Characters and Careers


Outtakes 232

Characters and Careers

by Cait Collins

Characters don’t just sit around all day shooting the breeze. They have jobs, careers, and education. But where do you start in researching careers? If you know someone in the profession, make an appointment to discuss the job description, education, salary, perks, lingo, attire and so forth. But if you don’t have access to an expert in the field, there are other sources to help you out.

When I first began writing fiction, I knew I would need handy resources. Writer’s Digest released Careers for Your Characters by Raymond Obstfeld and Franz Neumann a number of years ago. It’s one of the first books I purchased for my library. The volume covers 101 professions providing good information on common careers and some not so common ones. It’s has helped me better define some of my characters. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide information on jewelry design and gemology. So it’s time to punt.

I started with pulling information from my college geology classes and labs. What equipment did I need for my hero? What would he have in his kit? Would he do some prospecting on his own? What is the process for filing a claim? And as the writer, what did I need to learn to create this character?

My local Barnes and Noble Booksellers provided a number of books for my research. Tom Jackson’s What’s that ROCK or MINERAL? guided me in rock and mineral identification. Smithsonian Nature Guide Rocks and Minerals by Ronald Louis Bonewitz provided information on gem properties and locations. Gemstone Settings by Anastasia Young gave me insight on the types of settings and lingo. I began comparing some of my personal jewelry with the designs in the book so that I could describe the various pieces in my hero’s line.

I then hit the internet to learn what gems one could find in Colorado. I also found fee sights where I could go to pan for gold and sluice for gems and minerals. I may need to make a trip to the state to put my book knowledge to work so that I can accurately describe the panning process.

What do I hope to gain from this research? I will be able to create more dynamic characters, settings and description. And in turn I will hopefully give the reader a really great story.

 

POSTCARDS


POSTCARDS
by Sharon Stevens

This week I came across a postcard from Colorado that a dear friend and neighbor sent me a couple of years ago. We were watching their home for them while they were gone on vacation. They knew our neighborhood had been having a skunk problem, so the postcard they sent us had the cutest baby skunks on the front. The note they wrote on the back was personal and timely about the fun they were having and the sights they were seeing. The title on the card was, “It stinks when you’re not here…”

Our Buffalo Bookstore will be hosting a book signing for Tim Lewis and his book, “Forever Friday” at WTAMU Homecoming on Saturday October 5, 2013 from 9-12:am. Lewis’ wonderful story celebrates the life and love of a Gabe and Puck, and connects with postcards in a unique way.

You wouldn’t believe the number of tourists from around the world that come through asking for postcards with a little piece of Texas. We have teachers following with students, grandparents with “Flat Stanley’s”, business people sending cards home, and those with loved ones in the military for a reminder of all they treasure on the home front. Even though the premise of these cards has not changed in over a hundred years, the picture postcards are not dead by any means.

As writers we have to write so many things. Along with the body of our story there are also dedication pages, acknowledgments, blurbs, reviews, and also those we write for others. Tough gigs all across the board. But what if we had to write our entire life in the tiny space allowed on one side, and the address of our friend or beloved family on the other. How can we ever focus so simply? What words will fit or what will you discard? How many thoughts are empty? What will your heart share when it is full?

Today when I picked up this particular postcard from two years ago, I was instantly transported back to the skunk problem and the smell that accompanied it. I remembered a dear friend that shared this particular memory and how we laughed together when they returned home. It may only have been a cheap card, but to me it meant the world stretching across the miles.

So please take a moment and think of what you will write in a couple of sentences on your own postcard. Use it not only as a writing exercise, but as a reminder of why we love what we do.

Tim Lewis’ book signing will be a simple affair as we are a simple book store. His book is not gang buster’s and violence. You won’t find horror or blood within the pages. What you will find is a great love story, but not a sugar sweet concoction either. Gabe and Puck are real, as well as Adam Colby. They live in a reality of life with trials as well as treasures stretching across the war years to a time right here and now. I loved Tim’s story and connected to it in so many ways. There is also some nursing home shenanigans I chuckled with that I remembered when I was a young nurses aid at our local home. Watch the trailers for the book and listen to the music as this is a song that Tim wrote and performed for his wife Dinah.

We welcome everyone to stop by and visit with Tim about his book and celebrate the legacy of a postcard and a love that withstands the “long division”. The WTAMU Homecoming parade is always stupendous and we have great viewing in front of our business. We will be having cookies and lemonade, and Tim even shared “Gabe’s” favorite chocolate cake recipe. We hope that “Puck” will be proud and that it tastes as good as what they remember.

And let this be a reminder to never forget of the love you truly share with a simple memory, even on something as the words on a postcard.

And on another sweet note…Natalie Bright just returned from a book signing at the West Texas Book Festival in Abilene. Her story, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessing” was included in the anthology “West Texas Christmas Stories”. According to Natalie’s web site, “this is a collection of heart-warming and humorous Christmas stories all set in West Texas by West Texas writers.”

Wonderful story and what a way to share a simple gift of the holidays.

Natalie is a good friend and fellow blogger at Wordsmithsix. She is also one of our founders of the Jodi Thomas Fan Club now celebrating 10 years. Natalie took her first writing class from Jodi and has been writing ever since. Her book, “Oil People” has been published. Also “Gone Never Forgotten’ is on e-books and soon will be in print. She has several more in the works. Natalie has been a guest speaker around the country on writing and feels it is so important to donate her books in school and public libraries everywhere she speaks.

And on a final note I want to take a moment for reflection on the passing of Tom Clancy. Here at our Buffalo Bookstore Clancy is one of those authors whose books are ones traded most often. They never go out of style, and his unique genre is the most popular through the cycles of readers. He will be missed, but he will always be remembered as long as books exist on this earth. And I think that will be for eternity. New readers are being born every day.

POSTCARDS


POSTCARDS
by Sharon Stevens

This week I came across a postcard from Colorado that a dear friend and neighbor sent me a couple of years ago. We were watching their home for them while they were gone on vacation. They knew our neighborhood had been having a skunk problem, so the postcard they sent us had the cutest baby skunks on the front. The note they wrote on the back was personal and timely about the fun they were having and the sights they were seeing. The title on the card was, “It stinks when you’re not here…”

Our Buffalo Bookstore will be hosting a book signing for Tim Lewis and his book, “Forever Friday” at WTAMU Homecoming on Saturday October 5, 2013 from 9-12:am. Lewis’ wonderful story celebrates the life and love of a Gabe and Puck, and connects with postcards in a unique way.

You wouldn’t believe the number of tourists from around the world that come through asking for postcards with a little piece of Texas. We have teachers following with students, grandparents with “Flat Stanley’s”, business people sending cards home, and those with loved ones in the military for a reminder of all they treasure on the home front. Even though the premise of these cards has not changed in over a hundred years, the picture postcards are not dead by any means.

As writers we have to write so many things. Along with the body of our story there are also dedication pages, acknowledgments, blurbs, reviews, and also those we write for others. Tough gigs all across the board. But what if we had to write our entire life in the tiny space allowed on one side, and the address of our friend or beloved family on the other. How can we ever focus so simply? What words will fit or what will you discard? How many thoughts are empty? What will your heart share when it is full?

Today when I picked up this particular postcard from two years ago, I was instantly transported back to the skunk problem and the smell that accompanied it. I remembered a dear friend that shared this particular memory and how we laughed together when they returned home. It may only have been a cheap card, but to me it meant the world stretching across the miles.

So please take a moment and think of what you will write in a couple of sentences on your own postcard. Use it not only as a writing exercise, but as a reminder of why we love what we do.

Tim Lewis’ book signing will be a simple affair as we are a simple book store. His book is not gang buster’s and violence. You won’t find horror or blood within the pages. What you will find is a great love story, but not a sugar sweet concoction either. Gabe and Puck are real, as well as Adam Colby. They live in a reality of life with trials as well as treasures stretching across the war years to a time right here and now. I loved Tim’s story and connected to it in so many ways. There is also some nursing home shenanigans I chuckled with that I remembered when I was a young nurses aid at our local home. Watch the trailers for the book and listen to the music as this is a song that Tim wrote and performed for his wife Dinah.

We welcome everyone to stop by and visit with Tim about his book and celebrate the legacy of a postcard and a love that withstands the “long division”. The WTAMU Homecoming parade is always stupendous and we have great viewing in front of our business. We will be having cookies and lemonade, and Tim even shared “Gabe’s” favorite chocolate cake recipe. We hope that “Puck” will be proud and that it tastes as good as what they remember.

And let this be a reminder to never forget of the love you truly share with a simple memory, even on something as the words on a postcard.

And on another sweet note…Natalie Bright just returned from a book signing at the West Texas Book Festival in Abilene. Her story, “A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessing” was included in the anthology “West Texas Christmas Stories”. According to Natalie’s web site, “this is a collection of heart-warming and humorous Christmas stories all set in West Texas by West Texas writers.”

Wonderful story and what a way to share a simple gift of the holidays.

Natalie is a good friend and fellow blogger at Wordsmithsix. She is also one of our founders of the Jodi Thomas Fan Club now celebrating 10 years. Natalie took her first writing class from Jodi and has been writing ever since. Her book, “Oil People” has been published. Also “Gone Never Forgotten’ is on e-books and soon will be in print. She has several more in the works. Natalie has been a guest speaker around the country on writing and feels it is so important to donate her books in school and public libraries everywhere she speaks.

And on a final note I want to take a moment for reflection on the passing of Tom Clancy. Here at our Buffalo Bookstore Clancy is one of those authors whose books are ones traded most often. They never go out of style, and his unique genre is the most popular through the cycles of readers. He will be missed, but he will always be remembered as long as books exist on this earth. And I think that will be for eternity. New readers are being born every day.

ECHO


ECHO
by Sharon Stevens
I was watching Josh Groban on “America’s Got talent” as he sang with the finalist Forte‘. The song they sang together was “Brave” from Groban’s ALLTHAT ECHOES album. Josh said that performing with the three talented men for him was a full circle moment. The producer for AGT is Houston Howell who is a local son. His parents are teachers from the Canyon area, and tell me that they are overjoyed when they see their son appear on screen doing his job.
At Wal-marts a few years ago I was buying ingredients for homemade cookies for a celebration at our Buffalo Bookstore. Sugar, flour, more sugar, more flour. I kept checking my list over and again. This would go in for making Snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, sugar cookies, ginger snaps and any other cookie recipe I might find between now and then. I thought I had everything in my basket. What was I forgetting?
The lady who was checking out the groceries was always one of my favorites. She would smile, and chat, if only briefly. But this time it was different. She saw all the sugar and just had to share a story. She said that seeing the sweet brought up the most precious memories. Her mother had died when she was thirteen and being the oldest of the siblings she had to take responsibility for everything in the household during the years of the Depression before World War II. Her father didn’t drive so he traded all his gas rations for sugar as his children liked this on their cereal. He said this is what he could do. I could only imagine what this meant to her as she remembered not only the heartache of the loss of her mother, but the simple gesture of love her father shared with his children.
When she shared this with me I knew it was only moments out of a lifetime for the both of us. She needed to connect, and what better person to link with than me. I so love a good message.
I noticed the cashier who shared this with me, Jeanine Trout, passed away this past week. When I saw her obituary in the newspaper I was struck with how privileged I was to know that in a brief moment in the checkout line at Wal-Marts I was given a priceless gift. An echo coming full circle.
This past week celebrated International Dot Day. Another treasure! I purchased little scissors at Wal-Marts to cut out my dots. I will never forget visiting with our daughter’s kindergarten teacher before the first day of class. Mrs. Baker told us to be sure and purchase a GOOD pair of scissors. She explained that if we got the rounded, cheap scissors that the kids got very frustrated. They couldn’t cut, took more time, and the edges were ragged and chewed the paper or tore it to pieces, and it wasn’t worth it. The teacher told us that she would teach the kids how to use the better scissors so they wouldn’t harm each other. She knew that this simple advice would carry Andrea through her lifetime, in whatever she pursued. And it did.
I remember this when I bought my cutters for Dot Day and the teacher was right. They cut beautifully, easily and completely in moments. Another echo.
As writers we are given so many special moments of echos. How can we ignore when they are dropped into our lap. We might not connect right then and there, or tomorrow, or the day after that. But we know when the time will be right to gather these back into our souls, until we open our hearts to share them again.
And for a special note. This next week I will be celebrating 20 years since my first creative writing class at Amarillo College with Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace. In fact, I spent the evening of September 23, 1993 at Llano Cemetery while Jodi shared all the echos of those buried beneath our steps. I can’t tell you what a tremendous journey and gift this has been!
And for the final note: We have witnessed so many tragedies this past week with the flooding in Colorado and the shooting at the Navy yard in Washington DC. In the coming days we will hear so many wonderful stories of those lost. We need only to collect and protect them for another day.
Echos every one, coming full circle.

ECHO


ECHO
by Sharon Stevens
 
 
I was watching Josh Groban on “America’s Got talent” as he sang with the finalist Forte‘. The song they sang together was “Brave” from Groban’s ALLTHAT ECHOES album. Josh said that performing with the three talented men for him was a full circle moment. The producer for AGT is Houston Howell who is a local son. His parents are teachers from the Canyon area, and tell me that they are overjoyed when they see their son appear on screen doing his job.
 
At Wal-marts a few years ago I was buying ingredients for homemade cookies for a celebration at our Buffalo Bookstore. Sugar, flour, more sugar, more flour. I kept checking my list over and again. This would go in for making Snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, sugar cookies, ginger snaps and any other cookie recipe I might find between now and then. I thought I had everything in my basket. What was I forgetting?
 
The lady who was checking out the groceries was always one of my favorites. She would smile, and chat, if only briefly. But this time it was different. She saw all the sugar and just had to share a story. She said that seeing the sweet brought up the most precious memories. Her mother had died when she was thirteen and being the oldest of the siblings she had to take responsibility for everything in the household during the years of the Depression before World War II. Her father didn’t drive so he traded all his gas rations for sugar as his children liked this on their cereal. He said this is what he could do. I could only imagine what this meant to her as she remembered not only the heartache of the loss of her mother, but the simple gesture of love her father shared with his children.
 
When she shared this with me I knew it was only moments out of a lifetime for the both of us. She needed to connect, and what better person to link with than me. I so love a good message.
  
I noticed the cashier who shared this with me, Jeanine Trout, passed away this past week. When I saw her obituary in the newspaper I was struck with how privileged I was to know that in a brief moment in the checkout line at Wal-Marts I was given a priceless gift. An echo coming full circle.
  
This past week celebrated International Dot Day. Another treasure! I purchased little scissors at Wal-Marts to cut out my dots. I will never forget visiting with our daughter’s kindergarten teacher before the first day of class. Mrs. Baker told us to be sure and purchase a GOOD pair of scissors. She explained that if we got the rounded, cheap scissors that the kids got very frustrated. They couldn’t cut, took more time, and the edges were ragged and chewed the paper or tore it to pieces, and it wasn’t worth it. The teacher told us that she would teach the kids how to use the better scissors so they wouldn’t harm each other. She knew that this simple advice would carry Andrea through her lifetime, in whatever she pursued. And it did.
 
I remember this when I bought my cutters for Dot Day and the teacher was right. They cut beautifully, easily and completely in moments. Another echo.
 
As writers we are given so many special moments of echos. How can we ignore when they are dropped into our lap. We might not connect right then and there, or tomorrow, or the day after that. But we know when the time will be right to gather these back into our souls, until we open our hearts to share them again.
 
And for a special note. This next week I will be celebrating 20 years since my first creative writing class at Amarillo College with Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace. In fact, I spent the evening of September 23, 1993 at Llano Cemetery while Jodi shared all the echos of those buried beneath our steps. I can’t tell you what a tremendous journey and gift this has been!
 
And for the final note: We have witnessed so many tragedies this past week with the flooding in Colorado and the shooting at the Navy yard in Washington DC. In the coming days we will hear so many wonderful stories of those lost. We need only to collect and protect them for another day.
 
Echos every one, coming full circle.

SCUM


SCUM

By Sharon Stevens

“Scum-the refuse, the recrement, that which is vile or worthless”

Webster’s 1890 Dictionary Definition

While getting cookies at the local discount store for our cookie jar at our family business I spied a package of Kool-aid someone had knocked to the floor. (Black Cherry if I remember right.) It took only a second to pick it up and put it back on the shelf. That’s all I did, nothing more and nothing less. There was no fanfare, no flags unfurled, no pageantry anywhere around me. All I remember is looking at the image for just a moment, remembered the brand, then placing the bright colored picture back where it belonged among the others. I then simply walked on down the aisle.

But I came away from that brief encounter with memories that flooded and overwhelmed me deep within my heart all the way down to my toes, so much so that I couldn’t shake it off.

My husband worked with a man who had been in Vietnam and had battled some of the fiercest fighting of the war. He was just nineteen years old and from a small town in Texas surrounded by every horror known to man. He told us that he would never forget a hometown gesture that really kept him sane. He said that friends and neighbors back home would send him packets of Kool-aid. When he came to a steaming creek or river, all he had to do was skim the scum off the top of water, fill his canteen, pull out a packet with the bright colored logo, empty it in, shake it up and voila. In the horrendous heat of the tropical jungle he had a drink that instantly reminded him of cool glasses of lemonade on the front porch, or back porch, at the lake, at the baseball field, at a family picnic, or after a hard days work. His thoughts could return to home even with the drones of every insect, the scavengers in the water, and the bombardment of the deafening fight that surrounded him.

I will always remember Mrs. Gordon-Cummings, our neighbor next door out in the country. She was one of the original pioneers of our area. Until her death she would ask her caretakers to go down into the canyons, to the artesian springs, and bring her back a glass jar filled with cool water. I have been down to those very springs and they are covered in a scum that transcends nasty. But to her, for some reason, this was the nectar of the Gods.

But then again, when I think about it, I have gone down to these ponds and noticed a sweet smell, something that I couldn’t put my finger on. Earth, flowers, water, grass, leaves…all the colors of the rainbow would fill my senses. Years later I could be walking next to a stream in Colorado and be surrounded with these same thoughts.

Scum is such a relative word. When you hear or see this image you can’t help but think evil, ugly, and dark. Or child molesters, wife beaters, drug dealers, the whole gamut of despair. You can’t separate anything out other than the deepest and the worst. Men come to mind more than women, old comes to mind more that youth.

As writers you have to write your characters as you see and feel them. It is so very hard for me to write of the darkness of the soul. I don’t always look for the silver lining in whatever story I am working on, but I usually find a memory that pulls the very dregs of humanity out back up into the light. Makes me weary though. I so want everyone to be happy all the time. My heart tells me that not every story has a happy ending, or a joyous middle, or a sweet beginning. Or maybe its my brain that is forcing me to see reality between the lines.

On the other hand. I never want to get so lost in the black that I can’t ever see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think this is what happened to Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”, as he became consumed with the darkness that turned inward.

So the next time you hear or think the word, “scum” take just a moment and place yourself away in a world where a homesick soldier is skimming aside the scum of the earth to get a quick drink of memory so many miles away from the world he grew up in. Imagine a woman that remembered while living in a dugout, raising her family, so far away from the nearest neighbor or friend that a cool glass jar filled with water from the creek could make all the difference in the world.

Maybe then, as a writer, you will see your world in a different light.

I want to take a moment and remember Elsie Batenhorst who passed away this week. PBS televised a special called, “Cathedral on the Plains” about St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Umbarger a few years ago. We had our book signing for Donald Mace Williams with his book, “Interlude in Umbarger” about the Italian Prisoner’s of War who painted this church and were featured in this documentary. Elsie came as well as Gerri Gerber and shared her memories and scrapbooks with those of us gathered. I will always remember her twinkling smile and impish laughter. She shared several stories about Mrs. Gordon-Cummings with me as well. I miss them both.

SCUM


SCUM

By Sharon Stevens

“Scum-the refuse, the recrement, that which is vile or worthless”

Webster’s 1890 Dictionary Definition

While getting cookies at the local discount store for our cookie jar at our family business I spied a package of Kool-aid someone had knocked to the floor. (Black Cherry if I remember right.) It took only a second to pick it up and put it back on the shelf. That’s all I did, nothing more and nothing less. There was no fanfare, no flags unfurled, no pageantry anywhere around me. All I remember is looking at the image for just a moment, remembered the brand, then placing the bright colored picture back where it belonged among the others. I then simply walked on down the aisle.

But I came away from that brief encounter with memories that flooded and overwhelmed me deep within my heart all the way down to my toes, so much so that I couldn’t shake it off.

My husband worked with a man who had been in Vietnam and had battled some of the fiercest fighting of the war. He was just nineteen years old and from a small town in Texas surrounded by every horror known to man. He told us that he would never forget a hometown gesture that really kept him sane. He said that friends and neighbors back home would send him packets of Kool-aid. When he came to a steaming creek or river, all he had to do was skim the scum off the top of water, fill his canteen, pull out a packet with the bright colored logo, empty it in, shake it up and voila. In the horrendous heat of the tropical jungle he had a drink that instantly reminded him of cool glasses of lemonade on the front porch, or back porch, at the lake, at the baseball field, at a family picnic, or after a hard days work. His thoughts could return to home even with the drones of every insect, the scavengers in the water, and the bombardment of the deafening fight that surrounded him.

I will always remember Mrs. Gordon-Cummings, our neighbor next door out in the country. She was one of the original pioneers of our area. Until her death she would ask her caretakers to go down into the canyons, to the artesian springs, and bring her back a glass jar filled with cool water. I have been down to those very springs and they are covered in a scum that transcends nasty. But to her, for some reason, this was the nectar of the Gods.

But then again, when I think about it, I have gone down to these ponds and noticed a sweet smell, something that I couldn’t put my finger on. Earth, flowers, water, grass, leaves…all the colors of the rainbow would fill my senses. Years later I could be walking next to a stream in Colorado and be surrounded with these same thoughts.

Scum is such a relative word. When you hear or see this image you can’t help but think evil, ugly, and dark. Or child molesters, wife beaters, drug dealers, the whole gamut of despair. You can’t separate anything out other than the deepest and the worst. Men come to mind more than women, old comes to mind more that youth.

As writers you have to write your characters as you see and feel them. It is so very hard for me to write of the darkness of the soul. I don’t always look for the silver lining in whatever story I am working on, but I usually find a memory that pulls the very dregs of humanity out back up into the light. Makes me weary though. I so want everyone to be happy all the time. My heart tells me that not every story has a happy ending, or a joyous middle, or a sweet beginning. Or maybe its my brain that is forcing me to see reality between the lines.

On the other hand. I never want to get so lost in the black that I can’t ever see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think this is what happened to Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”, as he became consumed with the darkness that turned inward.

So the next time you hear or think the word, “scum” take just a moment and place yourself away in a world where a homesick soldier is skimming aside the scum of the earth to get a quick drink of memory so many miles away from the world he grew up in. Imagine a woman that remembered while living in a dugout, raising her family, so far away from the nearest neighbor or friend that a cool glass jar filled with water from the creek could make all the difference in the world.

Maybe then, as a writer, you will see your world in a different light.

I want to take a moment and remember Elsie Batenhorst who passed away this week. PBS televised a special called, “Cathedral on the Plains” about St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Umbarger a few years ago. We had our book signing for Donald Mace Williams with his book, “Interlude in Umbarger” about the Italian Prisoner’s of War who painted this church and were featured in this documentary. Elsie came as well as Gerri Gerber and shared her memories and scrapbooks with those of us gathered. I will always remember her twinkling smile and impish laughter. She shared several stories about Mrs. Gordon-Cummings with me as well. I miss them both.

STOP


STOP 

By Sharon Stevens

This last weekend my husband and I decided to take off for a long weekend. Even though we needed to get away, with the price of gas we knew we couldn’t go too far. So yet again we chose the same old journey that has provided refuge for our family over the years. Even though we didn’t think we would be doing much fishing we packed the tackle box and fishing gear just the same. Monument Lake Colorado here we come.

Our excitement continued to build as we got closer to our destination. The colors began to change the farther we traveled. The air was lighter, and so was our hearts. The road wound through the familiar countryside. Oh, if only our children, our families, and our friends had been with us. So many times they had come along to keep us company in years past, and filled our soul with the kind of memories that kept us warm however cold a winter’s night. Actually my husband and I were sort of lonely, with just the two of us along for the ride. How would we keep each other company over the next three days?

But after we got to the lake, and once my husband threw his line into the water it didn’t take long for us to go our separate ways. Forget any kind of relationship bonding. We both knew we needed to refresh ourselves. To each his own.

As usual while he fished, I wandered. I wondered and marveled and rejoiced to see all the beautiful creation that welcomed me. I smelled leaves, and grass. I heard birds twittering and elk calling. I felt the breeze brush my face. The last of the wildflowers and the ever green pines filled my head with the scents of autumn, the last before blizzards buried the smell till the coming spring.

And the colors! How could anyone describe the colors? There were no words for every shade of red, orange, green, yellow and every hue in between. I turned my camera this way and that and took pictures from every angle, with every light and shadow I could fathom.

And this brings me to my thoughts as a writer. Everywhere I go I take a picture of a sign. This may be a STOP sign, or a yield sign, or a directional sign, or one advising of speed limits, or a twist or a turn. These metal fixtures are there in my camera as a constant reminder…a reminder of what?

Once they are downloaded they are in my computer forever. Later when I come across them as a slide show I can relive them again and again, in my heart and in my soul, and with every fiber of my being. I never know when these may help me to STOP for just a moment, and reflect on what I am really trying to say. Or maybe it’s my character’s way of saying not to go down that path, but to choose another. Or it could be my psyche’s way of reminding me I need to take a break for myself or my story, to stave off getting too bogged down with the nitty-gritty. Or it could be God’s way of saying to take a minute and remember HIS Creation. Every sign may have the same word, but the message may carry a different meaning.

And as a final thought, when this symbol comes across, it could be a sign that I need to get up from my laptop, go find my husband, and tell him how much I love him. If I follow the direction printed on the sign, I can remind him how much he is appreciated. With love I can thank him for taking me for a weekend getaway, driving hundreds of miles, burning expensive fuel, spending his (our) hard earned money for a night’s stay in a hotel, and blowing our food budget by eating out again and again. Even though I did let him fish, how wonderful it was that he would drive all that way just so I could STOP for the briefest of moments, and capture countless pictures of every STOP sign at every intersection.

After all, he ever so gently reminds me, each one says the same thing.