Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's a Bling Bling Christmas

Pictured above: Our holiday mantle featuring freakishly thin snow people (the boy snow person is a bit metrosexual) ~ a cairn terrier (Toto dog) ~ornaments on one of our trees (yay) ~ the mighty Skeena (I lived near this river long ago) ~ and last, but cerainly not least, chocolate, it is Christmas after all.
One of these days I'll figure out how to add pics into the body of the post, until then bear with me, please.

Think Julie Andrews. Listed are a few of my favorite things, in no particular order:

~Shiny Christmas tree ornaments, (love, love, love em, I swear I must be part raccoon)
~Susan Boyle's rendition of Wild Horses
~Unusual throw pillows
~Bryce Canyon at sunset (well, anytime of day, but sunset's truly magical)
~The movie Babe, Pig in the City
~Children's belly laughs
~PF Chang's gluten-free lemon chicken
~Paris, France
~My Mac (faithful accomplice)
~Cairn terriers
~Mountain lakes surrounded by evergreens
~Elegant hotel rooms
~California wild poppies
~The Skeena River in British Columbia, Canada
~Chocolate (you suspected as much, didn't you?)

I'm taking a brief hiatus for the holidays. Look for me around the 27th, give or take, depending on how things go. I want to wish every single one of you a Very Merry Christmas, and if Christmas isn't your holiday, then Happy Holidays! I will miss you all, Bloggy Buddies!

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Cool Giveaway if you have a girl in your life/and who the heck doesn't? Click and find out the fun details.

PLEASE NOTE: For all of you that asked who on earth is that in the picture, it's Judy Champagne, doing Judy Garland. Click here to visit her site.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Human Emotion

My daughter and I were having an argument last evening, (no screaming and yelling, mind you), but we raised our voices at each other while she was holding her baby. At seven and a half months my granddaughter’s expanding her horizons daily. Upon witnessing our disagreement she broke out in tears. Inconsolable tears! Sobs!

We calmed the baby down and had her back to her smiley-self in no time. I can’t remember what the spat started over, and either can my daughter, some inconsequential thing. We felt like a pair of heels, making our precious sweetie cry, I can tell you that.

I was trying to fall asleep last night and began to consider human emotion, specifically the more extreme versions, and how anger can turn into rage, melancholy into out and out depression, and mere infatuation into full-blown obsession.

As a writer, I concern myself with writing true emotion, without resorting to melodrama. We are constantly instructed to show, not tell. It’s preferable to depict the character’s mindset rather than lamely describe their feelings.

For example, one should never write:
Jane was angry with her boss for scolding her in front of a client.

A preferable way to show how Jane was feeling would be:
After her stern boss scolded Jane in front of a client, she punished him by adding sugar to his coffee with cream, although he had demanded Splenda.

While we are absorbed in our fits of emotion we don’t stop to analyze how we are feeling right there and then. In fact, most of us digest our tragedies in bits and bites. It will take months, even years to process what happened to us, to grapple with the effects. The same goes for three-dimensional characters. They grapple. Some act out in destructive manners. Some may suffer, but endure by coming to terms with their pain. Addicts are people with overwhelming, unresolved grief. In an effort not to feel that unresolved grief they drink to excess, or take drugs, doing their best to stuff the feelings back down inside. In an attempt to end suffering, they add even more heartache into the mix.

Extreme emotions don’t always manifest in obvious action. It’s tempting to write:
Jane fell down on her hands and knees after the doctor delivered the news that her baby died on the operating table.

Chances are; a woman having just heard such horrifying news might react with disbelief as opposed to sorrow; a self-protection of sorts kicks in. I have witnessed such behavior first hand. A better version might be:
The doctor took Jane’s hand in his, and said softly, “I’m so sorry, Curtis didn’t make it. His heart gave out.” Jane shook her head, pulled the doctor’s hand close to her chest and squeezed tight. “No,” she said. “That’s not true. It can’t be!”

The truth of the matter is, there’s no right or wrong way for anyone to act or react at any given time. We are all individuals and differing emotions bring out differing reactions. The trick is to illustrate the depth of our characters in such a manner as to keep the reader convinced. That’s our job. Not an easy one by any means. I write and then I re-write, bearing all this in mind. Did I do the best job conveying how the character felt? I constantly ask myself this question.

Nothing irritates me more than when I’m reading along and feel as if I’ve read those same words a thousand times before. Predictable is not good. Memorable characters do memorable things.

What is the most extreme emotion you’ve ever felt personally?
What is the most extreme emotion you’ve ever attempted to write about?

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Set Up

I do my best to give gifts that I hope will make a lasting impression. Looking back on my childhood, I remember the Christmas gift I just-had-to-have-or-I-would-surely-burst. Much like the kid in the movie A Christmas Story felt about that coveted Red Ryder gun, I hungered with a fiery passion to own a certain toy. I cannot recall ever wanting anything so badly before. I had been to the matinee to see the movie Mary Poppins. And the much-in-demand present for girls that year was a mini plastic version of Julie Andrews with a fetching brunette up-do, holding an umbrella. Here’s the peculiar aspect of the story—I didn’t even like dolls—dolls were my little sister’s obsession.

Eavesdropping, I overheard my dad tell my mom that he had driven all over town, he had visited several stores and they were fresh out of Mary Poppins dolls. He suggested they buy me a new winter coat instead. A new coat? A lousy coat! I skulked to my room where I let out a frustrated cry.

On Christmas morning Dad instructed my big brother to hand me a big soft box. Just the kind of box an unexciting winter coat would be wrapped in. I tried my best to muster up a little enthusiasm as I tore off the wrapping paper but it wasn’t easy, I didn’t give a hoot if the sleeves on my ratty coat were too short, if it was missing a button or two. I was surprised to find that the box didn’t contain a coat after all. I was staring down at a fluffy white robe sporting a chiffon sash. It was a pretty. I had to admit that much.

“Well,” Mom said, “try it on.” I pulled it out of the box, as I slipped it on over my pajamas, my brother handed my sister a similar box. With lightening speed, she tore open her present, and wouldn’t you know it? Although we were two years apart, my parents insisted on dressing us alike. I hated wearing the same exact clothing as my little sister. When would they get it through their thick skulls? We were not the stinking Bobbsey Twins!

My tiny little sister was positively thrilled. As she twirled around the living room on her tippy-toes, modeling her new robe, I sat back and pouted.

“What’s wrong,” Dad asked.

“Nothing,” I sank further into the cushions of the couch.

He handed me another present. It was heavy. “This might put a smile on your sourpuss.”

It was a board game, based on the presidents of our country. I feigned interest. Dad explained that he had picked it out himself. He would help set up the game and teach me how to play, thus imparting his delight with all things presidential to his progeny.

My brother shook his head and said, “Count me out. I’m not playing. Sounds boring.”

Dad gifted Mom an iron, a stand-up mixer, and a set of pots and pans. I attributed his choices to their ensuing break-up and separation. My mother was no happier with her presents than I was, I could tell. She rustled up a couple of oohs and awes, but how on Earth could she be blown away by household appliances? I knew I wouldn't be thrilled, if my future husband gave me stuff to facilitate doing
chores. Yuk.

Dad suddenly stood up, walked across the room, and reached behind the record cabinet to pull out one last present. He handed that last present to me, and behold, the box was just the right size and shape. I shook it for good measure. I felt certain I was holding my very own Mary Poppins doll!

They had set me up. My parents had fabricated a story, knowing full well I was lurking about that day. They staged the phony conversation about the shortage of Mary Poppins dolls, adding the finishing touch, planting the seed that I was going to get a winter coat instead. How clever. How deliciously diabolical. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they were capable of being so shrewd.

I lugged around my gift for a couple of days, discovered it was just another dumb doll, and eventually abandoned the previously coveted Mary Poppins to my sister’s collection of Barbie’s and diapered babies.

However, the game about the presidents, I adored. I urged everyone to play, every chance I got. The Nelson triplets from down the street, my unenthusiastic big brother, even my fidgety little sister got roped into sitting with me while I displayed my knowledge about Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. But, even more impressive was my ability to remember what had excited Dad, much more obscure facts and aspects about lesser-known presidents, and their foibles, deeds, and accomplishments while serving in office.

And, that robe, oh how I loved that fluffy white robe with the luxurious chiffon sash. They were the most glamorous garments my sister and I had ever owned to date. We would bring out mom’s crystal for months to come, pretending to drink champagne instead of pink lemonade, donned in our finery, doing our best Audrey Hepburn.

Feel free to share your memories of Christmas gifts, (given or received), from the past, won’t you?

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holly, Jolly, By Golly

Last post I included a picture to show how terrific I looked while decorating my tree. Here's another, showing how terrific I look when I bake and decorate oodles of cookies for the kiddies, and multi-tasker extraordinaire that I am, while ordering my organic free-range Christmas turkey. It must be THAT time of year. I'm buried, MIA right now, busy with visitors and Christmas this and that. I'll try to pop on over and visit you guys as soon as I can get a little one on one computer time. Love and miss y'all!

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.