Friday, November 23, 2018

Riding the Rails

As I write this blog, I’m sitting in Amtrak’s Business Class car on the way to Alexandria, Virginia. At Thanksgiving, my husband and I voluntarily forfeit spending time with our children and grandchildren in favor of seeing them for Christmas. It’s one of those compromises that couples can expect upon tying the marriage knot.

While we’re in the D.C. area, we’ll take in a show at the Kennedy Center, enjoy many fine restaurants, get together with a couple friends, and frequent our favorite Smithsonian museums.

We prefer taking the train to driving, fighting traffic on I-95, and trying to find places to park. Riding the train is not the most efficient means of travel with its numerous stops along the way and slow crawls through congested areas, but it’s a pleasant, relaxing experience during which I can write, Carl can snooze, and we have access to a café car for snacks and drinks. We arrive at our destination rested instead of frazzled.

As we waited at the station this morning, I ran into people I knew and engaged in friendly conversations. The station master was most entertaining as she greeted us with her bright smile and regaled us with her comedic style. “She’s not from around these parts,” I quipped when I heard her characteristic Brooklyn accent, pronouncing Washington “Warshington” and car “caw.” I was reminded of the various dialects I’ve portrayed in my novels and the research necessary for presenting them as authentically as possible.

In Unrevealed, one of my characters, Zavie, is Jamaican. Through research, I learned as much as I could about the island and, in the process, discovered the native language is Patois. I found some colloquial phrases and peppered them among his words. Since another of my characters in this book is from Bedford, Virginia, I wanted her to speak with a southern accent. I accomplished this by writing some of her speech phonetically and using figures of speech that are characteristic of Virginians from the Piedmont area. My book, The Dark Room takes place in Hickory, North Carolina. Since my husband was raised in Lexington, North Carolina, I simply borrowed the dialect from his dear, departed mother.

Maria, a character in my third novel, I Want to Go Home, travels from Mexico to Washington, D.C. seeking shelter for herself and her two young children. I remembered enough Spanish from high school to give her broken English a Spanish element.

During every trip, whether short or long, whether flying, driving or riding the rails, I make it a practice to study people, including their patterns of speech. I never know when I might need a character for a new book. 

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from or

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Women Falling Down

My husband, Carl, and I enjoy watching old movies, even as far back as the silent film era. It’s interesting to observe the correlation between films and the culture that existed in America when the films were produced. 

Last week I returned from an errand to find Carl watching the 1929 version of The Mysterious Island, a mostly silent sci-fi movie based on Jules Verne’s novel. It featured Lionel Barrymore and the female actor, Jacqueline Gadsden. “Watch this,” Carl said. “It’s a chase scene, so, of course the woman will fall down.” I’m not much of a sci-fi buff, but he and I have often shared a laugh about this predictable phenomenon: women falling down in movies. Sure enough, Jacqueline Gadsden’s character took a tumble and had to be helped to her feet by the strong, capable men in her company. By the way, she was not wearing high-heeled shoes. Rather she was dressed in the same diver's suit the men wore in the underwater scene.

So, what’s really going on here? Since its inception, the film industry has been dominated by men and has reflected a male-dominated society. The woman-falling-down syndrome is but one subtle example of female oppression in a society that considered wives to be the property of their husbands and women, in general, too weak to take care of themselves, too unintelligent to succeed in business or vote in elections, and constantly in need of rescuing. Men fall down in movies, too, but it never seems to be about demeaning them.
I’m not talking about the hilarious slapstick of comedic geniuses like Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, and more recently, Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. Rather than feeding into gender inequality, these brave women have broken through it with their athletic pratfalls. I’m referring to sci-fi, Western, horror, mystery, romance or any other dramatic genre in film and TV. It happens again and again. Women swoon and fall, often twisting an ankle, requiring them to be carried to safety by their strong, macho leading men. I grew up watching movies like this, and so did millions of women from my generation.

When I started writing at the age of sixty, I had experienced my fill of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and bullying by men who assumed they were entitled to control women because of their supposed innate superiority. I decided to write about strong women.

In my novel, Unrevealed, Allison is a twenty-seven-year-old president of an international conglomerate. My novel, The Dark Room, features Edith, a widow who owns a café and seeks to empower her employee, Stella, a victim of domestic violence. Abigail, the protagonist of my novel, I Want to Go Home, is only seventeen when she runs away with her younger brothers to protect them.

My female protagonists are strong, independent, and resilient. Does that make them masculine? No. Does it make them man-bashers? No. Each one ends up in a relationship with a good man who respects her as an equal. Each one exhibits a healthy dose of vulnerability and tenderness. But just as those qualities in men don’t make them weak or effeminate, the same qualities in women don’t require them to swoon, fall down, and wait to be rescued by a man. 

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from or

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Why Fall Back?

Given a choice, I’d vote to abolish the time change. It’s not just the bother of re-setting all the clocks that annoys me. It disturbs my equilibrium and imposes a couple weeks of feeling blah before my body and brain adjust.

Now that I’m retired, the adjustment is slightly less upsetting, but when I taught children all day, every day, I observed how intensely “falling back” affected them. Every fall they became out-of-sorts, had trouble sleeping at night, according to their parents, and concentrating during the day. They complained of hunger an hour before mealtimes or weren’t interested in eating when mealtimes rolled around. It always amazed me how much an hour’s difference one way or the other unsettled them until I recognized the same symptoms in myself.

I daresay Englishman William Willett wasn’t thinking about human circadian rhythms when he recommended Daylight Saving Time. Good ol’ Will certainly failed to consider its effects on children. His purpose was to move the clocks forward so more people could enjoy summer’s sunshine. Because of him, we change our clocks in the summer months to move an hour of sunlight from morning to evening. Okay, that sounds like a good idea, but if it’s such a good idea why do we change back to standard time in the fall?

Last evening, my husband and I had finished dinner and were watching TV when we both started yawning. “I’m so sleepy,” he remarked. “It must be time to go to bed.”

“I can hardly keep my eyes open,” I complained. I checked my phone and it was 7:45 pm. What good is a bonus hour if you can’t stay awake to enjoy it?

I discovered numerous online articles offering useless suggestions about how to adjust to the time change. One expert recommended not using the extra hour to sleep in. Really? Like that’s even an option for parents. Children who normally wake up at 6:00 am will now wake up at 5:00 am. Parents, teachers, and school-aged children will be ready for a nap before lunchtime. The same expert warned against giving in to the urge to nap. Another recommended taking a ninety-minute afternoon siesta. Ha! Yet another writer suggested refreshing your bedroom with a new mattress, pillows, and sheets to encourage rest and relaxation. Right! Every October we’re all going to storm Bed, Bath and Beyond with our twenty-percent-off-one-item coupon and spend hundreds of dollars to spruce up our bedrooms.

The worst suggestion was to avoid caffeine. What? My body is already in a state of circadian pandemonium and you want me to avoid caffeine? Be serious.

Despite public outcry in 1966, Congress officially made the time change a law. According to Remy Melina who writes for the online magazine Live Science, “Hawaii and Arizona (with the exception of the Navajo Reservation), still choose not to partake in the convention, as do some U.S. territories, including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.” In my opinion, that’s one of the best arguments I've heard for moving to Hawaii. Don’t they also grow coffee beans there?

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories, a novella, Diary in the Attic, and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or