The Death of the Love Letter

Family & Relationships / Handwriting / Writing

“I wake filled with thoughts of you. Your portrait and the intoxicating evening which we spent yesterday have left my senses in turmoil. Sweet, incomparable Josephine, what a strange effect you have on my heart!” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

Lewis Carol did it for Gertrude. Beethoven did it for his ‘Immortal Beloved’. Bonaparte did it for Josephine. It’s been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. If that’s so then maybe the way to a woman’s is through a love letter. Call me old fashioned.

I’ve been writing letters for as long as I’ve been able to write. My grandmother’s got me started. Though we lived less than twenty miles apart, we wrote to each other all the time. It was the highlight of my week to get a letter from Nana Jean. When my Gramma Daniels spent more time in Florida than next door, she too would write to me on an almost weekly basis. Even my best friend since the fourth grade and I exchanged letters, and still do!  I think I had my first pen-pal around that same time.  Her name was Yaffa and she lived in Israel. Our letter writing only lasted a year or so but I still have the few that she sent me. There was a pen-pal in Virginia, too as well as in Georgia. By high school, I was writing to six people (all male) in the U.K and one in Germany. It was always a thrill going to the mail box and finding that air mail envelope waiting for me. It never got old. One of those Brits would go on to become my first fiancee.

Then along came email. It was the beginning of the end for the hand-written love letter.  As it became easier, faster and cheaper to send things via email, with the exception of holiday cards, there were no more air mail envelopes in my mail box. There was still hope though!  I could get a reply within hours of having sent something out. Oh, how I loved it back then! It still lacked the personal touch of seeing the way someone would write my name or sign theirs. I pine nostalgic.

Technology stepped it up a notch and gave us Instant messaging and online chat rooms and cell phones and texts. Faster ways to communicate indeed but along with that speed there has also been a huge decline in the quality of the content of those messages. The thought, the eloquence, the emotion that went into the letter writing of my youth has been completely sucked away.

And now with all the talk about doing away with teaching cursive writing to children, I am utterly horrified! My father has the most beautiful handwriting I have ever seen. It’s as much a part of who he is as what he looks like and the way he speaks. It’s a pity we are so willing to give up something as personal as our handwriting just to save a little bit of time. What’s the big hurry anyway? Is there some sort of race going on I am not aware of?  In the end, we are all going to end up in the same place, the grave, and quite frankly I am in no rush whatsoever to get there. Maybe if we all slowed down a bit and took some time to look around at what we’ve been doing, things would be better. When you rush too quickly into any situation the chances of screwing it up on the way through increase. We’ve all gone mad trying to get too much done in too little time and for what?

When it comes to love it’s also a good time to slow down and consider. That’s what writing love letters can do for a couple. It gives each person time to sit back and think, to open up in ways that maybe they can’t face-to-face. I know I am horrible at face-to-face communication. By writing I am able to stop, breath deep, think it through and write it down slowly and carefully. It not only helps the one I am writing to to better understand me, but it helps me to better understand myself, my own wants, goals and dreams.  Maybe if couples were required to write each other love letters once a month there were be less misunderstandings. It would open an avenue of communication that seems to have been lost lately. I’ve even heard that writing love letters to yourself can be very therapeutic. Why wouldn’t doing it for the one you love have the same effect?

It has been said that when Love is not madness, it has not Love. Let’s write each other love letters again and spread the madness.

My dearest,
When two souls, which have sought each other for, however long in the throng, have finally found each other …a union, fiery and pure as they themselves are… begins on earth and continues forever in heaven.

This union is love, true love, … a religion, which deifies the loved one, whose life comes from devotion and passion, and for which the greatest sacrifices are the sweetest delights.

This is the love which you inspire in me… Your soul is made to love with the purity and passion of angels; but perhaps it can only love another angel, in which case I must tremble with apprehension.

Yours forever,

(Victor Hugo to Adele Foucher, 1821)


I Think I’m Haunted

Haunted / Murder-Mystery / Poetry / Writer's Life

Last year was an incredibly active year for me as far as writing poetry is concerned. Oh, I jotted down a wee bit of fiction here and there but poetry was off the chart. With poetry I am able to convey more intense emotions and the whole business of falling in love swept me away. It was also about getting over the crap in the past that I still struggle with now and then. The stories and poems I write often help me get through those struggles in a safe and legal way.  What with all these new gun debates, rules and regulations, I get the feeling society might frown a wee bit on me shooting someone that has done me wrong. And besides, I really am a peaceful person.

However, I can have one of my characters kidnap, tortures, shoot, stab, dismember or what have you another character who might – kinda sorta – resemble either physically or personality-wise folks I’ve developed a certain dislike for, shall we say? On the other hand, there are also characters based on the people in my life I am very fond of. Thank God there are more of those than the other.

The aspect of all this that surprises me the most are the characters that appear like a ghost out of thin air. How they approach me varies. One may give me its name first. Another might tell me what it looks like. Others are more emotional. There was one who told me its occupation long before it ever had any of the other things. The real tough ones are those that don’t let me know much of anything about themselves and just leap at me with a story to tell. If I’m lucky I’ll at least have a first initial to work with. It’s a little like ghost hunting.

In the past couple weeks a new character has started to get brave enough to present herself to me. She was actually introduced to me by my boyfriend while I was visiting him out in Texas. In passing he mentioned that the name “Liberty Hill” would be great for a character in a book. It’s the name of a very small, central Texas town we passed through on one of our jaunts. I agreed and didn’t give it too much thought after; back burner stuff. I already had two novels in progress and didn’t really want to put any energy into thinking about who this Liberty woman might be. Recently, Liberty has had other ideas about that.

I bumped into her in a book store about six days ago. I think she did it on purpose. At any rate, we’d not been in the place five minutes before this phrase flashed before me – as if I was looking at a book title. Liberty was quick to inform me that that’s the title I needed to use when telling her story. As I always carry a small note pad and pen with me, I immediately got both out and wrote the title down. It was rather hard to concentrate on browsing after that. My first thought about the title was that it wasn’t very good for a murder-mystery.

Come to find out, Liberty’s story isn’t a murder mystery. It’s a ghost story. I was only told that yesterday.

I don’t think I’ll be writing much poetry this year. Liberty & Choice, Nell & Lydia, Clint & Bea and Grace & Eric all have other ideas about how I should be spending my time in 2013. Each one is going to nag at me ruthlessly like the ghosts that some of them are, until I tell the world about them and put them to rest – hopefully between the covers of a published novel.

20 Terrible Covers Not To Judge By

Reading / Writer's Life

20 Embarrassingly Bad Book Covers for Classic Novels

This makes me really appreciate the cover art I have been able to get for my book. Unlike the authors I have spoken to about the topic and what I’ve read online, I actually had some say in what went on my cover. Years ago I went to a book signing. One of the books offered depicted what appeared to be a Native American shaman whipping up some magic. He was shirtless and looking pretty shmexy. The book contained two short stories by two different authors. Neither story had anything to do with Native Americans. Go figure.

Right now a cover is being created for a potential, self-published eBook. It’s a collection of short stories and poems I have written since 2000 and finally got around to putting together last year. It still needs some editing work. Again, I am blessed with the presence of someone who cares enough to ask my input on the cover. I have a very clear idea in my head of what I want to convey with it and he’s doing a bang-up job of bringing that vision to life.

I know we are all told not to judge a book by its cover but there’s also that whole thing about trusting your first impressions. Oh the things in my life that would have been so very different if I’d followed that rule. Ah well.

I’m not sure why publishers seem so uninterested in the author’s opinion of what they want for cover art. Maybe they think that because we write we can’t possibly have any sort of artistic sense when it comes to visual art. I dunno. It’s always seemed grossly unfair to me. That’s our baby they are messing with. Seriously. I understand they want to sell books and maybe putting a scantily clad, buff Native American man on the cover of that book I bought inspired me to buy it but it disappointed me when he wasn’t actually in there. And to be honest here folks, I don’t remember what the two stories were even about, just the mismatched cover.

I bet the authors of those stories would much rather I remembered what they wrote than the judgment I passed on their cover.

The Voices In My Head Assure Me That I’m Sane

Just Plain Random Weirdness / Writer's Life

I’ve had first hand experience with a lot of crazy people. Family, of course, was first. Everyone’s got a few crazies in the bloodline. Best a person can hope for is that you’ve been spared. Sometimes crazy doesn’t hit you until you get older. That’s scary. I think I’d rather be a long-term crazy than to suddenly snap one day and lose it. “She’s always been that way.” just sounds better to me than, “One day she just went nuts.” I dated a crazy person for awhile. Not sure what it says about me if I add it took me a good number of years to realize this. Everyone else seemed to notice. Maybe they were crazy not to have given me a little but of a nudge. “Hey, Pam, you know, he’s crazy,” may just have been the push I needed. But, love can be pretty darn blind (deaf and mute, too) and I probably wouldn’t have listened to them anyway.

I’ve been called crazy. Who hasn’t? I’ve heard it a lot but I think the sort of crazy I am comes from being creative. The Muse can get some pretty funky ideas when she’s on a roll. All my life I’ve been able to visualize things in my head. I close my eyes and things start to happen. People I’ve never met start to show me places I’ve never been and tell me about themselves. They introduce me to their family, friends and enemies. Never a dull moment. The voices in my head assure me I’m sane and will remain so as long as I tell their stories. Once their stories are told, they move on. It’s a lot like ghost hunting, I suppose. They haunt me, poke me, and keep me awake at night until I figure out what it is they want and tell someone.

The problem(?) is as soon as I get one story told, another one appears. More times than not they overlap and I have to pick who to give my attention to. The most powerful voice wins out. The best I can do is write down what they tell me as quickly possible, hope it comes out making sense to anyone else who might read it and to do so in a way that is entertaining and satisfying. I told someone once to sit down and watch a movie they have never seen before with a pad of paper and a pencil and try and write down everything that happens; dialog, action, scenery. That’s what it’s like for me. Sometimes it’s really hard to keep up!

The most common question a writer hears is “Where do you get your ideas from?” From speaking with other writers and reading interviews of those more famous than I, we all have the same spin on it. On some level the story is already there. The blank page to a writer is like the block of wood to a sculptor. Ideas are everywhere. You may overhear a conversation in a coffee shop that sets the Muse to muttering. She does that a lot, by the way. A dream may do it. The other day I was wandering around my favorite local new and used bookstore and something leaped out at me and gave me an awesome title as a springboard. Thank God for a title. I’m over a third of the way through writing my second murder mystery and I’m still not happy with the title. The darn thing has already had three!! Titles, they are all part of the craziness.

Edgar Allen Poe said, “I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.” I think I get where he was coming from there. In order to keep my sanity, that part of me that functions day to day, the one who gets up every morning and stumbles around until coffee has been ingested, who goes to work and pays the bills, that every day me everyone sees, I have to listen to the voices in my head. I have to do what they tell me and write down all they show me of their own lives. I’ve enjoyed those voices all my life. They’ve made me who I am. I’ve always been this way. I hope I always am.