Tag Archives: characters

The Murphy-Harpst Home: Writing About the Past

Rolling some ideas around in my head. I guess I should tell you where I am before I embark on something new. I have a tendency to get several projects going and bounce around between them.

It wasn’t like that when I wrote Red Clay and Roses. The idea for that story had rolled around in my head for twenty years. Having the time to put the words down brought it all together in a hurry. I didn’t really intend for it to become a published book. It isn’t set in a standard novel template and has its share of faults, but I’m proud of it just the same as if I had set out to accomplish writing a novel.

Naked Alliances was my first attempt at actually putting together a totally fictional story. There are things I like about it and things I don’t. I can’t say that I’m totally thrilled with it. I know authors are supposed to be very confident and write what they want to read and be all excited about putting it out there. I’d be lying if I said that I did not have any reservations.

At any rate, I know it has improved thanks to some wonderful beta readers and a couple of fantastic editors. I just got the novel back from its last pass through an editor’s hands and I am on chapter twenty-one of thirty finishing up those edits and I am much more excited about it now than I was at the start. I plan on continuing the Naked Eye series.

I have rough outlines completed for the next two novels. One involves missing elderly, and another involves development encroaching on wildlife habitat.

I still have Surviving Sister in the works, a 1950s-60 saga that continues with Hannah Hamilton’s family members, particularly her mother and her Aunt, who both suffer from mental illness during an era of major changes in how the mentally ill were treated. Concerning the Hamilton family members, it could be read as a sequel to Red Clay and Roses or a standalone. One of the biggest hindrances to writing this novel is the research required. There is so little documentation of treatment modalities in that era. My personal psychiatrist has given me some reference books that might help move things along. There is also a romance in that book that has slowed me down.

A nice lady from the orphanage that I lived in back in the mid-seventies has written to me. She found a blog post in which I mentioned the Harpst Home. That really has me thinking. I’ve done loads of research on Ethel Harpst and the Harpst Home and still have contacts there. Although it is primarily a treatment facility now, no longer an orphanage as most children are housed in foster care nowadays, it is still home to dozens of youth who would be at serious risk if the home did not exist.

Here is an excerpt on Ethel Harpst from “Georgia Women of Achievement”

 

Ethel Harpst
Ethel Harpst

 Perhaps Ethel Harpst’s biggest gift was the time and effort she gave to so many children in need. Harpst began her long career of caring for children at the McCarty Settlement House at Cedartown’s mill village. During her time teaching there, she took in a number of children who had been orphaned by parents who succumbed to illnesses. The Ethel Harpst Home opened in March 1924 and housed many children until the walls could expand no more.

Harpst traveled to raise funds for a new home, and in 1927 the first modern building, James Hall, was completed. And just in time for children who were displaced and orphaned during the Great Depression. An answer to prayer was the interest and attention shown by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Pfeiffer of New York. Through the Pfeiffer’s and several other friends, money was raised to allow more buildings to be constructed on the campus over the next 20 years, and hundreds of acres of land were contributed to the cause. All this is thanks to the dedication and tenacity of Harpst to continue fundraising. Today, the site houses the Murphy-Harpst residential program, where Georgia’s severely abused children can go for healing and therapy. In 2010-11, the program served nearly 300 children, which included 97 children in residential treatment.”

Sarah Murphy
Sarah Murphy

Long after her death in 1967, the Harpst Home merged with the Sarah Murphy Home. Sarah Murphy was a black woman in the area who had created a home for black youth.  Harpst Home became the Murphy-Harpst Home in 1976, during my last year there when it started integrating.

So, I’ve been wondering if I should write a book about them. It would either be non-fiction or a historical fiction based on their stories.

OR, Should I write a purely fictional story about a resident there and how she saw her world and the changes she went through?

Having been a resident there myself, I could better relate to a fictional character and write in the first person. There were so very many different coming-of-age stories to come out of that place during my short time there, I think it would make for a most interesting read.

What do you think?

What would interest you most?

Historical Fiction about the founders?

An orphan’s personal story?

I remember the first black girl that came from the Sarah Murphy Home to the Ethel Harpst home, and her roommate. I’d love to tell their story.

What would you, my audience, like to read?

Any ideas you’d like to share?

White Wolf in My Dream

I stopped trying to interpret dreams many years ago. When I studied religions, I also studied dreaming. (Psychology, sociology, political science and a host of other inter and intra personal relations.)images

The spiritual symbolism of the white wolf goes back eons. For a wolf or wolves to appear in a person’s dream we can learn about our subconscious. “From singular or family groups, we can learn about the nature of the dreamer or people that the dreamer is connected to in their life. It can also reveal information pertaining to their spiritual growth and internal changes such as emotional growth, decisions surrounding personal relationships or even career goals.”

Last night, around 2 am, I was dreaming. I don’t often dream. My meds knock me out and my mind goes blank. I may be dreaming, but I am not aware.

38a795fa605d27d38620603422ebec2cMy dream involved my characters in a book I am editing and I can’t recall much about it. In an instant, an aggressive white wolf image was up close, his face in my face. It startled me and I jerked to jump two feet off the bed. My heart was racing and the fight or flight response kicked in. I was scared! More like a flash of nightmare than dream.

Of course, as soon as I opened my eyes, it was gone. That didn’t take but a second. The ordeal was short lived, but quite impressive.

This morning, with the internet at my fingertips, I found this really neat article on wolf dreams by Debbie Edwards, a psychologist.

WOLVES in Dreams – Meanings and Interpretations

I like the way Ms. Edwards lays it out on her page.

  1. Wolves are surrounded by notions of mysticism, magic and folklore.
  2. Color: black, gray, white , red.
  3. Lone or Group.
  4. Behavior: timid, aggressive, protective, playful, sleeping, invisible.
  5. Environment: day or night, clear skies or storms, stars and moon

Here is how my dream interprets:

Regarding the dreamer: A white wolf can represent someone or something that is directly influenced by spiritual communication or teachings. Someone that would be very knowledgeable or connected spiritually could be represented by a white wolf. It can also represent the purity of a message that is delivered by a spiritual presence. It can also represent someone who is pursuing a stronger connection to their faith, spiritual practices or ceremonial activities.

[One thing in my book I have been trying to do in my writing is offer insights in the narrative. I’m also trying to develop more of a spiritual connection to my characters. My alpha reader is giving me guidance.] 

The lone wolf: If a wolf appears to the dreamer without the company of his or her pack, it is important to pay attention to a specific person or situation that is relevant to the dreamer which would describe more of an isolated or detailed situation or person.

[I am still processing the alpha reader’s impression of my book and its characters. He has been giving me examples over the last few days.]

Aggressive- An aggressive wolf can represent defensive postures or fear based movements in life. Is the dreamer feeling under attack by someone or others? Is there an aggressive person in their life who is trying to intimidate them?

[I’ll say. I’m defending my baby.]

Night or day- A wolf appearing at night will reveal things either hidden in the subconscious or things that may not be “visible” in the dreamers perception. Something is happening that the dreamer is given an inside view on that otherwise has been elusive from view.

[My alpha reader is most likely right and I am wrong. Like it or not!]

This was my dream interpretation, whether accurate, or not.

Do you dream?

Have you ever felt a need to have a dream interpreted?

Do you dream about writing, or your characters?

Hitting the Wall

I hit a plot dilemma yesterday and got stuck. Took me a while to figure that one out. Finally broke down and wrote out an outline for the remainder of the book, mind maps of research, more details. This is a picture of my work space. A long while back, when I first started with Scrivener, I took a picture of my desk all nice and clean and organized. Still using Scrivener, and the WIP is neatly filed, but can’t say the desk has stayed very well organized.

best pic desk 002

It’s a work space filled with mind maps, outlines, notes, tools.

Rocket scientist is in Baltimore. Was up at 5 am working on my plot dilemma. Woke up around 9 am with a sore throat, stuffy head, coughing till I peed myself, vomiting, illness. Had the sick granddaughter over on Sunday for 8 hours. So, we know where this came from. Bless her heart. Today is the daughter’s birthday, middle child, she is thirty three. Damn, I feel old.

Have spent the afternoon writing down patois phrases I know and researching others. Got a Jamaican suspect. Feel pretty good about where I am going with this now.  Asians, Hispanics, cowboys, suits, bikers. A colorful cast of characters for my detective and his sidekick, no doubt about it.

It’s a fun write, and I am hoping it will be a fun read. Much different than anything I have written before. Not nearly as serious, although there are serious crimes. This writing requires a transition in styles for me and I do find myself slipping back into old patterns.

My work in the past has been praised for attention to detail, and the novel is filled with descriptive details, but I have to be careful not to get too windy or verbose. We’ll just have to see how the beta readers feel about it when that time comes.

Going to take some Benadryl, some Nasacort spray and try to get a nap now. I’ll be writing again tonight.

27,976 words!

Bloggers: The Real and the Imagined

Wizard-of-oz_hologram

As a nurse, especially when working as a psych nurse, we are taught to read body language, to pick up on subtle biological cues, note changed inflections and tones when listening to words spoken.  You get none of that online. Even when you are acute enough to read between the lines, it’s not the same thing.  You are working off of one sense, and your brain has to assimilate the information from there.  The other four senses are impaired.  We are all reading with impaired senses. There is no real emotion in it, only the sense of sight, you see the words, your mind has to create the rest and none of us think quite alike.  What you write is subject to interpretation by the reader. We are operating like the drunk driver.

When writing novels, we are always writing from our own perceptions, trying to convey a personality through words. Not our own personality, but the character’s personality.  Their mannerism, mood, actions, reactions, language, how they uniquely interact with the world around them. A world that we also created.

Many bloggers, especially anonymous bloggers who have created an online persona of sorts, do the same.  The ones who use a character image to write and respond to comments are really adept at projecting an image they wish you to see; like Mr. and Mrs. Bojangles (Not really characters that I know of, I am making them up for demonstration purposes). She signs her comments Mrs. B and he signs his comments Mr. B.  They take turns posting whatever they wish the world to know about the Bojangles and how the Bojangles receive the world around them.

They might really be Mr. and Mrs. Morgan down the street. He may kick his dog and she may beat her kids, you really don’t know them. Online, they are a sweet little old couple who offer advice to young people on starting a family. Then again, they may be ministers of their church and dutifully assist their parish in all manner of life’s challenges. Again, you don’t know.  You just know their online persona.

ozLike the Wizard of OZ, they are protected by a curtain of anonymity.

Do you ever wonder about the people you meet online? Surely you do.

Then, there are bloggers who write outright, open about themselves and their personal lives, their work, their talents, their writing process, their ambitions, the way they perceive the world around them, signing their writing by their real life name, posting it at the top of their blog as I do.  How well do you really know them? Being online, you don’t see their flaws of character, that they bite their nails, never comb their hair, cross their legs and & arms when seated, and smell like yesterday’s cheese. You also don’t see their strengths of character, the way they shake a hand, their smiles, their infectious laugh, the way they always hold the door for others.  You can only guess, by the words they write, what they must be like in “Real Life”.

Whether it is the “real you” or a persona that you have imaginatively created, I am truly amazed with you all, from the 25 year old unemployed Australian guy sitting in a coffee shop with the brilliant mind looking for his niche that ponders life and its meaning, to the passionate 20 year old writing majestic prose and poetry lamenting lost love, from the quirky 80 yo great-grandma who recalls history with a twist of lime, to the struggling 30-something writer who ambitiously defeats personal odds to develop an entire series of marketable books.  The guy next door, the lady with 9 kids, the satirical comedian, the girl coping with mental illness and drug addiction, you are all why I keep coming back. I love the diversity that is you, real or imagined.

The collective consciousness of the blogosphere is both mystifying and marvelous!

Stereotypes in Writing and Reading: Love them or Not?

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I like to think that I am a non-racist individual that dislikes prejudice in any form, and then I write.  When I write, in developing my characters I can’t help but depend on stereotypes.  Do you think they are derogatory? I like to think that I do so without the element of Hate, and that makes it okay.  Like the book and the movie “The Help”The help by  Kathryn Stockett, I used the stereotype of the Southern maid, a big boisterous buxom black woman, who smelled of baby powder, sweat and peppermint.  Hannah’s nanny, who accidentally and erroneously taught her why black people were black.  It was funny.

Like comedians:  We writers sometimes depend on these images to develop our characters into real and believable immediately recognizable images.  Moreover, I don’t believe that society dictates that to us in our everyday lives, as much as visual media demonstrates these images over and over again until they are fixed in our brains.  We, as writers are trying to place or fix a visual image in our reader’s mind relying on their own imagination.

You do know that if I said, “Gangsta dude,” you would immediately conjure an image a of black guy with his pants dropping down and his underwear showing, shooting hand gestures and wearing bling with his ball cap placed backwards on his head or a hoodie on.

Likewise if I said, “Flapper”, you might immediately conjure an image of a lady in the roaring twenties without further explanation.

Swedish cartoonist Mattias Adolfsson: Check him out
Swedish cartoonist Mattias Adolfsson: Check him out

Sometimes, I try to deliberately cause the reader NOT to get a stereotypical image in their mind, because I am trying to go in another direction.  This can be more challenging than writing the stereotype.  Do you depend on stereotypes or try to avoid them?

I made two lists of stereotypical images of Southern men and women.  Does your mind automatically distinguish the sometimes subtle differences or would they have to be explained? Do you get a visual image?

Southern Men:                                                                       Southern Women:

1)      Swamp man                                                              1) Redneck mama

2)      African-American                                               2) White trash/trailer trash

3)      Redneck                                                                     3) Hillbilly Queen

4)      Hillbilly                                                                   4) Southern Belle

5)      Mountain man/Mountaineer                            5) Steel magnolia

6)      Good ole boy                                                             6) Swamp Witch

7)      Southern gentleman                                             7) Proper Southern lady

8)      Southern guy                                                            8) Good ole girl

9)      Black Sambo                                                              9) African Princess

10)   Flaming Fag (like Chablis, in                       10) Somebody’s Child

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil)         11) Church lady

11)   Dirt farmer                                                               12) Holy roller/Biblethumper

12)   City boy                                                                     13) Island girl

13)   Cracker Jack

When you write or read to you feel facilitated by stereotypes or hampered by them?

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New Friends in the Punchy Lands at The Hut

For the punchy lands

Photo from Flickr

Professor VJ has these cute little audio You Tube minis that his characters come to life through over in The Punchy Lands in a skit series called called The Hut.  Every Friday there is a new one.  If you don’t know him already, you really should drop by and say hello.  He is kind to strangers.

I like what he does with his characters and his tagging method on his site.  It really is ingenious.  I could not find a re-blog option on the site or I would introduce you myself.  Check him out!  Be warned, he writes some “Ripping Reviews”.  Professor VJ is not “just” a writer, he’s a storyteller.  I admire that.