Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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Killer Christmas Party

I’m always so excited about my writers’ group’s Christmas party. I’m a member of Romance Writers Ink; we meet on the 2nd Saturday of each month. Usually at OSU-Tulsa.

On the 2nd Saturday of December, though, we meet at our VP, Kathlyn Smith’s house. The place is beautiful (I’ve offered to move in, but she hasn’t taken me up on the offer) and is right on a golf course. (I’d even learn to play golf if that was a requirement.)

Since C-Town is west of T-Town, I live as opposite of Kathlyn as I possibly can. My excitement builds the whole way in.

This year I got up early, as usual, but instead of blogging or writing, I made Cashew Caramel Corn as my offering for the party. My ornaments for the Dirty Santa game were wrapped. (I took two cute sparkly balls from Celebrations. One said, “Naughty,” the other said, “Nice.”)

I was ready to go!

So I headed to T-Town and everything was fine. We had a great meal. (In case you haven’t heard, writers are wonderful cooks!) We feasted on fantastic desserts. (Baklava! Peach Cobbler! Yummy!!!)

We chatted a lot. Anytime you’re with a group of like-minded people, don’t you have a ton to talk about? Writers are no exception. We talked. And talked.

And we have a new member I’d never met (Hi other Susan!) so I got to know her  a little bit.

Marilyn and I found a prime place to sit near the wrapped ornaments and were catching up a little bit, when it hit me. Hard.

The super-duper monster stomach virus. ♫♪ Duh! Duh! Duuuuuhm! ♫♪ (That’s scary music.)

And, man. I hate that. Heavy-duty antibiotics + a 24 hour virus = disaster.

So for the rest of the party, I was, well, indisposed. 😛

Finally I lifted my head enough to realize I was holding up the party, so I sent Marilyn a text message to play Dirty Santa for me.

As soon as I stopped hyperventilating and thought I had a window of opportunity big enough to make it all the way home, I hit the road. I zig-zagged across T-Town (don’t you love the road work going on?) and by the time I hit 412, I was flying. (Either the men with badges were having a Christmas Party, too, or I was plain lucky.)

After driving for what seemed like nine years and six months, I pulled into my driveway and jumped out of my car (kind of like a calf roper gets off his horse while it’s skidding to a stop) and dashed for the house. I made it to, but just in the nick of time.

I have my fingers crossed that my prob was caused totally by the antibiotic and wasn’t an “I- wanna-go-to-her-house-too” illness, because I do not want to face a bunch of irritated writers at the next meeting if I gifted them with that.

😉


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Just a Whisper

I mentioned that I’m a finalist in Where the Magic Begins, didn’t I? Like, maybe a thousand times? 😉 I’m entered in an unpublished contest because this is a different category than I’ve written in before.

The category is Sweet Contemporary, which for me means Christian Women’s Fiction or Inspirational. In the past, I’ve always written Single Title or Sensual Contempory. The difference is a real eye opener.

Why did I change?

Last November, I entered NaNoWriMo, and it had a real effect on me.

From Wikipedia–National Novel Writing Month –also known as NaNoWriMo /ˌnænoʊˈraɪmoʊ/– is an annual internet-based creative writing project which challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel in one month.

I was writing along on a project, and not a bad one, and doing really well. I’d figured how many words a day I had to write to get the book finished by the end of the month, then I wrote more than that. I was ahead of the game, when a still, small whisper of a thought came to me.

The more I worked, the louder that whisper became until there was a deafening din inside me every morning when I got up to write.

THIS IS NOT YOU! IT’S NOT WHO YOU ARE. IT’S NOT THE LEGACY YOU WANT TO LEAVE BEHIND.

The thought was right. It wasn’t me. From what I understood to be the rules of the road for that type of book, my characters couldn’t live their lives the way I try to live mine. They couldn’t pray (very much, anyway) about problems, spend time in the Word or practice the presence of God. So I stopped working on that book. I doubt I’ll finish it.

The book I entered in the contest is my first attempt at Christian Women’s Fiction. We’ll see how it goes.

If you’d like to read the first little bit, here it is–

Cleveland Ave in downtown Loveland, CO

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Chapter One

Since when did kindergarteners throw such a mean elbow? Dr. Joe Gardner sidestepped the blow aimed at his diaphragm. The child’s piercing cry as he squirmed on the table was impossible to block, but fear caused it. Not pain.

 Edna Thornton, the head nurse who kept the Loveland, Colorado Children’s Hospital running, took over. “Get Miss Sara.”

Joe shot Edna a furious glance. “What are you—” Pain exploded between his legs, sickening him to his gut as the kid’s heels connected a solid blow. Fighting the urge to collapse on the floor, curl in a fetal position and vomit up his breakfast, he leaned against the equipment cabinet and tried to breathe.

As his vision cleared, he stared at the nurse. “What . . . ” Just that word sent pain radiating again. Swallowing hard, he drew a slow breath. “Why did you send—?”

Eyes snapping, she frowned.  “Typical doctor. Her name is Sara Charles and she does more good than most doctors.”

He’d return her look if he could only stop hunching over, but he’d learned not to glare from an inferior position a long time ago. Nurses would run over you. And being the new guy at the hospital, he couldn’t afford that.

But it hurt so darn much. He closed his eyes and, taking a breath, he straightened the knee he’d cocked too slowly to block the boy’s kick and forced his back erect. And when he opened his eyes, an angel walked into the room.

Trauma there causes hallucinations? He blinked hard and looked again.

The woman’s gaze settled on him, dismissed him as insignificant, then focused elsewhere. Her dark hair—or was it red?—was drawn back to a low ponytail. Slender, but not painfully so, she had a figure that at one time would have made him drool.

Before.

The woman had a quick, quiet conversation with Edna, then turned to the little boy, now curled up on the table. Probably exhausted from his winning bout with Joe.

There you go.

Will I be able to sell it? I don’t know, but I hope so. I do know if it’s God’s will, I absolutely will. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see. 😉  


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Writers’ Retreat

The Four-spotted Skimmer or Four-spotted Chase...

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My writers’ group and the venerable Ms. Jean Brashear  (romance writer extraordinaire) went on a retreat over the weekend at Meadowlake Ranch near Sand Springs, OK, and guess what! I found a new Small Town World!

Funny how that happens, isn’t it? 🙂

I got to the ranch at about 5:00 and went with the others who were there to check out the cabins. Being a person who doesn’t sleep much (especially when I’m in a strange bed) I chose a cabin with a place where I could get up early and not disturb anyone. (Outside, on the patio next to a pond, I had time to spend with the Lord each morning.)

I roomed with our queen mentor, Marilyn Pappano, and the very soon to be published, Lynn Somerville. Now that’s an entertaining pair! I’d hoped for a little snoring (I find listening to snoring relaxing) but both ofo them slept with hardly a snort. 🙂  

We had wonderful food, great fellowship and a speaker–Jean Brashear–who gave us the benefit of the knowledge she’s acquired during her wonderful career.

I was blown away at the preparation she’d done for our little retreat. Her handouts were great, but her patience, knowledge and willingness to share with us was unbelievable. From the bottom of my heart, Thank you, Jean!

There were miles of trails to tramp, the air was cool but not cold, and we had a great time hanging with our sisters.

We met a mom and her daughter, who were staying in the teepees,

who’d come just to have time together without TV. They took hay rides, gathered eggs from the hen house, rode horses and had a great time.

At the end of the retreat, we had some very exciting, nearly unbelievable, news. But I’ll save that until tomorrow. 🙂 (I’m not being coy. I just need to take my time when I tell you about it.)

So when was the last time you took a weekend for yourself to refresh and renew? If you retreat from life once in a while, share!   

 

 


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O-T-H GANG Rides Again

We love our brother. We really do!!!

Omega loves him so much, she had this made for him.

Isn’t that sweet? (I’d have smacked her, but Jeffrey is a great sport!) It’s hanging on the front of the office. On C-Town’s main street. For the entire world to see.

Of course, Omega hasn’t hit that magic number yet. There’s no telling how her big brother will spell payback.

Dad came out to see the banner. “Did Omega do that?”

Me: “Yeah. If I’d done it, it would say, ‘Welcome to the Over-The-Hill Gang. 

Dad: “Do you remember when he was born?

Answer: “Mumble. Mumble.”

Dad: “Remember we went to the football game.”

Me: “Uh, no. We went to the fair. Did you go to the football game?”

Dad: “I remember that day well. Dr. Dillman came out and said, ‘You finally got that boy, Carol.’ I said, ‘I don’t believe it.’ Doc looked through the glass and yelled, ‘Take that baby’s diaper off and prove he’s a boy.’ He did, and I went to the game.”

Me: “You didn’t even get to hold him.”

Dad: “Naw. In those days, dads didn’t get to do any of that stuff. Your mom was sleeping, so I went home to the game. C-Town was playing Hominy.”

Me: “Who won?”

Dad: “Hm. I don’t remember.”

It was probably Hominy. 🙂 At least we had one winner for C-Town that day.

One last HBD, Jeffrey! (Aka: Jeffy, Boy, Fella, JP and Buck.)


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Discovered Treasure

Sister #3 sent several boxes of Dad’s books to the office the other day. (Book hoarding runs in my family.) He has some wonderful books–professional, religious and even a few fiction–and the first one I grabbed was called, “The Flying Jenny and Other Voices.”

It’s amazing to learn what talented people live in our Small Town Worlds, isn’t it?

I dove in as soon as I got home and was surprised to find it was a book of poems. Interestingly enough, they’re written about the world near The Ford. On page two and three are two poems about the Flying Jenny.

I heard about the Jenny when I was a kid from Grandmother Ruby. She said they used it to cross the river when she was a girl. I imagined it as something like a fair ride. A crank was used by the passenger(s) to move them across the river to the other side.

I’m not sure why it’s called a Jenny, except you could “really get to ginning” when you were in it.

There’s a picture of the Jenny in this book. You climbed aboard from a platform, high in a tree and from the pic, it looks like a chair on a ski lift.

Jenny poem #1 was written  by Sandra S. Austin. Here’s how it begins–

The Flying Jenny

She danced on a chain, across
the river bed,
swaying to winds
running through her steel,
iron threads.

The other poem is by Norma Ross and has a light-hearted feel to it.

We’ve Got a Flying Jenny

We’ve got a jenny that flies–
Betcha it’ll knock out your eyes.

and ends–

But in the wind the jenny bucks and pitches
If you do’t hold on tight
You’ll lose your britches.

One poem is called “Jesse Smelser,” about an eighteen year old boy who got “typhoid and pneumonia fever.”

Home doctoring failed.
His parents pinned one last hope
On sending for a Jennings doctor.
A neighbor’s son, Fred Spess,
Volunteered for the desperate ride.

That caught my interest because Fred Spess was my Granddad Ray’s older brother, and my great-uncle. Nice to read something good about Uncle Fred. 🙂 Even though Uncle Fred went for a doc, by the time they got back, Jesse had died. The poem even tells the name of the man who built the casket for him.

I’ve saved the best poem for last, and I’m sharing it with permission from its author. She said she had written it about her childhood, when she’d gone out in the evening to bring in the cows.

What a tender spirit that young girl must have had. And for the adult to remember it with such clarity so many years later speaks to the strength of those emotions.

My Heart Stood Still  

Across the moon-drenched valley
lengthening shadows dipped
in and out, among the branches of
the silent, sturdy trees.
A chance breeze sent a million ripples
across the lake.
And fanned the brow of one who had
sought the quiet solitude
To meditate in peace, in close comunion
with God and nature.

I gazed in silent reverence on the
simple works of God.
Forgetting for a while, the clamoring
reality of the human touch
Which had held me closely bound within its grasp
Until that moment, with the gripping
fear expelled.
I breathed the clean and Holy atmosphere
into my quivering being.

It was then my heart stood still.

                                                                                    –Wilma Marvella Spess

I love reading new books, “hot off the presses,” but finding old books like this excites me as if I’ve happened on a treasure, hidden away for safe keeping.

Have you ever found an old book you loved reading? Want to share?