I’ll go fetch my gloves and do a little hand-weeding to calm down…you know, just sit myself in the green grass, warm sunshine bearing down on my shoulders, birds serenading me in the trees nearby.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Upon Becoming a Septuagenarian

Septuagenarian: A person who is 70 years old or between the ages of 70 and 80. 

Just as Fall showed up this year with the turning of a calendar page, I've come to the realization I'm owner of this label.
I feel I passed over some threshold upon reaching my seventies.Which, for some unknown reason, has been cause for a great deal of self-recognition and examination of my life's progress.

Some of the genes I've inherited come from forebears who lived fully productive lives into their nineties. This could indicate there are a few more left for me to fill. I find myself taking stock, trying to figure out what the coming years will bring.

As I entered this decade, I sensed a shifting of emphasis in how I will use the time remaining. Not that the time I've already spent on this earth hasn't been interesting and challenging. I can honestly say in looking back over my life's accomplishments, many of those goals achieved never entered the ken of my adolescence.

Not in my wildest dreams did I ever consider myself a writer back then, much less a published author of several books and numerous magazine articles. I was ignorant about illiteracy in this nation and how it would become a focal point of my interests. So all-consuming that I spent several years as a literacy tutor and created a local program for those in my own community who desired to read and attain their GED.

One of my realizations of late is this lack of passion for those interests that once captured me in the past. So many of the goals that energized my life previously have lost their appeal. It's as if I've reached a plateau and I'm pausing to look around, determining just what I intend to fill my life with that will give me purpose and satisfaction.

I don't know if this is indicative of others who have reached this stage of life. But I do know I don't want to live my remaining years stagnating, filling hours with useless busyness.

Lest this posting come across as one of morbid thoughts, I leave you with this shared bit from elsewhere:


Silver in the hair

Gold in the teeth
Stones in the kidneys
Sugar in the blood
Lead in the butt
Calcium in the arteries
And an inexhaustible supply of Natural Gas

I never thought I'd accumulate such wealth.

Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any force. Dorothy L. Sayers

Bring on the years!