Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Fri, Jan 30 2009

Words and matter

My head is full of leftover chatter from a banking appointment. We spoke of A shares, B shares, C shares, preferred stocks, bonds, mutual funds, brokerage, sweep, equity, growth and a half dozen other terms that seem to make sense at the time and then began to shuffle themselves to the back of my crowded mind as I tried to navigate toward the next vital task looming in front of me.

It's a bit the same with a writer juggling all the current projects at once, with lines from the verse of a poem edging into a novel, which takes the cue for its next chapter from a short story that had its birth after looking up three words in a dictionary. For a writer, words whirl and posture like elements of an old universe making room for new worlds.

Maybe that's why God invented black holes. They keep the twists and turns of old matter from choking out new worlds. Disappearing into a black hole sounds scary, but may not be a bad thing at all if only we knew what happened next. Maybe the same is true for the way old thoughts are recycled into new stories.

posted at: 15:17 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Jan 29 2009


We keep hearing that someone hacked the electronic road signs in the Austin, Texas area. Culprits apparently changed the signs to warn motorist of zombies. It sounds like some Quentin Tarantino film in which a few untouched people hack the signs in one last desperate attempt to warn all uninfected humans that fate is about to overtake them in the form of the walking undead.

When traveling in Arizona we saw signs warning of flash floods. We also saw signs telling us how inadvisable it would be to pick up hitchhikers because of the possibility that they might be escaped convicts sticking out a thumb in order to lure us into a trip into hell. (I'm embellishing the signs' wording. I'm sure authorities thought it best to keep signs brief.) This marks approximately the fifth time this week that real life has made me think of Mr. Tarantino's work. And the week isn't over.

posted at: 10:05 | category: /Playing | link to this entry

Wed, Jan 28 2009

Rhymes with...

I was always puzzled by poetry and songs in which words at the end of a line had similar spelling, but were pronounced differently:


I suppose those are poetic and they make a great visual game, but they're not true rhymes.

The other puzzling combination involves words that are very close in pronunciation, but don't actually rhyme:



In these case the auditory effect is poetic, but still not a true rhyme. It's more like a demonstration of nerve deafness.

Quite often the rest of the particular piece of writing is rhymed in traditional fashion, which makes these anomalies seem even more odd. This all came up because I needed to speak of "more velour" today and the similar, but not exact, sound of the two words made me start trying to make them sound enough alike to be a true rhyme. It only works if you manipulate your accent to something between Indian and Irish. But then, accents are another whole problem.

posted at: 12:50 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Jan 27 2009

The trouble with stories

Today I had a conversation today with a writer who agreed with me that it's a lot safer for writers to market true life as fiction than to market fiction as true life. However, neither technique guarantees immunity. The former could get you into trouble with your publisher and your promoters, the latter with your friends, your enemies and worst of all, your relatives.

posted at: 22:34 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Jan 26 2009

I see by your outfit that you are a...ouch!

Write Lightning's secondary theme is the Old West, so I can't quite pass up a chance to comment on Rod Blagojevich likening his situation to that of a cowboy who's been hauled in by vigilantes in preparation for a hanging. It's all very colorful and dramatic. But Governor B. apparently isn't the first one to compare his current quagmire to that of a western movie star. Writer Phillip Morris already made that analogy earlier this year.

Maybe all the recent references to cowpokes and posses was brought on by the talk of mavericks in the last election. Whatever the reason, I'm glad to know a whole new generation is getting to learn more about the old expressions. There are a million ways to use these stories.

I recall a ranch-savvy woman treating my back one time when I was a pre-teen. I had accompanied her small daughter to a pasture adjacent to their property. (In rural areas and ranches it has often been perfectly acceptable to pass through someone else's property, as long as you respected their land, didn't steal their cattle and mended any fences you may have cut or damaged.) The little girl had tried valiantly to raise the bottom strand of barbed wire up for me while I bent low to pass through. But she was just a little girl and I ended up badly tearing my skin when I went under the fence. My clothing was shredded, ruined.

When the little girl's mother reached for a can of what she called cow salve she told me it worked the same way on humans as it did on cows. But I learned that the best way to avoid having to expose my skin to the cow salve in the first place was also a good metaphor for life. Maybe it's a lesson Governor Blagojevich just hadn't learned yet in Cowboy Class. It goes a little something like this. When you decide you need to go traipsing through somebody else's pasture, duck low. Move slow. And look up to be sure the one who says they can hold up the barbed wire has a firm grasp on things so you don't get the hide ripped right off your backside.

posted at: 09:56 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fri, Jan 23 2009

Fully writing

I took an important step today in handling something that has been an issue for quite awhile now. This step involved finishing and mailing off a piece of writing that was both a personal communication and a release of something I had taken on the burden of holding in order to protect someone else who is dear to my heart. I can't control what they do with that piece of writing, any more than I can control what I write for any reader to read. Reading someone else's work can disappoint, anger, confuse, sadden, gladden and inspire. The words we put together have to be reassembled on the other end with that particular reader's set of background, intellect and emotional filters. Writers balance daring and conscience with the stroke of a pen or tap of a key.

One of the ways you know for certain that you are a writer is that writing something down gives you a sense of relief, a sense of healing and a sense of gratitude, all at the same time. Another way is that once you've written something down you wonder why you didn't do it sooner. A third way is that you're energized and can hardly wait to begin the next writing adventure. A fourth is that every other task in your life becomes more focused and stable. I've noticed that these same things often come to any person when he or she basks in the warmth of God's love and grace. And in both cases, if we deny ourselves the full experience, we risk losing our personal balance of daring and conscience.

posted at: 15:36 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Jan 22 2009

16 tons and what do you get?

A monster wooden beam for a brand new church in Bend, Oregon.

posted at: 15:04 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Jan 21 2009

Stories begin in all kinds of ways, but there are certain classic opening lines.

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

posted at: 14:03 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Jan 20 2009

California's gold well represented on Inauguration Day

Have a look at some photos and notes of past Inauguration Days. There will be inaugural balls, a parade and many other festivities today. But even before the parade, there will be food, complete with California wines and a mini-view of Yosemite Valley.

posted at: 07:50 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Mon, Jan 19 2009

Working it out together and even making it better

If you are have a problem to work out today you may be inspired to find a friend and work together after you watch this video of two individuals who are both without a limb. Together, they tell a story by finishing each other's sentences in dance.

posted at: 09:21 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Fri, Jan 16 2009

US Airways plane: All survived

Many of us are extremely thankful that there was a hundred percent human survival rate after the jetliner went down into New York's Hudson River this week. And tips of the Stetson go to all those who aided the passengers and crew to make it to safety. Along with other hazards, cold air and cold water made a swift rescue especially important. Not all these kinds of incidents turn out this well.

posted at: 11:28 | category: | link to this entry

Thu, Jan 15 2009

State of the State: Greatly strained, but not hopeless

I rather liked Governor Schwarzenegger's State of the State address today. I believe he tried to present hope without whitewashing California's financial situation. I hope legislators will not whine, but will instead pull together to work on a budget that will be leaner and will allow for the basics to get done. And I hope they won't be afraid to tell special interest groups that the general needs of the state must come first.

posted at: 19:27 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Wed, Jan 14 2009

To help or not?

In all the talk about the Good Samaritan laws and the case of Alexandra Van Horn v. Lisa Torti folks might forget that the original case was not about strangers, but about companions out on the town together and that the car accident happened after an evening of at least some drinking, preceded by at least some marijuana use. I don't know how the authorities ever got straight testimony from anyone involved with all those factors, but I wasn't there, so I don't know how competent any of the individuals might have been at that time. And the whole incident happened on Halloween night, though technically it was early on November 1. So the case seems unique. The case ever being used to set a precedent for judgments in general cases of the actions of a Good Samaritan who comes to the aid of a stranger in trouble puzzles me to no end.

posted at: 10:12 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Mon, Jan 12 2009

The Lord as people whisperer

If you feel as though you have trouble fitting in at regular church services you might be right at home at a Cowboy Church. I enjoyed the analogy of a man gentling and coaxing a horse that had been abused or neglected and that becoming the basis for leading people to rest in God's love and care. I wonder if someone will start a Cowboy Church service for Sabbath keepers sometime soon. I would really love that.

posted at: 10:42 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Fri, Jan 09 2009

There's a lot of mystery in the facts

Life should always contain a bit of mystery in order to keep it interesting. And after doing research for an article or even for a fictional story, a writer should never write every single detail of research into the subsequent piece of writing. There should always be some reserve, something held back. That bit of knowledge will lie beneath the work and give it a powerful momentum that carries it much farther than the sharing of a thousand details can convey. Life also has moments that tempt us to spill all that we know or think that we know. But truth is often more welcomed and better understood when recognized amid the ordinary, drawing us toward its illumination. The trick is to communicate the illumination as both a mystery and as something that was always meant to be.

posted at: 16:53 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Cheryl Holdridge's passing

I was sad to hear of the death of former Mouseketeer Cheryl Holdridge. A lot of us remember her early work and her ability to entertain with a true appreciation for her fans.

posted at: 11:10 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Thu, Jan 08 2009

Maybe everyone needs to be ready to be an air marshal now

Before 9/11 there were occasional hijackings, but most of the time the worst kind of traveler was someone who'd had too much to drink and was a nuisance to those who were seated nearby. After 9/11 there was a lot of fear and trembling for awhile when it came to flying on a commercial plane. But we know that passengers who band together can do a lot, even when no air marshal is present. One man on a recent flight that was preparing to land at LAX apparently started yelling about having a bomb and also tried to open a rear emergency exit while the plane was still in the air. It quick-thinking fellow passengers who rushed to help a flight attendant restrain the man. The flight attendants then brought out a restraint kit that was used to keep the man in check until the plane landed and authorities could escort him off the plane.

Who knows? Along with all the pre-flight instructions we get concerning oxygen masks and flotation devices, maybe someday it will be common practice to get a few tips on how to help control passengers who are having an out-of-reality moment.

posted at: 09:33 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Jan 07 2009

Sad story, hopeful story, crazy story and back to hope again

After not having blogged about the news lately, I find myself torn between sad stories like the disoriented brown pelicans and how a desperate community hopes to fight gangs with library cards. But for sheer lunacy, the story of the man from Titusville, Florida takes the prize. He got into trouble while trying to do the right thing by paying back sales tax a hardware store had neglected to collect from him. I can probably identify with that story most, because I've gotten into trouble more than once myself, trying to help someone or trying to be honest. It's very frustrating when many focus skills on being negative and assuming the worst about others. I suppose when that happens all one can do is try to stay focused on doing what's right and on being a caring person. We may not receive an immediate positive response from the other person, but we can hope that someday they will see how our taking the high road led to a better world. And we can hold onto that Golden Rule as a gift from the Lord.

posted at: 13:19 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Tue, Jan 06 2009

Second week of the New Year and already behind on things

My resolve to blog at least as regularly as last year has already been nipped a bit. We had a death on my spouse's side of the family, so he has gone off to help the family while I hold down the home front. This week has been a strange mix of putting away holiday decorations, shopping, helping him get ready to fly off to the South for a few days and trying to manage all my regular tasks here at home (and in the home office). Several news stories have caught my eye, but I've had little time to blog about them.

posted at: 12:46 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
and cattle rustlin'! Lightning may strike
such varmints when they least expect it!