Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Calling Forth Our Characters

Gail Kittleson
Author - Teacher

Calling Forth Our Characters

Today's post is classier than usual. I'm honored to turn the page over to Gail Kittleson. I thought some of my readers would like to meet Gail prior to the fall release of her sequel to With Each New Dawn.

The World War II era intrigues Gail Kittleson, who writes from her northern Iowa home. After instructing English as a Second Language and expository writing, she published a memoir and now focuses on women’s historical fiction. She also facilitates writing workshops/retreats. 

She and her husband enjoy their grandchildren and in winter, Arizona’s Mogollon Rim Country. You can count on Gail’s heroines to ask honest questions, act with integrity, grow in faith, and face hardships with spunk. Here's Gail.

The female Gambel’s Quail chirping to her young before they hatch gives such a powerful picture of a mother’s role. I’m working on a book for midlife women, using desert life’s survival strategies to navigate midlife’s pitfalls.
That mother quail calling her chicks to life sticks with me. So does an amazing desert flower, la Reigna de la Noche, which blossoms just once each year. At night. In obscurity.  About the third week in June, around sunset, with help from insects and birds, the Queen of the Night propagates itself.
Blossoming just one day a year . . . calling your unhatched chicks into life . . . I said I’d be writing about characterization, and I’m getting there.
Yesterday I read about Ananias, the early Damascan disciple commanded to lay hands on temporarily blinded Saul. This would-be Apostle had already dreamed of Ananias coming to heal him.
If I were Ananias, I’d feel a little STUCK, backed into a corner. If he refuses to obey, God’s plan (which He reveals to Ananias—to use Saul in a mighty way in propagating the Gospel) goes awry. Who could handle that sort of guilt?
But the Master adds, “Don’t argue! Go! . . . I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.” (Acts 9: 15-16 MSG)
That one extra bit of motivation might have made all the difference. So God hand-picked Saul, and he’s going to suffer like the rest of us . . . Who knows if Ananias thought like that, but it’s how I think—above all, I want justice to be done.
That’s a character trait. For me, it goes back to a bottom-line concern for things to turn out right! As you can imagine, that trait has required tweaking over the years.
I’m also working on a novel set in Pine, AZ, where we spend most of the winter
A bit of the Mogollon Rim
near Gail's winter home.
right under the Mogollon Rim. My heroine Abby’s character arc develops under the shadow of that Rim and evolves in the same way as this blog article. Bit by bit.
Abby came to me years ago, the winter my husband spent in Iraq. But she’s been a little reticent to let me see into her soul. I’ve realized only recently that she’s also reticent to embrace joy.
Once, she lunged into the emotion of the moment, but as hurt after hurt piled on her, she shrank back from joy. If we do that long enough, our capacity becomes stunted, and recovering the faculty happens ever so gradually. That’s my Abby.
A dear friend sent me a card that said, “Blooming is risky business—just ask any flower.” Yes, but what kind of world would be flowerless? Impossible to calculate the effect of beauty—how many times has a glimpse of loveliness thwarted evil or encouraged a despairing soul to plod on? The Rim’s natural beauty attends Abby as she regains her ability to enjoy life.
Those of you who write, how do your characters evolve? And readers, what types of character strengths/flaws entice you most?

Gail Kittleson @GailGkittleson

One more soon to come.

We'll try to get Gail to come back as her new book nears publication. Stay tuned.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays

Thank a veteran

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Katie and Rocky Fly To Colorado

Katie with her mom, Laurie, before Rocky
shows up with Security

Katie and Rocky Fly To Colorado.

This week's post is in the words of my Darling Daughter. She describes a bonding moment with her younger daughter during the McCarran International Airport screening process.

Getting Ready.

So, Katie went to Denver yesterday for her annual visit with my brother's family.

It was an early morning flight out of McCarran International Airport in LasVegas, and Katie stayed up late to pack, an exercise that I did not supervise.  She’s flown many times before, so I didn't worry too much about it.  Before we left for the airport, I made sure she put her bulging toiletries bag in her suitcase to be checked and ran through the list of items with her that she's not allowed to take on the plane.  (And that got about as much attention as the flight stewards do with their oxygen mask safety speech.)

Checking In.

Not surprisingly we were a little behind schedule at 5:00 a.m., and by the time I got a pass to go through security with her to catch her flight, we were running later still.  I didn't have anything to put through the scanner except my shoes and cell phone. Katie had her backpack and laptop which she took out and put it a separate bin as required.

The Process.

Shoes, phones, and the computer zipped down the rollers. Everything came through except Katie's carry-on.

We put our sandals back on and waited.

And waited.

I began to picture us in a lineup of Clark County’s banned flyers and asked Katie if she forgot and left her pocket knife in her backpack?


Bottle of perfume?


Bottle of Jack Daniels?

No, Mom!

Finally, a security officer appeared holding the bin with Katie's velvet, black and white, polka dotted backpack with the pink straps.  All the little doodads and keychains she had attached to it were flapping over the sides clattering against the plastic.
Laurie was seeing black and white
striped clothing.


He looked us over, and the sight of him replaced glitzy neon lights to become my defining image of Las Vegas. We froze at the end of the conveyor, jostled and pushed by the other in-a-hurry passengers. We stood in their way and so close that they no longer smelled of perfume and aftershave but hurry, worry, and tension.

The agent carried the tub to a small counter where he proceeded to inspect the object of our delay.

He didn't exactly motion us over, but Katie and I sidled up anyway and watched him poke, prod, pinch, and frisk the pack. All the while I ran through every possible thing Katie could have in it that would cause a problem.

What Has Katie Done?

Oh, please don’t let her be trying to smuggle fireworks or pot (it's legal in Colorado, you know).

I finally blurted out, “You can just open it!”

Well, apparently an airport security official does not need to be told by a rushed, middle-aged, mother that he can open a bag containing unknown and potentially hazardous or dangerous material or weaponry.

I received a sharp look, and a terse, “Step back, please.”

The Contraband.

He finally landed on something, and I admit my heart rate jacked up a tad as he unzipped the front pocket and pulled out a large, brightly colored ROCK.

I stared at Katie and said, “What the hell is that?”
So strong it can hold up an airplane.

My brilliant, already-in-college, 16-year-old informed me, “It's a painted rock from Arizona! I want to hide it in Colorado!”

You see, my daughter has been caught up in the 2017 version of the pet rock craze. She spends a lot of time avoiding homework by painting the landscaping rocks from our front yard and hiding them around town. This activity apparently even has its own Facebook page.

Mom Steps In.

I assumed that our humorless security official was not familiar with this pastime, but would now have a pretty pink rock with the smiley words "Love from Kingman, Arizona" as a paper weight on his desk.

I rather heatedly informed my daughter she would not be allowed to take that on the plane.

Imagine my surprise when the officer wordlessly slipped the rock back into the front pocket and handed the bag to Katie.

Once again, we made the gate with a microsecond left to board.

And On To The Next One.

There you have it. Laurie's last sentence is a closing and prophesy - "Once again..."
I've watched my Darling Daughter dash from calamity to catasrophe all her life, usually with hilarious results. She needs to start her own stories.

Before leaving, I had to wonder about the agents on their coffee break.
Agent 1: I intercepted 5 ounces of cocaine this morning.
Agent 2: I got 3 kilos of pot and a switchblade.
Agent 3: I found a rock.

Stunned silence - waiting for the punch line.

Agent 3: They were checking in from Kingman, Arizona.
Agent 1: Oh, yeah.
Agent 2: Well, then ... sure.

What happened to you at the check in? Leave a comment here.

Writing Fiction is posted on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Quail, Writers and Survival

Do you see him?

Quail, Writers, and Survival

Gambel's Quail are native to Arizona and have adapted to life in urban communities surrounded by desert.

Such is the case in Sun City West where Frances and I enjoy watching them stomp through the yard, calling to one another. They are one of the few birds that still stimulate my failing audio receptors, and I like to think that they're always amused since it sounds like they chuckle.

It's Their Destiny.

Quail have several inherent strategies for thriving. They prefer to stay on the ground and have excellent camouflage for blending in with the environment. They can and will fly. They may nest where suitable in trees or structures up to 30 feet high. They are usually monogamous and stay together in a family unit.

But Life Isn't Easy.

We noticed that mom and dad quail showed up with a brood of six tiny chicks just as The Valley of the Sun experienced the worst heat wave of the summer. They were cute little rascals, no bigger than a golf ball, and so fast they were almost a blur running from bush to shrub.

The temperature rose to 115 degrees Fahrenheit that day.

The next few days temperature held between 112 and 114 and Frances worried about them. We saw four chicks, then, ohmygosh, 13 of the cuties following mom and dad. We felt great.

Then back to four, but they were juveniles now and looked like they would make it. There was no doubt that some of the clutch fell to fates of nature one way or the other.

Where Am I Going With This?

Gambel's Quail and writers face similar struggles.

Just before her eggs hatch, mom Gambel's Quail calls to her chicks. They answer her and chirp to each other. They hatch in synchrony.

Writers graduate a creative writing class. Much chirping occurs then, too.

Quail stay together, help each other find food, water, and cover.

Agent Dad
Ditto critique groups.

Dad quail positions himself where he can see. He stands guard and alerts the covey when things are amiss.

Writers have agents.

Not all quail survive.

Same with writers.

Quail can take explosive flight.

Some writers have done the same thing.

I think the next one will be you!

Are you ready? Leave a comment by clicking on the post title or going here.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Visualizing Your Story

Are there Panthers in Kingman, Arizona?

Visualizing Your Story

Creative people have exciting lives.

Look carefully just above the dash to see the cat running to the left.

Give credit where it's due.

Frances has just had cataract surgery and her eyesight has improved immensely. She can see now, even with only one eye done, better than she has in a long time.

She spotted it right away.

Allie's in on the action.

Our favorite oldest granddaughter posted the picture on Facebook with the notation, "Look what we saw last night."

Her mother, our Darling Daughter, wanted to know if she had called the police.

Concern for Allie was high at our house. That cat was too big to be a house cat and with a tail that long couldn't be a bobcat. It had to be a mountain lion, or could it even be a Panther?

Checking for safety.

Frances texted Allie for more information. She got it.
There are dumpsters in Kingman, Arizona

What Allie posted was a picture of a dumpster fire.

Clearing it up.

That rascally pair of sunglasses sitting on the dash must allow the viewer to see things differently.

But don't you think that catching a glimpse of a fleeting Panther where none should be is much more exciting than a dumpster fire?

What do you see? Leave a comment here.

Writing Fiction is posted on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.