Monday, September 22, 2008

First Day of Spring!

Welcome to my blog, a public diary chronicling the joys and frustrations of writing for a living, and a few points of interest along my life's meandering journey.

I write inspirational stories about relationships that share wisdom and teach important moral and life lessons, stories in which the reader might find hope, guidance, rekindled affection and a reason to smile.

Please visit www.gregoryelang.com and click the red corner on the home page just beneath the “Projects” tab to learn more about what projects I may be working on.

Now on to today’s post~

The copyedited version of Mom’s Little Angel has been returned to HarperOne. A new editor worked on this book and she did a great job. You don’t realize how often you use the same words or sentence structure until someone else points it out to you. So the manuscript will go to the designers next who will add my photos, create the layout that will include space for the buyer’s own photo and personal story, and add in the quotes I collected from those I interviewed. I should see that version of the book in early October, and then it will take its place in line at the printing press. It is exciting to see what began as an idea formed while drinking a cup of coffee materialize into something you can actually touch.

I’ve also recently completed the ump-tenth revision of my novel Trees and have recruited three readers to take a gander at it and give me feedback. I wrote the first draft of this book in four months, but have been revising it for six years. I hope it works this time; I’m ready to send it out. It is a real challenge for a writer to jump genres but I’d jump in a hurry of I could finally break into the fiction market.

One thing I’ve learned in the last six years – it really is true that in order to write well you need to read a lot. I did not read much fiction when I began writing Trees, and it showed. Now all I read is fiction and what a difference it has made in my efforts to write fiction. BTW, right now I’m reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Just for fun, here’s a sample from Trees:

“That girl is going places,” Dr. Lewis Montgomery remarked, watching his son’s fiancĂ© saunter across the room at the Paces Ferry Club, gliding toward a select cluster of Atlanta’s elite.

“But she’ll run over anyone she thinks might get in her way,” Kyle murmured, “and won’t think twice about it.”

“You can’t fault ambition, son.”

“That depends on whose ambition we’re talking about,” Kyle frowned.

Dr. Montgomery (rather ambitious himself and had the burgeoning practice and wife to prove it) and son stood a comfortable arms length from each other and watched Evelyn work the crowd, she being very careful about the order in which she greeted people and how much time she graciously allotted each. Funny how you can act like you’re going to kiss someone yet never your lips touch their skin.

“Have a drink, Kyle,” his father said before walking away. They didn’t talk much, both finding that much easier than to risk having to speak out loud about the things that disappointed them in each other.

So I cross my fingers and hope to see Trees in print one day too.

Weight loss update – I’m now down 32 pounds. It has taken longer than I’d hoped but at least I’m still headed in the right direction. I’m only three pounds away from what I weighed when I asked Jill to marry me, and six from what will be my lightest weight in ten years. No salt, sugar, caffeine and alcohol did it (my neighbor calls it the Amish Diet, I call it HELL), albeit a very hard diet to stick with.

Jill, Linley and I drove to Athens to have dinner with Meagan last night. She’s doing well at UGA, loves her boyfriend, roommate, classes, and independence, and she seems to be very, very happy. What more can a dad ask for - his little girl is blooming just fine.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When Family Pulls Together

Welcome to my blog, a public diary chronicling the joys and frustrations of writing for a living, and a few points of interest along my life's meandering journey.

I write inspirational stories about relationships that share wisdom and teach important moral and life lessons, stories in which the reader might find hope, guidance, rekindled affection and a reason to smile.

Please visit www.gregoryelang.com and click the red corner on the home page just beneath the “Projects” tab to learn more about what projects I may be working on.

NOTE: The deadline to offer a mother-daughter story for “Mom’s Little Angel” has passed. Please continue to visit this blog for updates on the book as it begins the last leg of its journey toward publication (Spring, 2009).

Now on to today’s post~

As the book went through its last review before going into production, we discovered there were too many stories about death. Certainly death is a part of life. It is a time when family pulls together and the love shared between the one passing and those left behind is made obvious, but we didn’t want to book to be a downer. To that end, several of these kind of stories were cut. Here’s one, although not appearing in the final book, I thought you’d want to know about:

“A single mother in Texas in the mid-70’s, Florence held down two jobs to make ends meet yet still found the time and way to make sure Gena felt like the most important person on the planet. Whether it was waiting tables at night after working all day in an office or selling Tupperware on the weekends, she saw that Gena got what she needed and more. No amount of fatigue kept her from finding ways to provide for her child, and still she made it a priority that they spend quality time together.

Even after she remarried and began to have additional children with her new husband, Gena remained Florence’s confidante, her special buddy. Their time alone had cemented a bond that was not undone by remarriage or new babies. The days back when it was just the two of them were gone but not forgotten and certainly not minimized in their hearts and memories. Often when they were alone in the house they relived the mischief and fun they had once gotten themselves into, laughing about things only they held dear and understood. They were more than mother and daughter to one another; they were best friends.

Now, more than thirty years later, Gena sometimes struggles to get out of bed in the morning but she always does. She loathes her exhaustion, the sore muscles and tired bones that rob her of sleep and precious time, time to spend simply visiting with her mom. Pushing past the desire to collapse back into bed, she dresses quickly and goes to the spare bedroom where Florence now lives. Gena steps through the door, breakfast and medications in hand, and greets her mother with a cheerful “good morning” where she rests in her hospital bed.

Florence’s brain tumor took from her every familiar facial expression and personality trait as it grew. Once a vain clotheshorse who boasted nearly two-hundred pairs of shoes, she now wore only a single pair of hot pink slippers and cares little if she even has them on. Nor do the food spills her face and gown seem to bother her. Gena dutifully takes her mother to the toilet on the hour every hour in the hope that some modicum of dignity can still be preserved, knowing though that this too will one day be lost. The tumor has robbed both women of much.

Feeding her, Gena wonders if her mother really knows just how much she is adored, or if she has any clue that the strong woman she raised sits before her now afraid of the life she will soon have, a life without her beloved mother, in her eyes the still beautiful and once vital lady who taught her everything about everything.

Gena, the mother of four active boys spread from elementary to high school, curses her exhaustion but does not miss a beat, for she does not know how much more time she will be given to spend with her mom. She does know, however, that in spite of the physical and emotional drain of giving care to her dying mother, she is thankful for every day that they do spend together, just the two of them, as it was when it all began.”

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dog Redux

Welcome to my blog, a public diary chronicling the joys and frustrations of writing for a living, and a few points of interest along my life's meandering journey.

I write inspirational stories about relationships that share wisdom and teach important moral and life lessons, stories in which the reader might find hope, guidance, rekindled affection and a reason to smile.

Please visit www.gregoryelang.com and click the red corner on the home page just beneath the “Projects” tab to learn more about what projects I may be working on.

NOTE: The deadline to offer a mother-daughter story for “Mom’s Little Angel” has passed. Please continue to visit this blog for updates on the book as it begins the last leg of its journey toward publication (Spring, 2009).

Now on to today’s post~

A book update – the final draft has been accepted and the book has entered production! I expect to get my first line edited copy on Monday and then I’ll spend a few days reading through it, deciding whether I agree with the changes made (I almost always do, I’m a terrible speller and can’t accurately remember a single rule of grammar and punctuation). Great, another milestone passed!

For the benefit of a few new readers I’ve meet recently who, due to Jill’s participation in the conversation, have become fans of Princess’ blog: http://www.oneprettydog.blogspot.com/ (Let the record show I created that blog only as a gag gift for my wife, not as a gesture of attachment to the dog. Be that as it may, my wife operates under the delusion I am attached to the dog and am simply putting on a show when I dismiss the stupid mutt. Oh well, it's her delusion). By request and an arm twisted behind my back, I repost an entry I wrote almost two years ago:

“My wife is so dang beautiful I sometimes feel guilty she’s stuck with me. She’s sweet, attentive and a good soul, too. Her only shortcoming is her psycho-attachment to that little dog that annoys the beef stew out of me.

Let me explain by way of example: Jill is helping me revise my novel, TREES. I’m trying to drive up the conflict between the two main characters, hoping to add more drama to the story. Her valuable input sounds something like this:

“There needs to be a dog in this story.”
“I didn’t ask you to make it a dog story, I asked you to suggest how to up the conflict.”
“I know - they have an argument because he doesn’t want the dog to sleep on the bed.”
“Jill, it’s a novel, not an autobiography.”

Once my wife and I were sitting on barstools on the 24th floor of a great hotel in NYC, sipping great wine, chatting about the events of the day and looking down at the activity in Times Square. We spent part of our honeymoon in NYC, it is a place we like to visit when we need a getaway weekend; it represents romance to us. I watched her as she gazed at the street below. She looked beautiful; her hair pulled back, her face lit by the lights outside, her long elegant fingers delicately clutching her goblet, a bit of red lipstick on its rim. I reached out and placed my hand on her leg. “What are you thinking about?” I asked.

“I was just wondering what Princess might be doing right now,” she said. Damn that dog.

I do think Princess and I have one thing in common, though. Neither wants the other around. I believe this because yesterday after returning home from a hard workout at the gym, I decided to soak in the tub. I had almost fallen asleep when I heard something bumping across the tile bathroom floor. I looked over and saw Princess dragging a hair dryer toward me. When I told Jill she laughed her rear off, proud that her dog had the intelligence to understand that water and electricity don’t mix.

As you might guess, my wife was of the opinion that if I’d been electrocuted it would have been my own fault. It’s what I would deserve it seems, for denying my love for Princess.

When it comes to a dog, sometimes a husband just can’t win.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tough Questions

Welcome to my blog, a public diary chronicling the joys and frustrations of writing for a living, and a few points of interest along my life's meandering journey.

I write inspirational stories about relationships that share wisdom and teach important moral and life lessons, stories in which the reader might find hope, guidance, rekindled affection and a reason to smile.

Please visit www.gregoryelang.com and click the red corner on the home page just beneath the “Projects” tab to learn more about what projects I may be working on.

NOTE: The deadline to offer a mother-daughter story for “Mom’s Little Angel” has passed. Please continue to visit this blog for updates on the book as it begins the last leg of its journey toward publication (Spring, 2009).

Now on to today’s post~

Now and them someone tells me a story that must have been hard to admit to, but understanding the healing that can happen when others in similar circumstances realize they are not alone in the world, the story teller reaches beyond her own pain or embarrassment and in turn, with her confession, helps us all. This is such a story:

Martha had always expected that a certain conversation with her daughter would one day be required, but she wasn't exactly prepared for it the night it finally came up. Since the day Ashley was born, Martha had wrestled with what to say when her daughter began asking questions about the circumstances of her birth.

The pregnancy came at a time in Martha’s life when much was going wrong, especially the relationship with the child’s father. It was a relationship neither had any intention of continuing, and didn’t. Uncertain if she could or even should raise a child on her own, Martha began exploring adoption agencies.

In no time a couple was found who were thrilled at the prospect of adopting the unborn child. They had been hoping for a baby girl. Martha was relieved that a solution had been set into place so quickly. In less than a month, there would be one less thing in her life to sort out.

When the baby with the cherub face was born, Martha held the infant for what was to be their only, brief contact with each other. It was the moment when everything changed; maternal instinct kicked in and overpowered all the new mother’s other plans. Her baby was beautiful and perfect and from then on she couldn't imagine a life without her.

"Mom, was I wanted?" Ashley asked, switching off the television and turning on the sofa to face her mother.

Martha took a deep breath and looked into her child’s big blue eyes. "For all of your life, I have wanted you."

"But did you plan to have me? Or was I an accident?"

Martha measured her words carefully and drew a reluctant breath. “No, sweetie, you weren’t planned.” She then nervously and slowly shed light on the details of her past: the drug and alcohol abuse, irregular employment and sordid living conditions. Saving the most difficult for last, she finally confessed to nearly giving her child up for adoption.

“I was certain I wouldn’t be the kind of mother you deserved,” she said, tears now streaming down her cheeks. She looked once more into her daughter’s eyes, expecting to find hurt and disappointment. She braced herself, believing if her child was angry there was no one to blame but herself.

But instead of anger, and to her surprise and great relief, Martha found a loving smile and warm expression of understanding on her daughter’s face.

“You are the best mother I could ever hope for,” Ashley said, reaching out for her mother’s trembling hand. “And you always have been, too.”

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Linley takes the wheel

Welcome to my blog, a public diary chronicling the joys and frustrations of writing for a living, and a few points of interest along my life's meandering journey.

I write inspirational stories about relationships that share wisdom and teach important moral and life lessons, stories in which the reader might find hope, guidance, rekindled affection and a reason to smile.

Please visit http://www.gregoryelang.com/ and click the red corner on the home page just beneath the “Projects” tab to learn more about what projects I may be working on.

NOTE: The deadline to offer a mother-daughter story for “Mom’s Little Angel” has passed. Please continue to visit this blog for updates on the book as it begins the last leg of its journey toward publication (Spring, 2009).

Now on to today’s post~

Linley is now just 5 months shy of turning 15 and becoming eligible for her learner’s permit. By this same time in Meagan’s life she had been driving on back roads for three years; I wanted her to have years of practice before letting her go solo behind the wheel at 16. Jill, as law abiding and nervous as she is, has not allowed me to put Linley behind the wheel as early as I did with Meagan. Yet I remain convinced driving practice saves lives, and giving Linley opportunities to practice is my duty.

Last weekend we were in the foothills of the north GA mountains, staying with friends at their lake house which is miles off the beaten path and accessed only by a narrow, gravel topped road cutting through a densely wooded forest. When the time came to leave, I gave Linley the keys, gently shoved Jill into the backseat and took my place in the copilot’s chair. Over the gravel we go, then onto the curvy dirt road overlooking the ravine (Jill was hyperventilating at this point), onto the paved access road leading out of the forest, all the way to the stop sign that would put us on the two-lane state road. A good place to stop and change drivers, Jill exclaimed. I looked at Linley and smiled – she turned on the blinker and pulled into traffic.

We didn’t go far, maybe a mile before reaching the next stop sign, and Jill wouldn’t stop screaming at us, so Linley and I finally switched places for fear her mother was about to bust a vessel, but not before smiling at each other as we crossed paths behind the Rover.

I wrote in my book “Life Maps: Simple Directions for Finding Your way,” of a similar day spent with Meagan:

“As I looked out of the car window, the old sting of loss and worry about her eventual departure came back to me. I know I have to let my child go. I cannot keep her under my wing, not that she would she let me. Yet I asked myself, how do I let my daughter go before I am certain she is ready for what she will face? How do I prepare my stepdaughter, Linley? I thought of Meagan’s fear of becoming lost and my own fear of her losing her way. I suddenly wanted to write down some directions for driving, even for living, and stuff them into the folds of the maps in the glove box. I smiled as I imagined her pulling off the road one day to refer to a map, unfolding it and my hand-scribbled notes falling into her lap. “Don’t drive too fast,” “Follow at a safe distance,” “Keep a diary,” “Laugh often,” and “Come home now and then,” they would say.

In that moment the idea of this book came to me. Better a book than random notes in the glove box, I thought, because she could keep a book at her desk, on her nightstand, in her briefcase, or anywhere else close at hand, ready and waiting for her when she wants to reminisce about what we have done together, when she wants to know how much I care about her, or when she needs a hug and I am not near enough to give it to her.

And so here it is, this book that might have been notes tucked away in a road map, a collection of fatherly advice and directions for living a wonderful life, offered with love to my little girls. Meagan, I hope you will read it when you get lost, when you just want to reassure yourself of where you are going, and when you miss me. And Linley, put your shoes on, we are going for a drive. You take the wheel.”

Linley, your lessons have begun. Jill, my love, just sit back and let it happen – it is what dads, even stepdads, do.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sooner Than Anticipated

Welcome to my blog, a public diary chronicling the joys and frustrations of writing for a living, and a few points of interest along my life's meandering journey.

I write inspirational stories about relationships that share wisdom and teach important moral and life lessons, stories in which the reader might find hope, guidance, rekindled affection and a reason to smile.

Please visit www.gregoryelang.com and click the red corner on the home page just beneath the “Projects” tab to learn more about what projects I may be working on.

NOTE: The deadline to offer a mother-daughter story for “Mom’s Little Angel” has passed. Please continue to visit this blog for updates on the book as it begins the last leg of its journey toward publication (Spring, 2009).

Now on to today’s post~

Jill and I attended a tailgating event a week ago just before the Bulldog’s first game of the season. Being there with Meagan, seeing how much she is enjoying college but also getting clues of how much she enjoyed seeing me too, reminded me of this short piece I wrote recently for GreatDad.com:

“A few years ago I sat at lunch with my daughter trying to convince her I should be permitted to visit her at college as often as I wished. Still in high school at the time, I suppose she thought we were spending plenty of time together because she was adamant that I visit only when my company was requested. From the sound of it, it seemed such invitations would arrive few and far between.

From the time she turned sixteen and had the freedom to depart without me having to facilitate her comings and goings, I have been adjusting to seeing less and less of my daughter in each day. I had long ago grieved the loss of lip kisses and holding hands as we walked the sidewalks, but I was still clinging to the hope she wanted to see me often, to tell me about her day and ask for my sage advice.

That hope slowly faded and was replaced by the recognition that the sound of jingling keys meant I would be lucky to catch a glimpse of my kid every now and then. When the day came for her to leave home and set up residence in a freshman dorm, I remembered that lunch when we had disagreed about my visitation schedule.

After her bags were unpacked and her room organized, I drove away thinking I may not see my daughter again for several months, if then. I braced myself for what I expected to be a long and heartbreaking wait.

Two weeks later, my daughter and I had lunch once more in the very restaurant we visited when we toured the college campus a few years before. My invitation had arrived by text message but I didn’t care about its informality. My daughter was asking for my company, and much sooner than either of us had anticipated.

I suppose it’s true what they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same – a daughter will always need her dad.”

And may that always be true.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Planting Seeds

Welcome to my blog, a public diary chronicling the joys and frustrations of writing for a living, and a few points of interest along my life's meandering journey.

I write inspirational stories about relationships that share wisdom and teach important moral and life lessons, stories in which the reader might find hope, guidance, rekindled affection and a reason to smile.

Please visit www.gregoryelang.com and click the red corner on the home page just beneath the “Projects” tab to learn more about what projects I may be working on.

NOTE: The deadline to offer a mother-daughter story for “Mom’s Little Angel” has passed. Please continue to visit this blog for updates on the book as it begins the last leg of its journey toward publication (Spring, 2009).

Now on to today’s post~

One of the pains of writing books such as those I write, books based on other people’s true stories, is when the time comes to cut material to make the book fit within the budget and projected page count (it may surprise you but many details like page count, even the overall dimensions of the cover of a book, are carefully planned). This story (revised from a previous version) was cut from the final draft, yet it remains one I like very much, maybe because I enjoy working in the yard, too:

Planting Seeds

One Saturday afternoon in early spring Shelby stepped outside to plant flowers in the front flowerbed. It was time to get the petunias and geraniums in the ground before the heat of summer arrived. Kneeling on the ground and reaching into the dirt to pull out weeds, she smiled at her eight year old daughter who worked willingly beside her.

As they worked together to prepare the flowerbed Shelby remembered the first time Madison had helped her in the yard. Only four years old at the time, wearing her own sun hat and using child-sized garden tools, the little girl sat in the dirt alongside mom and planted seeds. Every spring and fall for the past four years they have worked side by side in the beds keeping seasonal color in their yard and enjoying the time spent together.

On this afternoon, after the weeds had been pulled and the soil loosened, Shelby dug the holes while Madison pulled the flowers from their plastic containers before placing each one in its own hole. Then together they filled in the holes and tamped the dirt down with their hands, chit-chatting nonstop as they worked. When they had planted all the flowers they sat back in the grass to admire their work and laugh at their dirty hands and knees.

Shelby herself had learned about gardening one warm and sunny Seattle afternoon nearly thirty years ago when her own mother had shooed her out of the house to help work in the flower beds. She had pulled weeds and spaded soil and listened with interest as her ever-cheerful mom told stories of her childhood. They worked side by side and talked until nearly sunset. The job finally done, they stood back and admired their work – a circular bed of bright petunias and geraniums.
They put away the tools and washed their dirty hands, and her mom praised Shelby for working so hard. “How can I reward you?” she asked.

“Just more time with you,” Shelby answered.

Holding hands and sipping from large, cold glasses of sweet lemonade, mother and daughter walked past neighbors’ homes and admired those gardens but laughingly agreed theirs was the prettiest one of all. “Thank you for being my little helper,” Mom said, squeezing Shelby’s hand.

Shelby turned and smiled at Madison. “Which flowers do you like the best?” she asked.

“These,” Madison said, pointing to the petunias.

“Me, too!” Shelby reached out and rubbed dirt from her daughter’s knees. “Now let’s go wash up and have ourselves some lemonade.” She stood and taking Madison’s hand, led her toward the house. “Thank you for being my little helper,” she said as they climbed the steps onto the porch.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!