War Eagle

I am from the South—and right now, I am in the South—so from time to time, I write about football.

Unless you live in a cave, under a rock, surrounded by molten lava that messes up your Wifi connection and prevents you from logging onto Facebook, you know this past Saturday night’s Iron Bowl will go down in college football history, legend, and lore.

This post isn’t about the rivalry between Auburn and Alabama. I wrote about that once before, on the Working Stiffs blog, contemplating the poisoning of the trees at Toomer’s Corner,  and how obsession can turn criminal. It’s not about karma or hubris or getting cocky, although it could be. It’s not even about bad decisions. I teach a workshop for writers called Decisions, Decisions, the crux of which is that every mystery novel is a series of bad decisions.

Saturday night’s Iron Bowl left me with two takeaways. One was new. Another was a reminder of something I know.

The new takeaway? Auburn football fans have a battle cry: War Eagle. The etymology of this phrase is murky, so maybe that is a post for another day, but when an Auburn fan says, “War Eagle!” that means it’s time to rally up.

The reminder takeaway? Every second counts.

In about an hour, I leave for a two week residency at an artist colony in the foothills of the  Blue Ridge Mountains. This will be mVCCA-in-Snow--Studios-from-Office-Window-2-20-12-Reducedy second time at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. When I was here in February of 2012, we had a few days of snow, and I was charmed by the countryside covered in white, the horses kept warm by their blankets, the view outside the window of my studio, which I called The Ark.

This year, I don’t expect to get snow, but that’s all right. I’ve been awarded two weeks in a private studio, with no meals to prepare, no outside duties to perform, and nothing to do but write.

It’s great. It’s also terrifying. A residency is a gift. A gift is not to be wasted. Already, mixed in with my excitement and anticipation, I feel trepidation. What if I can’t write as much as I plan to write? What if what I write should be scrapped? What if I choke? What if I waste my time?

This, surely, is how the Auburn football team felt Saturday night at the start of the Iron Bowl.

I drove from Delaware yesterday to Charlottesville-where I am now-down US29. US29 is known as the Seminole Trail in some places and Lee Highway in others. Its official name, designated by the Virginia General Assembly, is the “29th Infantry Division Memorial Highway” to honor one of the Virginia Army units that landed on Omaha Beach, in Normandy, on D-Day.  The highway goes from the border of North Carolina to the Potomac River.

There’s a strong sense of place driving down US29. At stop lights, signs are posted on the roadside so you can read about Civil War sites while you wait for red to turn green. There are churches advertising Cowboy Church services, and wineries offering tours and tastings. There are bales of hay decorated like Santa Claus and, inexplicably to me, statues of cows in the middle of fields mingling with the real beasts.

I love Virginia. I’ve been to Manassas and Monticello. Both of those places are maintained as national treasures, but they also live on in words, in the Declaration of Independence and in the many novels about the Civil War. Words keep history alive.

This, of all places, seems like a good place to adopt a battle cry, and to remember something I already know: Every second counts.

The pressure is on, so off I go, with my newly adopted mantra: War Eagle!

Goodbye to the Working Stiffs

Today  I posted my last guest post at the wonderful, Pittsburgh-based group blog known as the Working Stiffs.

My post today discussed writers as artists. You, the Artist asks writers to accept that the words they piece together into stories is indeed art, and we should all band together to encourage the next generation as they enter the wacky world of writing and publishing.

I’ve had a lot of fun as a Working Stiffs contributor. Posting there allowed me to touch on a range of subjects–some light, some dark–but I hope all thought provoking in some way. It was a great pleasure to work with such fine writers, who amused, challenged and entertained me with their posts, and honored me with their friendship.

Here’s a summary of my contributions to the Working Stiffs:

The Gift of Time and a Boxed Lunch. (Yay! I’ve been accepted to an artists’ colony!)

Over There. (A Veterans Day history lesson on the War to End All Wars—ha—and the little known Bonus Army of 1932.)

Paging the Lorax. (I speak for the Hwy.  50 Shoe Tree and the Spirit Oaks at Toomer’s Corner.)

Twelve Average Citizens. (On a quiet Tuesday night in Georgetown, Delaware, a Patrolman named Chad Spicer was killed in the line of duty.)  

Who Do You Love?  (The story of Charles:  the love of my life—and how he wooed me when I was five.)

Double Dating a Killer. (Have you ever known a murderer?)  

A Position of Trust. (On Dr. Earl Bradley, the worst pedophile you’ve never heard of, and how he was able to abuse so many children, for so long.)

Are You Intrepid?  (On being brave, and trying something new in life.)

Beggars Can’t Be Writers. (Is it okay to ask for something for nothing? If so, tell me where to put the DONATE button.)

In With the Old. (A recipe for My Favorite Cake, and why a vintage cake cover is necessary for success.)

Three Questions for Two New Authors. (A couple of new mystery writers to watch.)

I’m a Big Girl Now. (Will your parents ever stop treating you like a child? No, probably not, but you gotta love ‘em for boldly not trying.)

I Bought the Book, It’s Mine Now, So….(Is it a sacrilege to write in a published book?)

To Have and To Hold…A Grudge. (A post-election look at Delaware’s Return Day tradition, and a question about how long you hang onto hard feelings.)

Three Travel Adventures (Embarrassing moments on the road.) 

I’m Not a Believer. (Goblins, ghosts, woo woo and voodoo—what rattles your chains?)