Ducking Under the Weather, But the Anthology is Live!

I had planned on doing a piece on a humorous cat rescue, but the weather keeps blitzing my satellite connection every time I try to upload the pictures. So I guess you’re stuck with only words again until next week.  I’m so sorry guys! But I think you’ll enjoy it despite the wait.

I got a nice surprise yesterday while I was guest blogging with some foxes and a hound; an anthology ebook that went live early! I’ve had the contract for months, signed and sealed, but until the moment I could click a link and SEE it available to the public, it still seemed some illusory concept. So if the weather cooperates, I’ll load the cover to the pubbed page sometime today. It’s only a short story, but my mantra is baby steps…baby steps…baby steps…and the hope one submission in particular comes to fruition.

I’m flinching from lightning so I’m going to sign off. And find myself a celebratory banana split somewhere! (Reminds me; need to call the repairman. That dryer keeps shrinking my pants!)

If you’d like to check  out NEW ORLEANS’ GHOST OF SPANISH GOLD, I’m happy to share the link: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-dreamspellhauntsvolume2-549463-140.html.

Keep writing, everyone! I keep getting just enough carrot to keep muling along! lol

~Runere~

Visit Runere at www.RunereMcLain.com       Twitter@RunereMcLain                                                                                                      Runere McLain on Facebook

Searching for My Muse

Who thought I’d ever be playing hide and seek at my age. And not the dignified kind of hide and seek where you get stuck in the play tube at McDonald’s and the manager has to pull you out by the ankles. Since you emerge with your hair and half of your sweater flipped over your eyes it isn’t bad. It’s not like you can see people pointing and staring. And since you can’t see them it’s easy to pretend the giggles and titters are because something funny is showing on the TV in the corner. Still kind of peeved it took a two cherry pie bribe to get a kid to dive in the ball pit until he located my left shoe that popped off sometime during the rescue process. No this is something infinitely more embarrassing.

I’m talking about the times I can’t write for lack of a muse. I don’t mean family tales. Family can be counted on to give me plenty of material. I mean what I’ve chosen to write; the paranormal. I have storylines plotted; strong, compelling characters with back story sheets; settings explored and documented with pictures and recordings to draw realism from; snippets of conversation logged that show a particular character’s personality perfectly. I have coffee. I have chocolate. I have Canadian Mist. Yet I’m left waiting for my characters to show up.

I mean the same little buggers that rap on the back of my eyelids in the middle of my sleep, demanding their story be told. Now. I accommodate them because usually what they have to say it pretty good stuff. But when I have a nice free block of time with no duties or distractions will they return the favor? Nooo.

I hoped to  give a glowing report containing word count tallies, primary and secondary characters growth, number of chapters completed and an estimated finish date. Thanks to Mz. Muse and her uncooperative self, I got nuthin’.

So thank heavens for family or you’d have nothing to read this week either. A couple of the kids came up this weekend and mowed the grass for me. Since six of ten acres is grass, it’s quite a job. They were also clearing trees that had grown up around the pond. They claim they were worried about the roots penetrating the levee, but I think it was more to reclaim all the fishing gear tangled in the branches. When the sun hit  just right, a couple were so full of silver spoons, glass-beaded spin beetles and multi-hued lures they could have been dream-worthy Christmas displays for some world-renowned tackle shop.

I thought I was safe inside cooking until my youngest daughter burst in, all in a snit, hollering, of all things, “Will won’t let me use the chainsaw!” Will, never one to miss a chance to torment her, was hot on her heels mimicking her in falsetto with, “Momma! Momma! I’m gonna tell Momma!” The visual of a six-foot, two-hundred sixty pound man wiggling around flapping his hands like a kindergartener is unsettling. And hard to shake.

“Shut up, Will!” Rachel’s glare can blister paint.

Will grins because he got a rise out of her. Still using that shrill falsetto he whines: “Momma’ll make you let me use the chainsaw!”

Rachel: “Girls can use chain saws! Ask Momma, she’ll tell you!”

Will, in falsetto: “It’s not fair!” Hand flap, hand flap. “Girls can use chain saws too!”

I’m holding a spatula in the air, looking from one to the other trying to figure out if they’re serious or joking with each other. About that time Rachel got a wicked little victory gleam in her eye. How do I know it’s a victory gleam? I’ve been watching it for thirty years. She takes off across the room.

“Hey! Where are you going?” Will asks in his normal male voice, worried and suspicious. He starts after her just a little too late.

“You left the chainsaw on the levee and I can run faster than you! Nyah! Nyah!” That jibe is tossed over her shoulder as she bolts out the door.

Two sets of feet thunder away from me. Chainsaw started a couple of minutes later. Don’t know who got it. Don’t care. All I want is for my absentee muse to show up. So I can get back to things that make sense to me. Like the Paranormal.

~Runere~

Visit Runere at RunereMcLain.com  and follow her on Twitter @RunereMcLain

How We Do It Down Home

Home is the one place you can be yourself. The place where you can try things for the first time. And maybe the second time too, if you’re convinced no one is watching. You can wear the purple sweats hubby hates so much he calls them your Barney Suit. He’ll even look you in the eye when you can’t find them anywhere and swear he didn’t throw them away. He didn’t lie either. Cleaning out the bottom of the grandkids’ toy closet two years later I found a double-tied Wal-Mart bag inside a double-tied Wal-Mart bag stuffed inside a battered Barbie satchel. Being the curious person I am I tore them open.

Imagine Hubby’s chagrin when he came home to me lounging on the sofa in my freshly washed and dried Barney Suit. Even the kids groaned. I still bring it out on special occasions. Payback isn’t a b*tch; it’s a wife with a Barney Suit!

Writers have places they’re comfortable as well. Places they aren’t afraid to toss out ideas, describe dreams, cheer successes or cry out disappointments. Probably why we call them ‘home’ chapters. I feel so very proud of my GCCRWA home, and so lucky to have found it.

Writing experiences compare with home action too. One of the grandsons got too long-legged for the swing so we shortened it. Clever, he watched how it was done and shortened it more. Trick swinging became all the rage. At least until he slipped off while hanging from his knees and plowed up the ground with his face. Oh, the indignity of being held down by two adults while a third digs mud from your nostrils with Q-tips. Once we had him where he could snort the worst free I learned faces can glow even while streaked with dirt. He dismissed the crash-and-burn, asking over and over, “Did you see me, Mawmaw? Did you see? I was flying!” 

Sometimes writing is like that swing set. And Trick Swinging. You play with the adjustment until you find the perfect height to fit your legs. You get comfortable on the seat and start to glide according to your mood. You can push off with just your toes and rock back and forth, lost in dreamy contemplation. Or you can pump with your legs for all you’re worth, harder and higher until the chain links pinch your fingers, laughing and whooping when your stomach drops as the sky rushes to meet you on the up-swing, and the ground flies away coming back. And sometimes we slip, ending up with scrapes and grass stains.

A good writer isn’t afraid to try that swing. He or she can take you along for that ride. Even let you experience the fall, wincing and shouting ouch as you tumble with him. But the thing to remember is there are all sorts of swings. And everyone swings in their own way, to the degree they feel comfortable. No one way is right or wrong. 

As far as those scrapes? Someone at ‘home’ can apply the literary Neosporin to the marks left by a bad contest score. You learn things may sting initially, but everything heals over if you don’t keep picking at it.  The grass stains? In writing they come out with an eraser or delete key, and the fabric of the story becomes fresh and new again, stronger for the care.  

And with the Trick Swinging? Not everyone has the daring and fortitude for it. It requires the ability step out of your comfort zone. Take a risk. Experiment a little. But the thrill of accomplishment can be so worth the effort. Even if they take a few verbal hits from others who don’t understand why a person would want to hang from their knees in public in the first place! lol Hey, not everyone can hang from their knees!  So Trick Swingers have my admiration and support for their particular talent.

I have a few pics and captions to share this week. All in the spirit of Trick Swingers and Barney Suits!  

Keep writing your heart out. Risk putting your work out there. I want everyone to be able to say: “Did you see me? I was flying!”

~Runere~

Life is like a crawfish boil . . . steaming and full of spice! And you can't be timid when you reach in.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

It all washes off, so don't be afraid to play so hard you get a little dirty . . . and dare to suck the heads!

 
 
 
 

If you can smile like that, wear your jewelry any where you want to!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sometimes you just have to do things your own way!

The Art of Description: An Epiphany of Understanding

Hubby helped a group of teens install a transmission tonight. While eating fried catfish. At Shaw’s Fish House in Necaise Crossing, Mississippi.

The transmission was in Pierce County, Washington State.

Listening to the phone exchange reinforced my conviction as to the necessity of thoroughly knowing your subject matter when you sit down to write. He was able to talk a bunch of newly budding, inexperienced mechanics through the entire process, with enough clean, concise detail for them to know to slant the tranny just so before stabbing it. To install the converter after stabbing the tranny (inserting the transmission tail to assemble the drive train), not before. How to slide that metal doughnut-shaped article (converter) down the spline and into the transmission housing, and turn it slowly to the right, all the while testing for the  ‘feel’ of a ‘click’, or the sensation of the unit dropping into an unseen slot. How it needed to be turned slightly more to the right, feeling for that second ‘click’ or ‘drop’ into an even deeper slot. He could even describe the exact amount of finger space that should be between the converter and the front pump of the transmission. He told them once in place, the converter should spin, but not wobble. If it wobbled it was installed improperly, and to pull it off the spline and begin again from scratch.

He described how the mounting bolts should be started with a particular wrench, then given only one turn before moving on to the next bolt. Only after they were all started should they be tightened completely, eliminating the risk of things shifting out of place. 

Yes, part of it was greek to me, too. But hubby’s precise description of each part, tool, fluid, space, tension or resistance was so detailed and just plain understandable, a bunch of boys 3,000 miles away were able to set their hands on different metal elements, piece them together and create a functioning unit. 

Writing should involve our readers in exactly the same way. He or she should feel, taste, hear, see and smell what our characters are experiencing. To the point it’s as if your reader is there with them, or can put themselves in our characters’ places. So from now on I’ll double-check my efforts by using the ‘transmission installation method’; or, did I put the individual pieces together well enough for my reader to drive my character, or plot, or setting away with them?

Sure hope they can.

Right now though, I’m wishing hubby wasn’t quite as adept with description as he is. Because now there is a group of hormone-engorged teenage boys with a long weekend at their disposal, running around in a Chevy S-10 pick-up truck with a suped-up 327 small block engine. 

So please chant with me.  Shiny side up; greasy side down. Keep all four wheels on safe, solid ground.

And if that’s not enough, pray they spent their entire allowance trying to impress some air-headed, bubblegum-popping girl and can’t afford gasoline.  Me? I’m going even further: I’m off to figure out how to bribe Guardian Angels into keeping my boys safe, whole and undamaged. Please, God; keep them — and the rest of the world — safe as they enjoy being young and adventurous. 

Here’s wishing everyone a safe and joyous Easter weekend. Dye eggs. Eat your fill of marshmallow Peeps. Fill baskets with jelly beans and chocolate bunnies. Dine, laugh and spend time with family. And in the midst of it all, please, take a moment to thank the Creator for His blessings in your own way.  

~Runere~

When the Grace-less Attack, or: Help! I’m Being Drowned In My Soup!

Mama was a stickler for proper comportment. Basic skills were learned at home.  One skill? How to open and close a door. Properly. Bursting through a door or slamming one resulted in having to open and close it fifty times in a row. And don’t think to cheat. You had to count out loud with each open and closure. Only took a couple of times of enduring the endless repetition for it to become muscle memory. Other skills? To enter and exit a room properly, how to make introductions, phone etiquette . . . and how to seat yourself gracefully. I was also taught to be gracious when someone’s social behavior was less than polite in public.

But even Mama would have been pushed to the limit last week.

Hubby and I, out and about and hungry, decided on a Chinese buffet. Inside, we were escorted to the wall lined with a series of booths, my preference with my bad leg. The booths were separated by a partition that served double-duty as both units’ padded back rest. We perused the buffet, filled our dishes and sat down to eat. I didn’t pay much attention when guests were led to the booth behind me. I was anticipating that first taste of Hot and Sour soup I’d spooned up, when one of the individuals threw herself into their booth. Literally. Hard enough for the partition to slap me in the back. Now, I won’t go so far as to say she broke it loose from its moorings, but it wouldn’t be far from the realm of possibility. Impact jolted my elbow hard enough to toss the spoonful of soup at hubby. It missed him, but my back rest lost about five of my share of the ninety degrees allowed to form my seat. Tipped me forward a bit, but things were still tolerable. We continued to eat.

Well, hubby continued to eat. He wasn’t being rocked by the individual who shoved herself back to get out of the booth to return to the buffet. Lost another three degrees with that exit. When she returned, it felt as if she ‘attacked’ her seat like it was a buddy in a mosh pit. Back rest slapped me once again.  Lost more ground. Over and over again she exited and re-entered, until I had a pretty good idea of what it felt like to be the castle door on the receiving end of a medieval assault. A door that was steadily losing ground, because the partition was giving up the ghost and folding toward the table. It got to the point I was smashed so far forward my face was hovering over my plate. While she relaxed like she was in an  Easyboy recliner, I had to brace my soles on the edge of hubby’s seat to save myself from being drowned in my own soup.

Expression nervous, hubby eyed her returning from yet another trip to the buffet.  “Sorry, honey,” he apologized.  Sheepish, but quick to grab the ankle of the foot I’d planted on the seat edge between his knees, he moved it to the outside of his leg.  “If she jars you loose and your heel goes north instead of south, well . . .” He finished in a rush, “It’d wreck your  playground for a week!” I braced myself with my hands as well, and still ended up with my ribs scraping the table edge.

I finally had enough. Using arms and legs I shoved back, trying to straighten up. Her reaction? She simply readjusted her seat to the previous comfortable reclining position. Hubby suggested I move beside him, but this had become a matter of principle. I refused to give more ground.

Stubbornness meant I spent more time bracing for impact than eating. Hubby split his time between laughing at my less than adult reaction and intoning “Incoming!” under his breath. Got caught off guard once or twice and took a couple direct hits. A steamed dumpling went MIA when it bounced across the table.  I opened my mouth to take a bite of egg roll when the seat smacked me in the back of the head and I engulfed the entire thing.  Hubby waggling his brows and growling a suggestive “Ooooh, ba-by!” didn’t improve my mood. I glared, eyes watering while I coughed egg roll wrapper crumbs.

But I won. I stuck it out without moving. She finally left and I crawled out from under my newly formed lean-to. I switched to hubby’s side of the table so the little oriental waitress could wrestle the partition back upright. She even brought us extra fortune cookies. And I don’t care how funny people may look at me. From now on, before I sit down I’m shaking the partition to make sure it’s secure. On second thought, I’ll wait for the booth on the very end.

Voodoo and New Orleans; the Witch Queens

One of the best friends Southern Sizzle has ever had, author Danica Avet — (and I recommend her books in THE VEIL series!) –blogged about the gris-gris yesterday, a Voodoo charm bag. Stirred up all kinds of memories concerning Voodoo.

And anytime a person thinks of Voodoo and New Orleans, they think of Marie Leveau.

But I have a question before we go any farther. And I want you to be completely honest with your response. Out of 100 people I asked this question of, 100 provided the wrong answer. (Not going to include my GCCRWA Chapter members in that number; they know the answer from my Paranormal program.)

So here we go: Who was the first Voodoo Queen of New Orleans?

Everyone I’ve ever asked answered without hesitation. “Marie Leveau.”

Wrong answer. In the early 1800’s the first Voodoo Queen was Sanite DeDe, a young woman from Santo Domingo. She held rituals at Dumaine and Chartres, with St. Louis Cathedral only blocks away. Rhythmic drum beats could be heard during Mass, which is why in 1817 the Church decided any religion that was not Catholic couldn’t be practiced within the city limits. Congo Square (now Louis Armstrong Park) became the location where early voodouns held ceremonies.

St. Louis Cathedral is bottom center (just above Jackson Square), with the intersection of Chartres and Dumaine, site of early Voodoo ceremonies, just two blocks to the right. Congo Square, (now Louis Armstrong Park), is top left. Marie Leveau's tomb is not in this image, but St. Louis Cemetery #1 is three blocks left of the park.

Marie Leveau was actually Sanite DeDe’s protege. Marie was born 1783 to Marguerite Darcantel, a slave from Haiti and mistress of wealthy plantation owner Charles Leveau. She was always a free woman of color. Marie was raised within the strict guidelines of the Catholic Church. A devout Catholic, she attended Mass every day of her life.

A hairdresser, in 1826 Marie became intrigued with then Queen Sanite DeDe. She began to study herbs and the secrets of the Voodoo religion. Marie is the one who saw the correspondence between the two religions, with one supreme deity and the saints. Quite often statues of Catholic saints were openly displayed, no one suspecting (or if they did it was never mentioned) they were actually part of a Voodoun altar. Marie never abandoned her Catholic roots, and is the one who incorporated Holy Water and candles into Voodoo rituals.

Marie Leveau was the most feared woman in New Orleans despite being one of the city’s greatest humanitarians, working alongside Pere Antoine caring for the sick during yellow fever epidemics. She ministered to prisoners on Death Row. She helped all who needed her regardless of race or ability to pay.

She retired as Queen in 1875, and died at the age of 98 in 1891. Her tomb is in St. Louis Cemetery #1, one of the most visited sites in New Orleans. At any given time you’ll find flowers, herbs, coins and rum offered in homage; or X’s marked in chalk by those with a specific request.

Voodoo ritual items include: Veves’ (pronounced vay-vays), magical symbols drawn in cornmeal on the floor during ceremonies, and on dolls or gris-gris bags. ‘Gris-gris’ (pronounced gree-gree, with the ‘gr’ guttural in the back of the throat), a small cloth pouch tied with colored thread or yarn, worn or carried on the person; contents and color are according to purpose. Patients at Charity hospital have been known to refuse to remove their gris-gris when entering for treatment. Mojo, a major gris-gris, with attitude. Poppet, a cloth doll representing a person, usually the self. Poppets are made with hair from that individual, fingernails from that individual, and sometimes ‘anointed’ with blood. As the representation of that individual, it is surrounded with money and luxuries to improve the welfare and living conditions of the person by association. Loa, one of the demigods, each with a particular purpose, and ‘danced down’.

Front stoops in New Orleans were scrubbed with red brick dust, the most prevalent way to prevent curses and individuals meaning you harm from entering your home.

Blood and Bone — there are subtle signs and symbols of Voodoo everywhere in New Orleans. The old hanging cast iron cauldron used to boil clothing on wash day served double duty, becoming the recipient of ritual brews. It was usually combined with the red and white of blood and bone, demonstrated in something as innocent as a white-washed wall with red geraniums set in front of it.

Voodoo is a continuous and intriguing thread running through New Orleans history, and if you’re ever in the city be sure to take one of the tours offered by Haunted History Tours. I’ve included them in the tags, or you can visit them at www.HauntedHistoryTours.com. The Travel Channel naming them “The #1 Tour in New Orleans!” is an additional incentive and recommendation. If you go on their Vampire Tour or Ghost Tour be sure and bring your camera. You never know who or what will show up in your pictures.

Vignettes from a Writer’s Week

A seven-year-old I’m helping to improve reading skills called them ‘vinaigrettes’. I haven’t figured out if he has a tendency to gloss over words instead of actually breaking them down and sounding them out, or since we’ve been covering odd words — (If how, now and cow rhyme, what the heck is going on with tomb, comb and bomb? as an example of how confusing the English language can be to a beginner)– he simply applied a word he knew from speech.

Like a vinaigrette, embarrassment leaves a slightly bitter after-tang on the tongue, so this week could be told in vinaigrettes. In fact, I think I shall do so.

My daughter was gifted with a large number of plants to grace her new three-and-a-half acre yard. She readily admits she can kill a cactus, so in an effort to save their lives she gave them to me. That meant hubby and I worked furiously to get three loropetalum, eight large lilies, several day lilies, two English dogwood, five types of iris, two pine cone ginger, four crepe myrtles, two palms, a gardenia, a walking iris, and a partridge in a pear tree into the ground before it rained. He dug holes, I set and filled in. It took burying the end of my braid in cow poop laced soil for the third time before I finally stomped inside for a hat to shove it under. Hubby swears his snorting was because a bug flew up his nose. I remain suspicious, so I hope it was a big fuzzy one.

We have puppies. Their nursing is becoming a drain on their mother. So I’ve been crushing up dog food and soaking it in warm water with powdered milk to help wean them to solid food. They’re very intelligent puppies because they wander nearer the back door than dog house every feeding time. Started out, bowl of puppy food soup in hand, and tangled up with Cochise. The biggest puppy decided to storm the ‘supply closet’ and ran inside. His siblings followed. Ever watched a furry wave, six members strong, come at you from across a yard and have only one foot free to try and fend them off? It’s not like you can punt them or anything. So you put the bowl in the yard, run back in and dig furballs out from under furniture and appliances. Then start over because the big dogs found puppy food soup quite tasty.

Speaking of tasty. Planned on making tuna casserole for supper one night. Cooked my noodles and tossed them with a few other ingredients. Opened the cabinet for the tuna. All six cans were gone. Tyler loves tuna, and must have struck during his stay here for spring break. While searching for the tuna I noticed one of two cans of tuna flavor cat food I had in the cabinet was missing as well. Along with a packet of gourmet crackers. I have no intention of asking because I don’t want to be ill, but I can’t help it. My mind keeps wandering that way.

Hubby’s MRI came back with some problems. Being male he’s stubborn about keeping the grass cut with the riding mower, even though he’s laid up for three days afterward. Son-in-law dropped off a stand-behind mower for him to try, since he’d be able to flex his knees and possibly absorb some of the shock to relieve pressure on his back. My office looks out on the front yard, and I was distracted several times while writing. STEAM PUNK! STEAM PUNK! STEAM PUNK! flashed in my brain each time hubby whizzed past the window, looking like some slash-sleeved, sun-glass-wearing, do-ragged villain/gladiator riding the skid-plate of his high-handlebar mechanical chariot.

From an earlier post you know my daughter’s exercise equipment ended at my house. So I’ve been using the treadmill since it’s here. With my knee recently replaced I worried about maintaining pace with the speed, but it has the cutest little clip on a cord you attach to your clothing. If you can’t keep up, it pulls the key free and stops the machine. The one time I didn’t use it . . .

Don’t know what possessed Cochise to try to get on the thing with me, but that bowling-ball-between-the-knees thing he does with his head made me stumble. My feet squirted out from under me but I managed to grab the handrails on the way down. Didn’t dare let go until the dog scrambled free. Unfortunately, the few seconds it took him to roll clear, the belt snatched at my elastic waisted flannel shorts. Hubby ran in with the crashing and yelling, but I found his singing  “White moon of Mississippi keep on shinin’ . . .” to the tune of Blue Moon of Kentucky during rescue totally unnecessary. And yes, thank you, the friction burns on my thighs from the ‘specially manufactured, industrially surfaced, slip-resistant, continuous action belt’ sanding me while I clung to the handrails are healing quite nicely.

I’m tossing in a pic with this post. It’s the good thing that happened this week. My PLEASE DON’T FEED LOUP-GAROU sign was  finally planted in the yard. Told the guys to make it eye-level. Keep forgetting the grandsons are taller than I am now. Had to stand on a bucket to take the shot! lol The neighborhood kids get their parents to drive them back and forth in front of the house after dark because the eyes, muzzle and fangs reflect when headlights sweep over them. From the excited squeals we hear they must think it’s pretty scary stuff! Hope you have as much fun with it as I do!

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