Wednesday, October 29, 2014

First Job Glory Days

What I am about to say will surely cross me over the line from middle age into the realm of old-fogeydom. It is this: Parents nowadays are afraid to let (or make) their children work.

There. See what I mean? I'm now an old fogey because I've invoked a version of "kids these days."

Maybe I am brushing the stroke too broadly. I know kids right now who are hard workers, and I know parents who teach them to be. After all, I'm sure that in my generation and in generations since the dawn of time there have been parents who couldn't bring themselves to let their children work hard labor, the kind of labor that produces heavy sweat, huge appetites, and death-like sleep only to be aggravated by sore muscles. But there must be some reason why our world is bending more and more toward an entitlement mentality. I think kids who don't know how to work -- or work hard for small reward -- are part of that problem.

But I'll get off my high horse now. I really just want to tell you about my first job, a job that taught me to work hard, and then harder, and formed much of my work ethic as well as the one I've hoped to instill in my own kids. In this (unlike so many other things) I believe I have been successful.

My aunt gave me my first job when I was thirteen years old. I'd done my share of babysitting, dog-sitting, and even chicken-sitting by that time. I'd learned to mow a lawn, hoe a garden, pick beans and shuck peas. I'd scrubbed floors with an s.o.s. pad, washed windows with a rag, shoveled snow, and taken out mountains of trash. All in all, I was a pretty well-rounded kid when it came to chores.

But never before had I been paid for manual labor. (Note: I never counted the babysitting as manual labor. Jobs like that were cream.)

So I was delighted, thrilled, high with excitement when one winter's eve my aunt told me she intended to plant an acre of cucumbers the following spring if I and my eleven year old cousin were interested in picking them. We would make 40% of the profits.

Months passed. Spring came. The cucumbers were planted, and at long last the day came for the first picking. Now we never really called them cucumbers, just pickles. I arrived at the farm at the crack of dawn. Everyone was still asleep.

I should veer here for a second and explain a little bit more about that arrival. See, one of the things that was made very clear to me as a kid, was that my parents were not chauffeurs. I could pretty much be involved with whatever I wished, as long as my involvement didn't have to involve their gas and travel time, with very, very limited exceptions. Now I'm not as much of an old fogey as they were. I did occasionally drive my kids to their first jobs.

So on the morning of my first pickle picking adventure, I got on my bike -- an old, green, second-hand Hiawatha, a single speed gem my mom bought me when I was nine, for twenty bucks at a the Wagon Wheel Tavern -- and off I pedaled. It was only thirteen miles to my aunt and uncle's farm.

The first five miles took me down a quiet country road and a county line not heavily traveled. I sat up straight on the seat, took my hands off the handlebars, and swung them at my sides as I pedaled along nonchalantly singing songs and enjoying my own company. By the time I reached the Highway 73 corridor, I had to pay closer attention. Every time a semi careened up alongside me, I gripped the handlebars tighter and glued my eyes to the grassy edge of the shoulder, hoping I wouldn't get sucked under the trailer as it roared and rattled past. It was always a delight to get off that highway five miles later onto the back lanes leading to my relatives' home.

I had a hardy breakfast with the family that first day. They got their milk straight from the cow, and it was creamier than I was used to. That would've been fine, but it was pretty warm. Can't say I've ever cared much for thick, warmish milk.

Then off we went to pick pickles. My young cousin and I each took a gunny sack from the pile and stood at the end of a row that seemed a mile long. We gazed out over the dewy field, and it dawned on me, you can fit a lot of rows in an acre. But we were filled with enthusiasm, because we both had goals for our summer earnings. For me, it was to retire the Hiawatha and buy a shiny Schwinn ten speed. They were the new rage back then. Both my two best friends had one, and I can tell you they didn't get them second hand from a bar, NOR did they have to earn them. Just sayin. Were it not for this pickle field, I could be stuck with my one speed until I graduated high school. Besides that, I figured if I bought a bike myself, my mom couldn't ground me from it when she got mad at me for doing -- oh, I don't know -- teenage stuff.

So we started to pick. There were two things we learned after our first day in the field, laboring like migrant workers under the blazing sun:

1.      You should wear gloves if you plan to pick pickles for nine or ten hours straight. Pickle prickers are painful, and they make your hands hurt even worse the second or third day after. Your fingers will swell up and turn red, and you can hardly stand to touch a thing!

2.      Filling up your gunnysacks with mountains of big, green cucumbers do not earn you higher wages because they weigh more than the cute little finger-sized, green guys. They earn you exactly 1/16th of a cent per pound. 1/16th of a cent! Per pound! No, if you want to make any money, you need to fill many sacks with hordes of the little guys. They'll at least get you 3 or 4 cents per pound -- minus your aunt's 60%.

Yes, we learned those lessons pretty quickly, and we applied our knowledge so that our second trip to the Polka Dill Pickle Company in Plover, Wisconsin actually provided us with a check that was written out in dollars instead of cents.
Later we learned that it didn't always pay to take our load in on the day of picking. If we picked until late, and if the day was particularly scorching so that our pickles risked dehydrating a bit, I'd spend the night at my aunt and uncle's while our gunnysacks soaked in the kiddy pool, adding a few precious pounds to our cache.

But going to the dill pickle canning factory was an adventure. We'd watch them pour our gunnysacks into the pickle --er--cucumber sorter. The belt would creak and role, and the pickles would shake and jiggle along the track getting divvied up into about eight or ten different sizes, and pay varied by size. Like I said before, the smaller they were the better. Then my aunt would receive our pay, and off we'd go to the nearest swimming hole. I will never forget group bathing in a silty irrigation pond, with a bar of ivory soap floating around for each of us to use, or getting to a lake well after dark on a sultry summer night, and not being able to hit the water because the bottom was covered with thousands of crayfish. A few zillion pincers didn't really stop my uncle and cousin, who leap-toed around up to their ankles at the boat landing, tossing crawdads at us while their hoots and hollers echoed over the lake. 

The irrigation pond we swam in looked a lot like this.
There was a time or two we helped out my relatives' other cousins in their field, or we all got shipped over to another field along Highway 73. I don't know who owned it, only that there were about 6 or 7 of us kids, brown as burned toast, hot and dirty, having a good time working hard. I was the eldest. When we needed a stretch, we'd watch for a semi to come along, then we'd all run as fast as we could to the end of the pickle patch, pumping our arms like crazy to get the driver to blow his air horn. We leapt and cheered with each success, and that bit of relief kept us picking until another truck came along or the adults came to rescue us. So we had fun. It was a lot of hard work, but not all work. We made the best of it we could.

I remember one 90 degree day my cousin Barry and I had been bending over, working along in silence for about an hour, when I decided to liven things up with a song. I stood quickly and belted out a verse of Great Big Gobs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts to Barry. Suddenly the world turned on its axis. The warmth overcame me. The soft dirt rose up to meet me. A minute later, Barry woke me up. It was kind of a childhood milestone. My first time passing out.

There were a lot of days when the picking went fast and we just played. Our favorite place was the sand hill out in the cow pasture. We spent hours there, digging and building. As long as that mean old bull Chester wasn't around, there were no worries. A favorite activity was to take turns burying each other up to our necks and build hysterical, graphic sand bodies on each other. Once, when my cousin was properly cemented deep in his hole on the side of the hill, I stood up, looked over the hill behind his head, and cried out, "Here comes Chester!" Then I promptly bolted off "running to the house", only I was really hiding on the other side of the hill, laughing hysterically at Barry's panicked screams. First-borns are mean when it comes to pranks like that. I came back a minute later, cackling my head off, and dug him out. Thankfully, even though I'd scared him out of his mind, he had a pretty good sense of humor.

I have almost nothing but good memories of that summer on the farm and in the pickle field. At the end of it, I could have passed for one of the Mexicans we were used to seeing around the fields in central Wisconsin. I was brown as bark, strong-limbed, and happy with accomplishment to receive my final pay. My only bad memory came from pedaling my bike home one day when I was taunted by a car full of young men who kept returning to drive along next to me and tease. I wasn't too worried about them. I even stopped to pick some flowers after they finally drove off. But when I crested a hill a little while later and saw their car parked on the edge of a dirt lane, my heart filled with dread. I had the good sense to turn around and pedal as fast as I could to a house -- the only house -- along that stretch of road and pound on the door for help. The car load of boys cruised by a few minutes later, yelling risqué remarks while the kind lady of the house was loading my bicycle into her van to take me home.

Everything else was good, from the hard work, to the fun days on the farm, and even to the pittance I'd earned by the end of summer. I'd made a grand total of $116 dollars for all my days of labor, only about $15 short of what I needed for my ten speed, but that was easily made up with babysitting. And I can tell you, my red, white, and blue bicentennial ten speed was worth its weight in those pickles. I pedaled it hundreds and hundreds of miles, but that's another story from the glory days.

Monday, October 20, 2014

COTT presents Veiled at Midnight by Christine Lindsay


Seeing the second generation of one’s literary family in the explosive and passionate completion of my series is almost as much fun as watching my real life adult children grow up.

There were hard decisions though. Just like in real life. My setting is one that some readers don’t think they will be interested in. That is until they actually start reading the books. When my sales numbers weren’t as high as some of my peers I wondered if I should chuck the whole idea of finishing this series and start over in a more marketable setting.

But I believe in longevity, the long, slow cook…like raising a family. I stuck with my artistic integrity and finished this series that I believed in. I’m glad I did. The first two books have garnered critical acclaim.

I've watched with pride as the three main characters of Veiled at Midnight, Captain Cam Fraser, his sister Miriam, and the beautiful Indian Dassah whom Cam loves, grow up in the first two books.

In Shadowed in Silk, the reader first meets Cam as a three-year-old boy who doesn't understand why his natural father is unkind to him and his mother Abby when they first arrive in India.

It’s also in the first book that Dassah is mentioned. Here’s that snippet.

    “This morning,” the elderly Miriam said, “a poor woman came from one of the villages. Her labor advanced quickly and well. Her husband told her if the baby was a girl to be letting it die.”
Abby held back a cry. “Was it a girl?”
    The elder Miriam smiled. “I convinced the mother to leave the infant with us. I am calling her Hadassah, an old Bible name.”

From the moment I first wrote this scene I knew I wanted this baby girl to be the heroine of the final book.

In Book 2 Captured by Moonlight we are introduced to Miriam, Cam’s little sister.

    The pram jiggled, setting the toys and trinkets attached to the hood to jingle and clatter. In response, a soft coo issued from within, along with two woolen, booty-covered feet kicking and setting the toys to tinkle again. The little rascal was awake. Abby leaned in and picked up Cam’s nine-month-old sister, Miriam. After kissing the corn-silk hair, she passed the baby to Laine.

You will notice that Cam’s little sister is named after the elderly Miriam in Book 1. This namesake will be just as heroic in the final book.

I had such fun planting the seeds of a passionate romance in book 2 that would burst into full bloom in the final book.

Here’s the first snippet of Cam and Dassah’s romance from Captured by Moonlight.

     At five, Cam already showed the tall frame he’d inherited from his natural father, but Cam emulated the character of Geoff. How that boy adored his step-father. As soon as the boy noticed Laine, he ran in her direction and wrapped his arms around her waist.
     “Laine, you came.”
      “You don’t think for a minute I’d let you sail to the Orient without my goodbye kiss.” Laine kissed him twice on the cheek, and he fidgeted to be free. “And here’s one from your little friend, Hadassah. I saw her tonight at the mission, and she was rather put out that you weren’t there to play with her.”
      “Dassah is just a baby.” Cam squirmed out of her arms, a sharp furrow between his brows. “Enough kissing, Laine. You’re much more fun on the cricket pitch than acting like a girl.”
      “Oh but I am a girl, and I admit that I like kissing very, very much. You won’t appreciate that fact about girls for a few years, but my dear young man, the day will come....”

In Book 3 Veiled at Midnight these three characters, Cam, his sister Miriam, and Dassah are adults and are heroes and heroines in their own right. One of the fun things about tying up a series is you get to draw on old family sins and emotional pain to rise up again in the next generation. Just like real life. Here they are, all grown up.

VEILED AT MIDNIGHT—Book 3 of the series Twilight of the British Raj
As the British Empire comes to an end, millions flee to the roads. Caught up in the turbulent wake is Captain Cam Fraser, his sister Miriam, and the beautiful Indian Dassah.

Cam has never been able to put Dassah from his mind, ever since the days when he played with the orphans at the mission as a boy. But a British officer and the aide to the last viceroy cannot marry a poor Indian woman, can he?

As this becomes clear to Dassah, she has no option but to run. Cam may hold her heart—but she cannot let him break it again. Miriam rails against the separation of the land of her birth, but is Lieutenant Colonel Jack Sunderland her soulmate or a distraction from what God has called her to do?

The 1947 Partition has separated the country these three love…but can they find their true homes before it separates them forever?


Christine Lindsay was born in Ireland, and is proud of the fact that she was once patted on the head by Prince Philip when she was a baby. Her great grandfather, and her grandfather—yes father and son—were both riveters on the building of the Titanic. Tongue in cheek, Christine states that as a family they accept no responsibility for the sinking of that infamous ship.

Stories of Christine’s ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her multi-award-winning, historical series Twilight of the British Raj, Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight. The last book in that series Veiled at Midnight is releasing this Oct. 15, 2014.

Londonderry Dreaming is Christine’s first contemporary romance set in N. Ireland.Christine makes her home on the west coast of Canada with her husband and their grown up family. Her cat Scottie is chief editor on all Christine’s books.

CONNECT WITH CHRISTINE: Please drop by Christine’s website or follow her on Twitter and be her friend on Pinterest , and Goodreads

Q & A
Are you open to new settings providing you knew the story was good?
How do you feel about stories set during true historical events such as wars?
Do you like a good love story (set in a historical novel), which is somewhat different from a straight romance novel?Veiled at Midnight on Amazon purchase link


Do you like hearing about new Christian Fiction titles? Enjoy friendly sparring matches between your favorite authors? Be sure to "like" Clash of the Titles on Facebook to keep yourself "in the know" -- and have some fun, too!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Things I Cannot Write -- Yet

Sometimes I stare at the empty page -- a blog, a story, an essay -- and I say, "No, Lord. I can't write about that. Not yet. It's too soon. I haven't the words. Not enough wisdom. There's an open wound, a hardened shell. Not yet, Lord. Maybe never." Or, "This is good news. This is joy. This is leaping in my heart, but the time isn't ripe. What do I do with that, Lord?"

Have you ever done that?

Is it too soon to talk to a friend? Too soon to write that theme? Too soon to birth that character? Too soon to visit that place in your heart or expound in wonder?

There are things I cannot write -- yet. But...

Sometimes the moment's right -- to create a character who knows those worries, fears, loves, and joys.
Sometimes them moment's right -- to open my soul in a blog, an essay, a poem.
Sometimes the moment's right -- to write it down, tell a friend, visit those places inside.

Sometimes the moment's right to shout out loud for joy or sorrow.

Usually I recognize that ideas come from the places I don't necessarily want to explore or am not allowed to wander yet. There are regions of experience I'd rather not revisit. Nevertheless, journeys are not to be wasted. Eventually peace falls around me, and I know when the time is ripe. Then the page isn't blank anymore.

I'm not waiting for a muse. Don't think that. I don't believe in them anyway. I'm not waiting for Divine Inspiration, only for Heavenly Permission.

I alone must recognize when, "My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer." (Psalm 45:1)

How about you? Are you wrestling with a theme close to you today? Maybe the wait is over. Maybe today the Spirit will say, "Now is the time. Tell it."

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Missives to God

Sometimes journaling is the farthest thing from my mind -- it's the least task of my heart. At other times, my heart will burst or fail if I don't write down those things I need to sort out, those feelings that make me quail, those prayers I can't seem to utter any other way.

Today is one of those times. I don't know if I'll find my way through all the scarey, needy things of life I don't pour out my most wretched, angst-filled words to the page, to God.

God, I know will read my letter. He hears my voice as I write each line. He knows what I need to say, and He patiently waits for me to say it in the best way I know how. Somehow it feels to me, as though my prayers are better answered when they've gone up in a missive. They are directed, clarified, even when the heart uttering them still feels muddy and cold with dread or moist with tears of love.

And if He chooses not to answer them in the way I want, or if He shows me something different, or if He tells me to wait, at least my heart will have been revealed. He will apply a balm. He will give me peace. I long for that.

So today I journal.