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Oh my! Just 1/3 of the way through November, not even getting to the Thanksgiving holiday and it’s been such a busy time.

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Of course, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month again. This will be novel number SIX! I wasn’t going to write another one until I edited a previous one, but my writing group friends talked me into it. And I’m glad they did. I’m trying something new, still working at finding what I like to write the most. So, this one is in the Young Adult/Action/Adventure genre. And I’m trying something else new. I’m revealing a bit of what I write. That’s kind of a big deal for me. Because there are two camps of thought about that. One says, “No way, don’t do it.” The other says, “Yes, it’s good.” So, I’m trying it. And I’m thinking about adding snippets here and there to generate interest. I don’t know. We’ll see.

Here’s the premise:

It is November 15, 2016, and America is at war, with itself. During events just before the presidential election in the United States, all hell has broken loose. Republican and Democratic rivalries sunk to new all-time lows and factions of militant organizations across the country were organized well enough to take matters into their own hands. They began shooting, bombing, and burning anything that didn’t fit their ideal of the red, white, and blue. The election didn’t even take place, because armed militia men proclaimed The Second Great Civil War of the United States. Civil War. Again. Only this time, citizens had access to Uzis and hand grenades and all kinds of crazy explosives and war “toys” that didn’t exist in the era of the first Civil War. But it didn’t matter what the weapons were. Yeah, the technology could reach a larger portion of the population and that was part of the problem. But the real problem was the unbridled passion of militants with a skewed perspective who turned that into a cause. Weapons destroyed. Weapons killed, especially in the hands of the power hungry and misguided. It’s the undefined “Us” against “Them” scenario and who can win with that? No matter which era a war was in, people died. And this time, it wasn’t just something 14-year-old Harper Bridges read about in a history book, it had happened right here, right now, and it had happened to her family.

Harper remembered her mother and grandmother having a conversation. If there was ever anything disastrous to occur, they all loosely agreed to meet at the family land in Oklahoma. Loosely. Very loosely. Harper could only remember snippets of the conversation and wasn’t even sure it was real. But she had in her mind to set out to try to reach Oklahoma. And she hoped to God that when she got there, her family would be there. She had a sinking feeling in her gut. A deep-seated knot that nagged and created pain. She was afraid. So afraid.

(Timely, huh?)

And here’s the first paragraph:

Harper hated death. She hated the thought of so much of it surrounding her and she hated the stench of it. She bent, placing her hands on both knees and held the hem of her shirt over her face, wishing it would filter the death stink. She tried not to cough, tried not to breathe, really, but had to regain her composure somehow. She had run for so long in the dark, once she had come to the wide-open spaces. But here she was again, running through the remains of a small, charred town. How many of them were there between Texas and Oklahoma? She wished she had paid more attention on the many trips between the two when–well, before all of this had erupted. She was completely out of breath and mentally chastised herself for not being in better physical shape. The occasional evening jog in the neighborhood with the dog had not been enough. Now, she was running for her life. Someone had shot at her twice and was on her trail again. With all of the burned towns and cities and all of the dead people, why in God’s name would someone care if she lived or died? The answer had eluded her for days and she did not have time to sort it out.

(Whew!) (We’ll see what happens. I usually don’t like to write on the dark side. But you have to have the dark side to have the light, right? So it can illuminate the darkness. Yeah. That.)  (I’m at 20,000 words, with the goal being 50,000 by the end of November.)

And here are some of the other things that have been going on:

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Lunch outside on a busy fall day. Don’t the organic veggies look so good? They are. From my friends at Better Together Farm.

Beautiful fall days! So, if I possibly can, I get outside on the weekends and work, because oh my goodness, my yard needs attention. So, I’ve been pruning and clipping and raking and shoveling … and about that–oh, dear. Last weekend I worked so hard, I could barely move. But it’s looking better out there.

One day, I made a vegetarian lasagna in the crockpot and I ate lunch outside. (Like my work gloves in the above photo? I needed leather gloves because I was trimming rose bushes and wanted to avoid the thorns. So, I found one thick, rubber work glove and one glove that I use for the kitchen. Not effective for rosebush thorns. I’ll guarantee.) (I don’t have time to go buy leather gloves.) (I need toooooo!)

My daughter is getting ready for a yard sale, so she’s taken over my carport. :^D  (But I will be glad to have that chore out of the way, believe me.)

This morning there was frost on my car windshield! Frost. That means I’d better get prepared for winter.

And on the drive to work I saw two deer in a chase and managed to honk the car horn before they crossed the road. And the doe listened. Good girl. She stopped. The buck didn’t want to. (He was enormous.) He only stopped because she did. (I’m thankful.) But she turned and went back the other way and he was soon in swift pursuit. Autumn in rural America. Fun times.

Hope you’re all having lovely days and can sit outside and enjoy the weather with a cup of hot tea or cocoa. (And avoid the deer on the roads.)

Okay, too much stuff to do. More soon.❤

Autumn Bouquet

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Thought I’d share these beautiful blooms with you, because I can’t get enough of their bright happiness. I’ve been purchasing them from my friends at Better Together Farm throughout the summer, along with their exquisite organic vegetables and herbs.

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I like to buy two — one for my table and one to brighten Mom’s & Dad’s days.

Sometimes they last for almost two weeks. I’ll be sad to see the organic farm season close for my friends at the end of October. I’ll have to wait again until March for their superior products.

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I encourage you to take the opportunity to pass along the gift of a bouquet, whether you have the privilege to gather a wildflower bouquet or find such a great bargain as I have. It’s a wonderful way to bring smiles and cheer.

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I awoke this morning to find this happy vignette that my daughter had arranged on our rustic dining table that she and my dad built. (I’ll tell you that story some time, too.)

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For now, I’ll leave you with this beautiful poem:

Autumn Fires
by Robert Louis Stevenson
In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

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And the first stanza of another:

To Autumn
by John Keats
SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more
And still more later flowers for the bees
Until they think warm days will never cease
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

***

Here’s a wonderful resource for you. You can even search poetry by topic, such as “flowers” or “autumn.”

Do you have a favorite poem about flowers or autumn?

And what’s on your music playlist today? Mine is “Porcelain,” an album by Helen Jane Long — a lovely, wistful, piano instrumental to play in the background while writing.

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My crazy spelling idea, placed among Oklahoma artifacts, including my favorite–rose rocks (barite)! We’ll talk about that in the future, too.

It’s nice to return to blogging. It’s already an exercise in tightening up my skills. Writing the title of this article was a challenge. Titles and subtitles and headlines are a challenge for me. It’s like condensing everything you want to say down into just a few words that will grab the reader and inspire them to continue reading. See, I want to talk about colloquialisms today and if I had titled this, “My Top Five Oklahoma Colloquialisms,” you probably would have skipped out on the fun. (Maybe it’s only fun to word nerds, but I think it’s fun.)

Anyway, in the past I’ve been confused by the differences between colloquialisms, jargon,  and such. Here’s a great explanation I found where they define the words and give examples of usage and even a little quiz at the end, if you are so inclined. (I know. It’s official. I’m a giant word nerd.)

For now, let’s skip the definitions and get right into the language and you’ll see what I mean.

There may be other segments of the South/or central regions of the United States that say “fixin’ to,” but in Oklahoma, people say that a lot.

“I’m fixin’ to go to the dog swap. Do you need anything? Chickens? Guineas? Goat?”

“She’s fixin’ to call him back as soon as she finds her phone.”

“I’m fixin’ to give you a whoopin’ you’ll never forget.”

See? Now you know what I mean, right?

I think one of the top colloquialisms that Oklahoma is known for is, “Ya’ll.” It is a contraction for “you all” and is normally used when speaking to a group of two or more people, but not always.

“Ya’ll calm down in there, or I’m goin’ to give you that whoopin’ we talked about earlier.”

“Ya’ll need anything? Dr. Pepper? Iced tea? Mountain Dew?”

“Ya’ll look like you’re itchin’ to jump in the water? You hot?” (See what I did there? Threw a  handful of colloquialisms at you in two sentences, in each example.)

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I’m thinking this needs to be the title of the chapter in the memoir where I tell all of these fun stories and more. :^)

My personal favorite is “idn’t it.” Mercy. When I catch myself saying “idn’t it,” I  cringe. Why do I say that? I don’t know. Because I live here, I guess.

“Idn’t it odd that she suddenly disappeared when the rent was due?”

“Idn’t he a sorry potlicker?” (Sorry–I’ll explain “sorry” and “potlicker” on another word- nerd day.)

“Idn’t she a sight for sore eyes?” (That one, too.)

Obviously, “idn’t it” stands in for “isn’t” and I have no explanation. It’s regional, because I’m not the only one who says it. Thank goodness.

“Howdy” is a good one. You probably already know that it’s used in place of “Hi” or “Hello,” but it’s considered less formal and more friendly. But it can be used in formal settings–just depends on who you are and your personality. (Which is the same with any of the above-mentioned colloquialisms because they have nothing to do with your current status, education, or job title. It’s regional, as I stated previously. It’s probably not a credit to an English major/editor/writer to chat with your co-workers in this manner:

“I’m fixin’ to send out an email inviting ya’ll to the next potluck lunch. Idn’t that a good idea?” Mm hmm.

It has nothing to do with living in the city or country, wearing Prada or Faded Glory, heels or boots, but you’d probably better live in Oklahoma. Or Texas. Or thereabouts. Or people will look at you cross-eyed and walk away. Quickly.

The last one is another personal favorite, just because my dad says it to be funny. “Far,” as in “fire,” and not how far you have to travel to reach the fire. Far.

“He preached hellfar and brimstone again.”

“I tried to light that far, but the wind came sweepin’ down the plain.”

“It’s hotter ‘n far today, idn’t it?”

Yep. (There’s another one for you.)

So, if you travel and a bunch of Okies are having a conversation and you feel like you’re visiting a foreign country, you very well may be. But Okies aren’t the only ones. Here’s another link to a great article that gives you a visual on this very thing. Some of the topics are pretty hilarious, too.

Hope you’ve enjoyed and that you understand what I’m talkin’ about. If not, ask questions in the comment section. And leave a comment listing your favorite colloquialism from your area. That should be fun!

 

Peaceful Places

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BEAUTY IN THE PARK, DURING TRANQUIL MOMENTS

It’s been a while since I’ve written. It’s been a busy time for me, with much writing on a professional level, but I’ve missed the easy-going, interesting, enlightening conversations that can take place by blogging. I’ve considered some different ideas for re-entering Blog World and finally ended up thinking that life can get complicated on its own. I’d like to keep this simple. Plus, as a writer, it’s nice to have a place to hone my skills in an easy manner — practice, and connect with other people who are interested in what I have to say, aside from social media, which can sometimes end up too complicated.

My interests tend to lean toward the eclectic — many and varied. Of late, I’ve spent some free time researching genealogy, which involves digging deeply into my heritage. I am currently thrilled with the long Scots lines that I’ve located, and although I’m proud of my ancestry, I’m particularly enamored with the Celtic aspects. I’m planning a trip. I have a long bucket list, but this trip seems to be calling out the loudest. I think I’m just going to jump off and go. (I kept telling myself that I wanted to wait until I could stay for two or three months, but that seems unlikely for the near future, so I’ll plan something more reasonable and see what transpires.)

I wrote another novel this summer. Well, it started out as a memoir, with stories from our family. It ended up being a collection of the beginning of several more story ideas, as well as an entire first edit of one of my previous novels. (I know! That seems to be part of my creative process.) I had wrestled with editing my novels for too long. I knew I had to start somewhere. I’m still dealing with what to do next. There is too much information on publishing and self-publishing and I get bogged down. I need to simplify this process, too. I really think the next step is to lay it all out and review it and edit again with my daughter who is also a writer.

This summer I also spent six weeks motivating myself back into better physical shape by taking the prodding of my daughter and joining the Couch to 5K movement (through the C25K app.) It’s actually eight weeks, but I made it for six weeks and actually felt much better. Then, I fell ill and have remained so for an entire month! Talk about frustrating. I spent time taking supplements and learning more and more about building my health through the immune system and then took a very hard hit. Well, it’s back to square one, but with some beautiful autumn days, hopefully, I can begin again.

Occasionally I’ve mentioned some writer’s quotes that inspire me. It might be fun to end some posts with some of my own. Quotes have to begin somewhere. It might as well be here. On writing — I know you’ve heard this many times before and it’s been attributed to many authors, but it’s true — just write.

 

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Do you believe in miracles? I do. I’ve stood in the middle of one in the last few weeks. Of course, sometimes as human beings attempting to explain the unexplainable, we soften the words, which takes away some of the impact. I do not want to diminish what I’ve experienced by putting my feelings into words. But what I’ve seen with my own eyes and felt in my own heart needs to be expressed. I feel compelled to share. I know I’m treading upon hallowed ground here, and usually I am very careful with my word choices because I have a wide range of friends and acquaintances with many differences and beliefs. It is my desire to live a life that impacts each in a positive way as much as possible, and not divide. Because what good am I if I cause division, when a softer word might turn it away? Unity is ultimately my desire. Therefore, I normally keep my spiritual beliefs where they belong — in my heart. Except sometimes, they need to spill over. Because maybe you need to be encouraged.

Sometimes the raw truth is the only way to express a thing. And that is what I am dealing with here. If you would like to experience my miracle by reading about it, read on.

On January 19 my dear father died of a heart attack. He was unresponsive for about 45 minutes, the rescue workers say. They performed CPR and finally got his heart beating and breath in his lungs. No one in our family was with him at that point. Thankfully, a nurse found his phone in his truck and dialed the last number dialed, my brother. We were soon on our way to be with Dad. My youngest brother made it to him first, in less than an hour.

My dad is a man of great faith. His light shines everywhere he goes. He is not afraid to speak out about it, either. But he doesn’t often have to. He lives it. Love spills out of him in buckets to all. He has a special gift with people — all kinds, great and small — many of the lovely and  unlovely beings of the world. That’s called unconditional love. My dad is the epitome of that title.

Me? Not so much. I can hold a grudge for ages. I can say that I’ve let something go, and even convince myself I have, but I’ll find myself dealing with past wounds over and over. I want to be like my dad. I wonder how he got to the place he did? He has surely borne as much pain in his life as me. More, I know for sure. Yet he is supreme at that forgive-and-forget-thing. Like he says, “like water off a duck’s back.” Yep. Wish I could.

But there we all were, finally gathered around my dad’s hospital bed, praying for a miracle. We had one at that moment, the fact that he was with us, the circumstances of the day … All of it overwhelming. He pushed on through the first day and into the night. But somehow, on my shift to stay the night of the 20th, in spite of my prayers and those surrounding me by our loved ones holding us up with their faith, he started to slip away from us again. His heart stopped twice. And by myself until family could reach us again, I had to instruct the medical team to revive him. They wanted me to go to the waiting room. “I’m standing right here,” I said. Desperate to hold onto my faith, I felt small and alone at that moment. Scarcely able to breathe myself, tears spilling uncontrollably, I remember tipping my head back at one point and howling into the ceiling, “Daddy!” Like that could call him back ….

When family arrived, the hospital staff expected us to say our good-byes. About ten of us held hands around his bedside and talked to Dad, sang to him, prayed, told him everything we could fit of a lifetime into a few minutes.

Individually, we are a bunch of hard-headed, hard-working, strong-willed, powerhouses in our own rights — every bit of it passed through strong genes and pioneering souls. But at that moment, we were losing our patriarch. Our rock. The glue of our family.

Mom’s prayer went something like this: “God, he’s my best friend. Dale, you’re my best friend. (They are coming up on 61 years of marriage.) I love you. God, I don’t want to let him go, I want him to live. But, if it’s time for him to go and be with You, then we will say, Your will be done.”

That is when the tide turned. I saw it. Each one of us, in our individuality, our own reasons why we wanted to keep Dad with us, with our own powers and weaknesses, strengths and failings, we each stepped up a little closer and I know for sure that each one moved into loving Dad with everything he ever put into us, and then some, because we united for one cause. And that was to let our love for him spill into him more than it ever had. And we continued to pray the prayer of faith, with that love carrying us.

I don’t want to say that we had given up and were ready for death. But that is some powerful stuff, to deal with life and death. Each of us, my mom, brothers, my daughters, one of my sons-in-law, sister-in-law, niece and nephews, and everyone else in the room moved into loving Dad with all of our might. We prayed to the God that Dad loves and serves so beautifully — each of us — in our failing human state — far from perfect. But full of love, love for Dad that came to life in each one of us.

Each one did and said beautiful things. My oldest stood tirelessly, her baby due in days, patiently holding Dad’s hands and gently applying essential oils. My youngest stood rock solid and sang favorite songs to him. My other daughter, one of the last to arrive, walked into the room, bent down into her Papa’s face and said straight out, “It’s not time for him to go!” And Dad snapped his eyes open like a lightning bolt and looked right into her eyes.

I knew he was back with us from that exact moment.

It’s not what she did or said was any different from what any one of us gathered around him were thinking or saying. But it was rather like a catalyst. It mixed with the rest of the material of faith that each one of us held in our hearts and our eyes and our hands for the love of that man and what he meant to us.

And I believe with all my heart that God reached down and said, “In your weakness, I am strong.” He showed us that life is His will.

The words, “one accord” keep running  through my mind. We were in one accord, more than any time we’ve ever all been together. We were more full of love, perfect love, than any time I’ve ever experienced it. And God took that, and mixed what we offered up with His grace, and it was done. Dad lived.

The doctors thought he would be brain dead. But miracles continue to occur. Dad is astounding. His brain waves are normal, he’s overcome hurdle after hurdle, baffled doctors, and had a steady string of hospital staff stopping in to take a look at this miracle man. And Dad usually figures out a way to shine. He passes out smiles like lollipops and compliments and encourages tired workers. He’s amazing.

I hardly feel I’ve done the miracle the justice I wanted to express. I think I’ll have to write about this in pieces. There is so much that comes to the light when you call on the light in all power. It brings things out that were covered up, lurking in the shadows — not-so-pretty-stuff that wants to take away the joy of the moment.

Human beings are so flawed. I am one, far, far from perfect. I don’t know why sometimes miracles occur and then, sometimes, they do not. All I know is that we got one that day. A big one. And I am grateful.

There are other steps to take. More promises to keep. And quite a bit of living to pack into the time we’ve been given with our treasure — my dad. The weight of reality and everyday life after facing the miraculous can seem so dreary. We should have a spring in our steps and undying enthusiasm, right? Yes. That thankfulness has to inhabit human flesh. I am holding onto hope with all I have in me. I want to change — be more like my dad and love the way he loves. I want to live like I’m thankful for this gift. I am.

Camp NaNoWriMo Winner!

If you have ever said, “I’m going to write a novel,” may I suggest that you use NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as your platform?  It is a wonderful tool to provide the motivation and encouragement from other writers that you may need to propel you from zero to one-hundred in thirty days!

Two years ago I participated in National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November of every year.  The goal is to write 50,000 words in thirty days.  That year, I was still in college classes, but it was a great way to put some fire behind one of my novel ideas.  I accomplished writing about 20,000 words that year.   The NaNo website, nanowrimo.org, acknowledges even your well-best intentions, but the “winners” achieve the 50,000 word mark.

I had it in my mind to achieve that, some day, but after graduation, I sort of crashed.  I gave myself a month to recuperate from college, then I was going to get back on the bandwagon and get writing.  But life got in the way and six months passed.  Horrors!

Thank goodness  I had the sense to “like” NaNoWriMo on facebook.  Every so often I would see their posts and the idea of finishing my novel that I wrote while in college continued to nag.

In July, the site hosts Camp NaNoWriMo, with the same goal as in November:  write 50,000 words in a month.  (There is also a level for rebels.  You set your own parameters and just participate and achieve success at your own rate.)  I considered this, but I really wanted to prove to myself that I have what it takes to be a writer who can really make it — and by that I mean:  work at writing, each and every day, in the midst of life.  That was the Camp slogan.  “Writing in the midst of your crazy life.”  Yep.  That fit.

Perfect.

I signed up.

They assign campers to an online “cabin.”  Like-minded writers, within a genre, age-group, or other criteria are assigned randomly, or you can choose your cabin mates.  I went for random and I could not have ended up happier with the situation.  The writers in my cabin were encouraging.  Each was at a different level in their writing, from “I wish I could write,” to “I write professionally.”    We were able to communicate on the assigned cabin message forum.  Each one of us achieved a level of success and one other camper besides me, made it over the 50,000 word goal.

I found that I was more competitive than I had ever imagined.  I wanted to meet my word goal each day, which was over 1600.  Some days I surpassed 3000 or 5000.  Once, I was side-lined for five days with zero words.  But I didn’t give up!  I came back at it determined to finish.  On day twenty-two when I knocked out the final word in 50,000, I was elated.  I did it!  Life and all.  Crazy life and all.  I ended up with a prequel to my first novel.

It was not my best writing, by any stretch of the imagination, but I got those words down in black and white.  Some of my ideas were great.  I can see what they will blossom into with some hard work.  It was just the doing, the discipline, the commitment, the promise to myself within the view of others that seemed to work for me.

Camp NaNoWriMo awards the winners with cool virtual badges and a certificate that can be printed out, as well as several online purchase discounts.  That was nice, but the best part was that I just did it.  I surpassed my goal.

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I think that I will continue to participate in NaNoWriMo.  It was a great way to set a goal and achieve it, with daily markers right before my eyes.  I’ve committed to my goal and signed up for November 1!

I have also found a NaNoEdMo site.  (National Novel Editing Month takes place in March.)  It is setting aside about two hours per day for a month to edit a previously written novel.  Perfect again!  Just what I need, because I have two novels to edit and a third on the way!

I encourage you to check out the websites and set some goals.  November is just around the corner.  You can do this!  I did, I know you can.

Have you ever wanted to write a novel?  Do you think you might participate in NaNoWriMo?  Let me know. . . .

Sunflowers

“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” (Og Mandino)

Let’s discuss light and darkness in writing for a few minutes.  It’s been my experience that both are necessary in good fiction.  You have a protagonist working toward some achievement, stretching toward the light, hoping to make life better somehow.  You have his/her arch enemy, the antagonist, working toward the exact opposite.  Light + Dark = Conflict.  On-going conflict that reaches a resolution = a novel that will grip your readers.

I remember when I was first given permission to write about the dark side.  I didn’t know how acceptable that was, or not.  Of course, that is naive.  But I wanted to be a good writer.  Not just a good writer, but the very best that I could be.  So, I explored the dark side of my mind.  I had been taught to not think about things like that.  Like a lot of little girls, I was expected to dwell on “sweetness and light.”  Well, that is not very true to life.  Blackouts may not be pleasant, but they certainly do provide perspective and balance.  They also lend appreciation for the light.

I had read many books, but had not stopped to consider that light and darkness were most always involved in what I considered the good ones.  I just knew if the book held my attention or not — if I loved the characters or just tolerated them — if I finished a book in one night, or tossed it aside.

Take a look at the books that you love.  You may be well aware of the sparkle of the good versus the pits of blackness and despair or evil.  If you are a writer, you have probably considered the impact this has upon your writing — being able to see both sides.  If not, give it a shot.  Like a gifted painter, your art will benefit from the carefully applied highlights and depth added through the shading.

When you read, do you prefer more “sweetness and light” or more of the dark side?  Why?