Walking Toward Christmas Now Published!

Cover of Walking Toward ChristmasI spent some time a few years ago, writing an Advent devotional for myself. I had selected verses to take me from the beginning of the Advent season all the way to Epiphany. When I was growing up, in our house, the Christmas season lasted until January 6.

At the time I did the writing, I faced a lot of challenges. So thinking about what the verses meant in terms of how we prepared for Christmas made me stretch my faith – in a very good way.

So now, I have edited those meditations, mostly just to correct the occasional typo or grammatical error, but also to make them slightly less tied to my then-immediate circumstances. I do not pretend to be a trained theologian, just a serious Christian who has worked to study the scriptures throughout her life, always seeking to understand what the Lord might have to say. For now, it is published just on Kindle — but doesn’t that work well for a daily devotional format? I think so.

I hope others will find this a worthy endeavor to explore. Come take this walk with me, this walk toward Christmas, preparing our hearts for the celebration of the advent of our Lord.

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Photography As Art

On Sunday, I went to an exhibition of photos taken by my friend Norris Archer Harrington. It was his first real exhibition, but you wouldn’t know that by the quality of his work. The exhibition was held downtown at LA Artcore in Little Tokyo.

LA Artcore building.
Norris is the husband of Barbara Nicolosi, who I’ve know for a considerable time. Since they got married, I had not really had much occasion to get to know Norris except in passing. Then three years ago, I was going to be house-sitting for them during Thanksgiving, so I went to their place a day or two before their departure.

It was simple courtesy to try and get to know Norris better. I knew that he was a former Navy man. So I asked after his other interests, and he mentioned photography. I grew up with a family of amateur photographers, some pretty good ones. My grandfather loved taking pictures, and my father did also – to the point of doing his own developing frequently. My brother was/is an avid photographer (going to the point of getting himself a Nikon), and his son Justin has really taken to camera work. Me, I have dabbled with photography, almost entirely with “cheap” snapshot cameras. So, I felt I knew at least a little bit about photography.

Vincent Thomas bridge

“Night Bridge” – the Vincent Thomas bridge

Looking at Norris’ photos was … startling. It was like having been out in thick, odoriferous air and stepping into a chamber of fresh, clean, cool air. Breathtaking. Norris has a natural gift for composition. He likes shooting (older) settings that most people would easily overlook. But he makes the viewer see surprising beauty in these settings. Indeed, the title for his exhibition is “Hidden Beauty.”

Many of Norris’ photos are presented in black & white (okay, greyscale). That often highlights the composition of his pieces – like the “Night Bridge” photo above. But when he chooses to feature color, it is usually to let some detail stand out.

The photo he used for the Exhibition invitation does that. The red doors in the midst of the shadow have a satin-like quality in their color.

Red doors

Alas, my photo of the invitation doesn’t capture that effect — that’s the problem with taking photos of photos, or in this case, glossy postcards.

Anyway, it was really a pleasure to see Norris’ work being shown off in a gallery – and getting the appreciation his work deserves. I hope this is just the start for him, and that more exhibitions and opportunities come his way.

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Remembering My Parents

afterimage-cover-copyAugust 27th would have been my mother’s 99th birthday. I didn’t post anything anywhere about it, but I thought about it a lot. She died in 2007 a little more than a month after her 90th birthday. Thinking about the time of her passing refreshed my intentions to write a memoir. My parents were not much for telling stories on themselves or about their growing-up, so I had decided to write down as much I could remember of things they’d said, so that I and my siblings and their families would have at least a bit of a record of family history.

I still have a lot to write, but I decided to post the opening of it, since the incident is what prompted me to write the memoir.

It was just a sales receipt and I nearly threw it out.

Thanksgiving Week in 2007 marked a gathering of my siblings. We had not been all together in one place since 1991, when my father had died.  I lived in Los Angeles, my brother David lived in the Philadelphia area, my sister Charlotte lived north of Detroit, while my sister Joan lived in Houston.  Indeed, in the recent years, Joan and her family had been living with Mom, taking care of her.

But Mom had passed away at the end of September.  When we had gathered for the funeral, there was no time – and certainly no energy – to tackle the task of clearing Mom’s house.  We decided to return Thanksgiving Week, since David and I could get the extra days off work before the holiday.

We are a family of pack-rats, but Mom’s practice of it had gotten excessive in her later years.  Perhaps that was understandable, as she had reached the age of 90 and toward the end been afflicted with a mild degree of dementia.  It would have been difficult for her to cope with the sudden removal of so much of her surroundings while she was alive.  Thus it was that we were faced with the task of sorting through everything during that holiday week.

And it was necessary to sort through every single pile.  Mom had the habit of making piles which could include junk mail and important documents, even envelopes of cash, all mixed together.  We couldn’t just pick up a pile and toss it out.  We had to look at every piece of paper.

So there I sat, looking at this sales receipt.  I almost threw it out, but looked at it again.  It was from a local jeweler, and had been folded up with a smallish note card.  The receipt was for a necklace of jade beads, costing (if I recall correctly) about $170.

In her later years, Mom liked to wear those beads for special occasions.  They were new to her collection since I had moved to Los Angeles, but I had noticed them during a visit to Houston I had made around 2003 and in photos Joan would send to me from time to time.

I looked at the note card, and suddenly realized that the jade necklace had been an anniversary present from Dad to Mom.  In fact, the last anniversary present he had purchased for her.

That realization was powerful enough, but what really struck me was that in the note card, Dad addressed Mom as my darling.

So simple.  So direct.  After nearly 50 years together, for my father that was still his first choice of addressing his wife.

My darling.


The illustration attached here is the cover I intend for the memoir. The photo is one I took of my parents when we still lived in Michigan. It’s my favorite of the ones I took. And those are the jade beads mentioned in the passage above.

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House-sitting with a Puppy

Merlin in profile.

Puppy Merlin in profile.

I have taken on a house-sitting turn for some friends while they are away.

Yesterday, I drove from the San Fernando Valley to San Clemente. I’m really going to have to do something about the broken air conditioner in my car. It got very hot during the drive, which is debilitating. But, I arrived in one piece, and not even melted down.

My friends were still gathering their things together in preparation of their departure, so I got to relax a little bit. But I was introduced to my charge, and he accepted me.

Merlin chewing on plastic bottle.

Merlin, his plastic chew bottle, and his Lamb Chop.

Merlin is still a puppy, about 4 months old. So he is still learning things.

Another friend who has had dogs suggested that at this age, he’s teething, which would explain his desire to nip and chomp on things. One thing that he likes to chew is a plastic bottle. But he has a number of other toys, including a large stuffed Lamb Chop. I was told that he is a breed called a Mexican Shepherd, so having Lamb Chop makes sense.

He may still be far from having mastered such commands as “sit”, “stay”, “heel”, but he has learned other things. Most especially, where his treats are kept.

Merlin knows where the doggy treats are.

Merlin knows where the puppy treats are.

He is sweet tempered though.  I think we will get along fine during this time.

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The Illusion of Another Time or Place Through Words

Make your language use in your story illuminating.I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact of words lately. I’ve had a number of editing jobs, covering different types of material: a biblical fantasy, a children’s book, an academic thesis, and a scholarly analytic volume. Each required a different type of “language.” After all they are talking to very different audiences. But they aren’t the only prompts for the musing.

I’ve also been going through the manuscript of my own (currently unfinished) fantasy novel The Ring of Adonel. As one way of working my head back into it (in order to finish this opus), I’ve been creating a database of people, places and things mentioned in the story. This includes the specialty terms I’ve created for that fantasy world. The thing is, when you’re building a fantasy world of your own, and you want to consider certain types of issues, you want to avoid “real world” terms that might pull the reader out of your imagined one.

So, the other day, one of my friends posted a link to an excellent blog about words to avoid when writing a period screenplay. And I agree with all the points made – especially the use of “okay.” That one word especially, when it shows up in a non-modern fantasy story, can bounce me out of the fantasy realm. It just does not fit. But I do understand for the writer how easy it is to pop that in during the flush of pushing the prose forward.

Several years ago, I wrote a column about style in writing for fantasy.  When I look back at it now, even the prose of the column itself makes me smile. It’s a bit on the stilted side, as it was written during the height of my scholarly days. But the points are still reasonable.  The language we use helps create the illusion of the world we are spinning into creation.

Now, certainly, there are plenty of films that break this mold. Certainly there have been period films that have not attempted to get rid of modern phrases or concepts (the Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for one). But that very fact tends to keep the audience at a distance from the world. By contrast, the History Channel series Vikings, works much harder at keeping modern references out of the mix. The results there are immersive: we are drawn into that world, where even with its multilingual setting everything remains clear.

Some writers get anxious about this whole issue. They don’t feel confident about their mastery of the phrasings of another era, or familiar with the slang of a different age. But you don’t have to have all of that down. It’s possible to create the feel of an “other where” or “other when” just by avoiding too many modern references, metaphors, and clichés and contractions. “Pedal to the metal” belongs to the automotive age, especially once racing became prevalent, for instance. Know what the references are in the phrases you use, and you should be able to keep your historical period tale or fantasy or science fiction story uninfected by our present day effects.

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Check It Out – Throughout the Website

Check it outI realized this week that people who check out this news blog on my website, might not be aware of other things happening on other sections of the site – especially if I don’t mention it on the main blog. So I’ve come up with this new method of making general announcements.

“Check It Out” will point out new things added to the site over a recent stretch of time. Right now, I’m just going to point out some things added to the site fairly recently – or that have been updated. I just completed a massive revision of the site, moving content from HTM pages to the various WordPress platforms on the site. It gives the site a more unified look and much, much easier to update. Each of these notifications will have the graphic check mark as the post image (though they will all look slightly different – must have variety, after all).

With that in mind, here are some recent things for you to check out (and I hope you enjoy them!) —

First off, for my editing and writing consulting information, the page has been totally revised and updated, including an updated rates page worked out on word count now, rather than page count (except for scripts).

On the Graphics blog, I posted a preview of some (quick) digital artwork I did to illustrate a Arveniem short story I’ll be posting soon.

Back in March, I posted a collective review of Chuck Dixon’s novel series Bad Times. Given that I just finished reading the latest volume, I’m going to have to update that review.

So, my visitors will in the future be able to use the “Check It Out” posts for what’s going on elsewhere on the site.


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“She’ll Never Be….”

Like many people, there are memoirs I want to write. Even if they are only for myself, to explain to myself what I see in my past. I have become very aware that the incidents that truly shape our characters are frequently invisible to those around us. They can be minor incidents in the eyes of the “outsiders,” but they can be tremendous to us.

Once such event happened to me when I was still very young. The following is from a memoir I’m slowly working away on (Making Everything Count), about those things that I believe influenced me to become the writer I am.


I took two years of ballet lessons when I was ages 5 through 6.  I loved dancing, and would lark about our living room to whatever classical music was playing on the radio or on my father’s record player.  As with the swimming lessons I was given during that period, my parents decided to give the natural inclination some formal training.  I was very happy to go along with this idea, since I had a book about ballet, and I loved the pictures of the ballerinas.  I wanted to be one.

Unfortunately, the two years of lessons became merely “just for myself” right at the very beginning.

At the end of the first class, when the instructor spoke with my parents about how I had done, he did it in front of me, in my hearing. There I was, the small child standing in the midst of a trio of tall (to me) adults. They were conversing way “up there.” I was way below their line of sight. The instructor commended me to my parents on my abilities, I believe.

But then he spoke the deadly words, telling them I would never be a ballerina, because even then it was obvious that I was going to be too tall.

I don’t know if they were aware that I was listening or that I understood. The little pitcher with big ears was too short to be noticed at that moment. But it stuck with me, to a negative effect, killing that ambition to be a ballerina. There’s a melancholy sorrow to a child receiving lessons in something she loves, all the while knowing her dream will not come true, because “the person who knows” had said it was impossible.

Nureyev and Gregory rehearse Raymunda

Rudolf Nureyev choreographed the ABT production of Raymunda.

The memory of that moment came back at me many years later when I attended a performance by the American Ballet Theatre of the ballet Raymunda, choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev.

My final height is five feet, eight inches.  Most male ballet dancers are under six feet in height.  A ballerina of my height, when she is en pointe, will be over six feet tall, towering over her partners.  This is why, traditionally, ballerinas are petite.  But in the performance I saw of the ABT, the prima ballerina was the dazzling Cynthia Gregory – who just happened to be five feet, eight inches.

Unlike an experience with my second grade teacher and reading (she had not believed my claim that I could read at a third grade level, especially after I botched reading aloud, even though I’d been reading an advanced level silently all summer), whether I might be able to become as a dancer was not something I knew for sure.

He was the expert.  And apparently there was a factor that would have nothing to do with my ability: how tall I would be.

Cynthia Gregory as Raymunda

Cynthia Gregory as Raymunda.

So, right from the beginning, I knew that taking the dance classes would be only for my own satisfaction, for I would never be that ballerina I had wanted to be.  All because of what the instructor said in my hearing.

I have occasionally wondered what I would have done if I had not heard that.  Would I have pushed on, and been like Cynthia Gregory?  I don’t know.  But it did instill in me an outlook that would become much stronger later: not to quash the desires of others, just because they don’t fit the expected pattern.  If someone has the desire to pursue an ambition and is willing to do the work, I will not be the one to turn them away.  There is enough of that little wannabe-ballerina in me still, and she remembers how it stung to hear those words.

Young dancer seated

Never say “She’ll never be….” — especially not in the hearing of the child.

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Website Updating and Reorganizing

I’m currently in the midst of doing some revising here. I’m not eliminating anything, but I am rearranging some of the access points. The main intent is to move as many things from old HTM pages over to one of the WordPress platforms on the site. Right now, I am transferring the introductory pages to the sample scripts over. Originally, I had put three of them on the News blog, but I’ve decided they would be better suited on the Fiction blog.

The separate Works index will shortly be replaced by a WordPress page (which will be much, much easier to update!).

It’s all with the intention of making the visitor’s experience on the site easier. So please, roam around and enjoy!

Things being transferred so far:
X-Files: Sasquatch
CSI: Obsession
Burn Notice: Hostile Negotiations


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CAPS 2015 Holiday Party

I missed last year’s party, because I was in Oregon, so I was certainly looking forward to this year’s festivities. Once again we gathered at the Montrose Bowl for our fun evening. We had a good turn out.

Montrose does up their streets in this neighborhood with lots of lights, so it looks very lovely.

scribblerworks 2015 holiday party 1

Of course, the precipitation we had in Southern California on Thursday afternoon gave the street the reflective sheen.

The thing about parties is that we give ourselves permission to clown around.


The location is a bowling alley, of course, so once everyone has settled in, some hardy souls try their luck at knocking down pins.


One of the first things we do in festivities (after eating, of course) is the presentation of the year’s service award (named for member Scott Shaw! who is a model of service). This year, Tone Rodriguez, back in town from Arizona for the holiday, did the presentation, and the award went to past President Pat McGreal.

scribblerworks 2015 holiday party 4

Once the serious stuff like that is done with, we get on to the silly stuff like the gift exchange. The routine is to bring an inexpensive gift. Using raffle tickets, we get called up by our numbers and make a selection from the pile of wrapped gifts. It’s a mystery as to what might be in the package. For instance, below, we see that Kirby Shaw (Scott’s son) received an unusual apron.


For most of the evening, Jim MacQuarrie had his outer shirt buttoned up over his tee-shirt but as the evening wound down, he remembered the reason he wore the tee. Something he wanted to show off: a benefit of participating in the press party for this big, upcoming movie release. Just a little thing that he got in advance of the general public.


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Premise Reunion & Farewell Party

Premise has been a prayer fellowship for Christians who work in the entertainment industry, with a history of 33 years of fellowship. But recently, the organization reached the end of a road. Whatever the dynamics are that lead to the end of a fellowship are an issue for another time. Last night, we held a Reunion and Farewell party – to celebrate the events and friendships that are shining spots in Premise’s existence.


The last time the fellowship had gathered had been at the June business meeting. Because this had the aura of celebration and reunion, there was a lot of conversation going on. Happy conversation.


Of course, there is always a good time when food is around.


Looking back over the history of the group made for a period of good reflection – many blessings. Fun retreats together. Relationships built, including marriages. The loss of some friends to death, and remembering with joy what those individuals brought to the group.

Nobody was feeling that this event meant the end of all the relationships that had been fostered by the group, though. Indeed, the conversations seemed to indicate that many in the group will stay in contact, and even reconnect with former members who joined us at the party.


I had had a long day prior to the party, so this gathering was a perfect ending to it.


As individuals move forward, including some new options for fellowship and ongoing prayer together, this party marks a true celebration of what that fellowship can mean. It was a very good evening.


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