Wednesday, August 29, 2012


A Labor of Love

Why do I write?
It's not always productive.
It takes up my time
And may be destructive.

I sit at my computer
And let the words form
Sometimes they're right,
Often they're wrong.

My characters tell me
Day after day
That I don't portray them
In the right way.

I fix one mistake
And then make another.
It makes me wonder,
Why do I bother?

Then come the rejects
That could paper a wall.
Are all of my efforts
Worth making at all?

I don't quit my day job;
I make time to write;
Sometimes on weekends
And often at night.

But joy's out of bounds
When that message comes:
"We'll publish your book."
I hear rolls of drums.

What a labor of love
This writing chore is,
But I won't change from it
To your job or his.

Mary S. Palmer

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Guest blog. All comments are appreciated.

When Worlds Collide: Discovering The Callings
Eleanor McKenzie

Let me first explain. I am a Northern Irish writer living in southern Spain; half a world away from Louisiana. I teach part time, and a few weeks ago, a former employer, Demand Media Studios based in San Francisco, invited me to return to write for them. I accepted. Employment and money are in short supply in Spain, which is yet another country battered by the Euro crisis.
The first article I picked up was titled “Characters in Loretta Theriot’s ‘The Callings’,”  a book co-authored with Mary S. Palmer. I’ve written several literature articles for Demand’s eHow site, so I went straight to Google and started searching. That’s when I found Mary S. Palmer and our worlds collided. In a good way. I would rarely contact an author, but on this occasion I decided to do it, mostly because I couldn’t find enough information on the web. Mary was so helpful I was able to write an article just from her notes.
The most striking thing about my contact with Mary is the parallel between the story she and Loretta Theriot tell in “The Callings” and an article I wrote back in 2004 about a young man in Oregon called Jordan, who found himself in a similar situation to Bobby, one of the main characters in Mary’s story. Both were juveniles when they were given sentences for murder and sent to adult penitentiaries. Both were troubled youths, and both had problematic fathers. In Bobby’s case, the father appears to be a cruel, controller. In Jordan Merrell’s case, his father was a professional lawyer who, following  a stint in Vietnam, had a diagnosis of PTSD that he never recovered from. Jordan was an adopted child and his father used him as the target of his frustrations.
Mary and Loretta’s book has another character, Robert, who goes to the same school as Bobby and grew up in the same parish (county), yet he became a priest. “The Callings” poses the question: how can two people from a similar background and the same place have two such different life paths. This question taxes sociologists, psychologists and educationalists everywhere. The answer is not easy, nor is it simple. So many factors are involved. Individual choices and responses to your environment are the key.
And then it occurred to me this morning: look at Cain and Abel; same parents, very different boys. What insight does the bible want us to take from this story? I know the main one I take is that it is personal choice that leads us to harm ourselves and others. Parents and family may contribute, but evil people also come from stable families.
I hesitate to use the term “evil,” it is a word that seems so damning that there is no way back from it, and once uttered – or written - it hangs there, brooding, dark and unforgiving. Yet sometimes “bad” doesn’t quite hack it. I am not a church-going Christian, but as I wrote to Mary, my belief in God is solid. I’m not so sure about an entity called the Devil. But then, if I think of God as a divine energy, it makes some sense to name the dark, negative energy I know exists, “the Devil.”  I choose Light, but I know many who are inexorably drawn to darkness.
I’m still waiting for my article to be published on eHow, so that all Mary’s fans can go and have a read.  I also hope that the article might bring “The Callings” a bigger audience and make more people consider this issue of choice. Do some people have no choice? Or do we always have a choice? I’d be interested to hear what some of you think. ++

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Authors have to spend time doing unusual things. As a writer, I have spent the last few days proving that to be true by LYING. Oh, wait a minute, don't misunderstand. I was not telling untruths. My lying involved something totally different.
First, I did a search/find for all of the ly's in my manuscript. Doing this enabled me to identify many adverbs and remove quite a few of them, especially when they were redundant. One such example was "quickly rushed." How can you rush without doing so quickly? Another was "yelled loudly." Well, you can't yell quietly. I know I could save time by not using these adverbs in the first place, but when an author gets on a roll in a scene, he, or she in my case, doesn't want to lose a train of thought. So, we plug on and revise later.
The other syllable of lying is ing. And it's really easy to use too many words that end in these three letters. Of course, syntax is important, and sentences must vary in structure and length, but you shouldn't start every other one with a participle. This is an even bigger fault if you use the same words repeatedly. Waiting, turning, and making become boring in a hurry. Is it easy to avoid repetition and to rack your brain for appropriate restatements? Nope, but it's worth the effort.
One more thing. Don't forget to find those pesky exclamation marks and remove the misused ones, which is often quite a few. They tend to slip in where they aren't needed and an excess of them calls attention in the wrong way. At least they're easy to delete and replace.
It's no fun to sit at a computer for hours searching for these words and punctuation marks and revising accordingly. But readers often stop reading if they see too many of any of them. Revision isn't easy. It's like life. And if anybody ever told you life was easy, guess what? They were LYING! in the literal sense of the word.
I appreciate your comments. Thanks.

August's Hope

The sultry days of August
Are not the worst of all,
Because there is the promise
They'll soon give in to fall.

Still, while it's hot and humid,
And sweat is on our brow,
We do begin to wonder
Just when, and even how.

Heat now seems to be endless,
But summer's almost gone,
And then we'll moan and groan
When will winter be done?

When spring's around the corner
And ice is melting fast,
Then we begin to ask,
Just how long will it last?

There is no pleasing humans;
Our nature's discontent.
Might as well make the best of
Whatever we are sent.

The seasons come and go--
Summer, winter, spring and fall--
We're powerless to control them;
Why not enjoy them all?

Mary S. Palmer