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“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” Mark Twain

Friday, September 21, 2012

Am I Jaded or Is Something Missing?

Being a writer has changed the way I read books. That's a good thing. And a bad thing.

Good things:
  • I can more easily recognize and explain what I like about books.
  • Plot twists delight me more.
  • I better appreciate a well turned phrase more.
Bad things:
  • I can more easily recognize and explain what I don't like about books.
  • It's easier to predict the plot.
  • Lots of writing fails to draw me in and engage me with the characters.
It's that last bullet that I think about the most.

I've been reading on my own for 50 years. Libraries are a way of life for me. I adore bookstores, especially used bookstores where I can afford to buy something. I tend to gravitate toward the classics and literary contemporary books of various genres. Not so much bestsellers. Things like Jane Eyre. Authors like Steinbeck and Dickens. And L'Engle, Leguin, And of course there are many more that escape my memory.

These days I'm reading my indie-author peers quite a bit. There are slews of us in every genre. Unfortunately, I'm find a common flaw with many of the books I'm reading.

I don't care as much as I would like about the protagonist. It's not that I don't like them as...people. They're nice with goals I understand. They're just not deep enough, three-dimensional enough, not emotionally there enough. They tend to think the same things over and over.

Romances are easy to come by on Kindle for free. I kind of hate to admit, as a person who would love to live by my writing one day, that I get most of my books for free. But I try to leave a review, especially if there are not many posted. And I talk about what I liked.

So, I've been reading contemporary romance. Because that's sort of what I write.

And most aren't satisfying. I don't feel the loneliness of the protagonists before they meet the one, or the elation or the frustration when they do. The characters experience something, but not deeply enough to pass on to me. I'm kind of like, Meh, that's nice. Or Really?  Or, That's too bad. Life goes on.

Kind of like watching a movie while doing something else and realizing I'm getting enough of the story to know what's happening so I don't have to stop what I'm going to focus. And the movie doesn't do enough to make me want to stop what I'm doing, so I don't.

Like I said earlier, I've been around the library stacks quite a few times, and around the  proverbial block. Somethings just don't get to me like they used to; the old been there done that. But a good romance should, don't you think? Am I not still a woman? Is my heart not still beating? Last time I checked, yes to both.

For a little while I thought, well, it's just me, I'm jaded. But then I remembered some books I've read lately. South of Bixby Bridge by Ryan Winfield. Trevor pulled me into his life completely. Another is
Into the Free by Julie Cantrell. These books weren't like, "Well, I guess I can read a little now." They were like, "I've GOT to read. Now!"

New books, new authors who know how to engage readers.

I'm still going to support my fellow indie authors by reading and reviewing the books that appeal to me. And I'm still reading each one hoping it will hook me so I HAVE to read it.

With most of my life behind me, and as a writer, I don't have time to waste on what doesn't compel me to keep reading.



What about you? How do you engage with a book? What sucks you in and holds you? What disappoints you it it's not there?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Warning: Hotties Ahead. Casting David.

Now for something completely different.

When I write a book, I visualize the appearances of the characters, just like readers do. It's fun. I don't like having images of people on my cover(s) because when I've read books where the image doesn't match my idea, it detracts from my enjoyment much like when images in a movie adadptaion don't match my preconceived vision.

But, I imagine most writer's these days fantasize about their book being optioned for a movie, then actually made. Even better would be to be asked for input on the actors.

But I'm not there yet. However, that doesn't mean I can't think about it.

Now, not many people have read Another Place on the Planet. Yet. But if you have, you can tell me what what you think of the first character I'm casting. David Briggs.

David is about 26 when Lily meets him at the age of 42 on the same night she meets Charlie. I described him as Adonis Junior. Charlie is Adonis. (I had a student named Adonis one year. Seriously.) David is tall and slender (Sorry short and chunky guys. You don't make it into romance novels just like chunky girls don't. That's a topic for another time.) David has dark hair and eyes. He's an up and coming actor, poised to be the next "it" boy. Well, ya gotta read it.


This is Henry Cavill. He's Superman in the upcoming flick, Man of Steel, I do believe. He would need darker eyes, but that's no biggie. I would have to see how he smiles.
 I'm not sure who this cutie is, but I'd give him a screen test. And dinner. And keep reminding myself I'm married. But if he doesn't get David, there's another role for him to look at.
 
 I think this is pretty much how I pictured David at the time in his life when he meets Lily.

  
This guy is a definite contender. Love that smile. With dark contact lenses, yes. He's a South American actor who would have to speak English without an accent.

Who would you chose? David will play a large role in Lily's life later on. You'll have to read Another Place on the Planet to find out how their relationship begins.

It's FREE on Smashwords until 8AM PST Sunday morning, 9/9/2012. Coupon code is QH63K.

We'll cast Lily and Charlie in future.

Comment, please!


My Cancer Story: Bad Ass Cancer Survivor

In honor of September being Blood Cancer Awareness Month, I'm sharing my story of living with leukemia. The WHOLE story.

Zazzle.com
Part 4

How do I live with this? Am I still angry or scared.

Before I was diagnosed, I had started a new growth phase of my spiritual journey as a Christian. For a few years previously I had been doubting a few things about what I believed and the whole Christian culture thing.

 Someone I worked with at the time invited me to his church, so I went to their Wednesday evening services for about 6 months. Their faith experience was different than anything I had previously. I received prophecies and then finally the overwhelming acceptance that God really does love me.

By his good grace, I knew that when I was diagnosed. And even though I had my human doubts, I also had a new sense of well-being, that whatever happened would be okay. I didn't want to die--most people my age don't!--because at the same time I was discovering my writing gift and was excited by the possibilities. And I had lost a bunch of weight--over a hundred pounds all told from my highest. I had hope.

But this spiritual journey can be a whole other series. Suffice it to say now, I got what I needed. And be careful when you pray for more faith. It doesn't just come. You have to go through something to earn or to realize it was there all along.

I was a little angry, however. Especially at the fact that here I was, getting serious and being successful at taking responsibility for my health and WHAM! I'm broadsided by something out of the blue. So like my life. I joked if I ever get to my goal weight, something will probably kill me the next day.

But then, I took onto account as far as cancer goes, I'm lucky. Treatment has been easy and accessible. I don't need chemo that makes me sick and knocks me out of all of life for a year or more. Right now, it mostly just a pain in the butt.

But not even a big pain. I've talked to others who were diagnosed later in the progression of the disease (It has 3 phases--chronic, accelerated and blast crisis) and needed more aggressive treatment. Mine was caught very early, it seems. For some, side effects of Gleevec are difficult to live with and thye need to try one of the other treatments. Anxiety and other psychological issues make it a harder journey for some.


I don't know how this will play out, where God will take me with it. It's been a bitter sweet experience, but at this point in the journey, now that all the flurry of frequent doctor visits, etc. is over, I can see lots of good that has come from it.

Tomorrow: Blood Cancer Awareness Month and YOU!

Ps-the dog is Faith the Bi Ped Dog. In case you're wondering how she came to be here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Cancer Story: Lucky?

In honor of September being Blood Cancer Awareness Month, I'm sharing my story of living with leukemia. The WHOLE story.
Thanks again to zazzle.com

Part 3

When last we saw this intrepid blogger, she wan in the office of an oncologist, having just been informed she tested positive for Philadelphia + Chronic Mylogenous (or Myeloid) Leukemia.

And I was scared and angry. At that point, mostly scared. I started crying, not full out sobs and wailing, but tears and sniffs, anyway.

Most people aren't comfortable with other people's tears. Not even medical professionals who's job sometimes involves giving people bad news or helping them cope with it. My doctor, however, took my and and said, "There's no reason to be scared. It's very treatable." And we scheduled me for a bone marrow biopsy to confirm the blood test results. I was given a booklet from the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and sent on my way.

I'm the kind of person who knows a little about a lot of things. So it was a challenge to read and understand what was going on with my rebellious blood cells.

There are two basic types of leukemia, acute and chronic. Acute, of course, progresses quickly. I've talked to people who felt sick for a few weeks and got to the doctor just in time to be treated. Even a few more days delay would have been fatal. Chronic takes it's time. It can still progress to the fatal level but does so more lowly.

CML, though a rare form of cancer, is most common in the elderly, but can occur at any age. At this time there are about 23,500 people living with CML. Only about 2.9 percent of that are children or youth. In my age range, only about 2 in 100,00 people have it.

Thanks to the National Cancer Institute
I'll spare you the details about the five different types of blood cells. Suffice it to say, they all come from stem cells. What happens with Ph+CML is chromosomes in the stem cells, for some reason still unverified, go whacko. Pieces break off the bottoms of the 9 and 22 and translocate. The little bit left of 22 and the little bit of 9 that attached to it is called the Philadelphia Chromosome because it was discovered by researchers at the U of Penn in Philly. This is the cause of CML.

So the resulting new little mess directs the production of a mutant protein that causes an abnormal amount of white cells to be made. When left undetected and untreated over time, the mutant white cells don't mature enough to do their job and don't die off normally, leaving an overabundance of useless cells that crowd out healthy red cells.

Treatment for this kind of leukemia used to involve all the horrors of chemotherapy, and for people in advanced phases or those undergoing bone marrow or stem cell transplants, it still does. I, however, am LUCKY.

Lucky because in the early part of the last decade, a new therapy was approved that targets the production of the mutant protein with relatively minor side affects. I responded well and early and was declared to be in remission less than 9 months later. I have a good prognosis of surviving long enough for something else to kill me in my advancing age.

From Cancersymptomspage.com
My treatment, Gleevec, is the first generation and was considered the magic bullet. Two slightly more advanced drugs have been developed, Tasigna and Sprycel. Each has side effects that are mostly manageable and often go away completely. Each have possible serious side effects as treatment continues. The general consensus among oncologists is for the patient to remain in treatment as long as possible. When stopping treatment after remission there is a 50/50 chance of the cancer returning in a more aggressive form.

Even though I'm not "cured," I've come to be satisfied with where I am. A bone marrow or stem cell transplant might cure me for good, but since I'm older and have other medical conditions, the rigor of chemo and totally destroying my immune system after I'm in remission might be deadly.

I was also lucky I had very good insurance at the time of diagnosis. Gleevec is over $6000 a month! Now I have access to a patient advocacy program that provides Gleevec for me at a minimal monthly cost.

If you would like more information about CML or any other type of blood cancer, the Leukemia Lymphoma Society is the best place to go.

Tomorrow: How do I live with this? Am I still angry and scared?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Cancer Story: The Big Infection and What It Told Me

In honor of September being Blood Cancer Awareness Month, I'm sharing my story of living with leukemia. The WHOLE story.


Part 2

So, where was I? Oh yes, in pre-op, all prepped, hearing my WBC was 28,000 and praying they wouldn't cancel surgery to give my lap-band to help me lose weight.

Dr. Blackstone
They didn't. Surgery went as scheduled and it was great. BTW, my surgeon was Dr. Robin Blackstone of Scottsdale Bariatric. She's one of the foremost in her field with a comprehensive program of education and support.

In a few months, I lost 77 pounds, and felt great. Things were going fine. Just fine. I was on my way.

To another infection. In February, over the course of a week or two, a burning feeling developed in my lower left leg along a vein. It was like a burning robe there. When I finally went to get it checked out by my PCP, she had me see the venus ultrasound dept. first. The tech did her thing and gave me the report, folded and stapled to take right to my doctor. Not good. I snuck a look at what I could on the elevator between floors and discovered I was headed for the hospital.

It turned out I had a dandy case of cellulitis, which is a skin infection under the skin. A few little germies sneak in through a minute loss of integrity in your hull, so to speak. Then they set up a happy little colony where the sun don't shine and proceed to be fruitful and multiply, in my case along a vein where the circulation stank to begin with.

I was admitted to the local hospital. Remind me to post the hilarious diatribe I wrote about that stay sometime. IV's of intense antibiotics were my fate. Despite the 4 days of heavy IV antibiotics, they weren't totally pleased with my progress so I ended up with a PICC--a surgically placed venous catheter that allowed me to go home and adminster my own antib's and go about my life. It happened over the long February weekend so I only missed like a day of work. I'd missed about a week in December for the bariatric surgery and I didn't want to miss much more.

But even after the hospital and their toxic waste medication, my white count only went down by 3000 to 25000. Distressingly curious, especially since I was treated at home for three weeks. When the count didn't drop after that, well...

The next step was to the hemotologist. I had forgotten hemotologists are also oncologists so I ended up on the floor when I called the hemotologist and they answered the phone with, "Oncology," said in a chipper voice. I booked an appointment. And there were tests.

In the meantime, as the curious and smart are prone to do, I researched my symptoms. I googled "causes of high white blood count." I ended up here. I clicked through most of the links and decided Chronic Mylogenous Leukemia (CML) was the best fit. Click here for the list of symptoms.

Everything fit pretty good. Well, fatique, I was born tired but was feeling pretty good since I had just lost weight. Night sweats. Sure, but I was menopausal. But the infections. I had rarely been sick and it had been years since I been on anitbiotics for anything. Then, like five in less than a year? Fishy. And losing weight before surgery. My PCP had prescribed an appetite supressor to help with that but would only let me stay on for so long because it's addictive. Even after I stopped, I continued to lose weight without trying too hard. And I have to WORK to lose weight. That was fishy, too. And my skin was pale, almost see-through.

So, when my oncologist (or onc for lazy typists) told me she was pretty sure I had Philadelpia + CML, I wasn't shocked. I was scared and angry. But not shocked.

Tomorrow: How bad and what to do?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Lookie What I Did!


Broken Conversations

I'm not a political person. I tried. But since I'm non-confrontational by nature, can listen and analyze and can see value in each side, there seems to be no spot for me.
More us than them, at this point.

What we tend to hear about through the media are the extremes. Conservative and liberal alike. And there's been a lot of hatred spewed the last few months. It's rife on the social networks. If you don't agree with some view, you're branded as anything from intolerant to some variation of the f word.

I listened to Romney's acceptance speech last night. It's easy to give speeches, especially if you have a speech writer. I could give an speech accepting the nomination from my political party to run for president. A bunch of well-turned promises put forth with energy, enthusiasm and charisma. I have enough acting skills for that.

Putting that to work after the elected takes office requires more than acting and a pretty words.

Next week will be Obama's speech. He'll do the same thing. Surrounded by his supporters, he'll spin well-meaning promises into votes. Whether or not enough remains to be seen.

It's a broken system. Maybe because the country is too big. Maybe because we have lost the art of conversation. We no longer sit down and listen. We stand, shake our finger, call a name, and walk away.

You're against abortion? You're a woman hater!

No, I want more women to be born.

You're for gay marriage? You hate families.

Gay people want to have families, too.

I'm not proposing to know the answers. I'm just saying we need to sit down and listen to each other and stop behaving like children whom we try to teach to behave like we don't.

The only minds ever changed by name calling are weak ones. I believe it's unwise to be so single-minded about a cause that you can't even listen to another person's argument against it. Listening doesn't mean you're weak or you have to change your mind. It means you care.

I'm not sure this post is saying what I want it to. But I'm tired of the hateful language and immature stances of leaders and citizens.

This is my call to action: Listen with love. Speak with love.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Memories of a Dork at Sleep-away Camp

I decided to do August Camp NaNoWriMo. I signed up and didn't request specific cabin mates. "Surprise Me!" I'm in with a variety of ages and locations, including a student from Bangalore!

Anyway, it got me thinking about the two times in my life I went to camp for a week. There are only a few things from each I remember. I was a fat girl (still am) and that made me an automatic target for either being ignored or being the center of unpleasant and unwanted attention anywhere I was with other kids (even some adults, for crying out loud.)

The first was Camp Lackawana. That was sprung on me and my brother last minute-like. Somehow, we got a scholarship through something associated with the church-run childcare center my then youngest brother went to. I probably wouldn't have gone if my brother, Chris, wasn't going. He could get himself in and out of everything. I was 12, going into 6th grade. A very young twelve, in some ways. I can't believe, in all the moving I did in the years since, that I still have the few pics I took. Note the subtle Instagram effect, courtesy of AGE.

A few highlights from Camp L:
Haggy Mary--the resident ghost who tormented girls with brown eyes-namely, me. The other girls in my cabin were friends and must have been at that camp before because they knew all about Haggy Mary. They also knew how to spot and torment a victim. I had nightmares all week. One night the counselors planned a sleep-out in the woods with a boys' and girls' cabin. I couldn't do it--I was deathly afraid of Haggy Mary so the counselors arranged for me to sleep in the cooks cabin. I was ashamed and knew it was just a stupid story, but I couldn't help myself.

That counselor I thought was hot.  
The guy counselor of my brother's cabin was hot. I didn't care much for guys in those early days, but him, I noticed. What was I thinking?

I was walking across the buggy field (a literal cloud of gnats) from the mess hall to the cabin area and a bug flew in my ear and got stuck in it. I could feel the thing buzzing and bouncing off the walls of my ear canal. Ugh!

My counselor. I forget her name.
I wondered if they liked each other













The place was rife with Daddy Long- legs. Most insects don't bother me. On the evening of the sleep-out, my brother and I easily collected some and put them in the sleeping bags of the girls who squealed whenever they saw one. The counselors got wind of our vandalism and ordered us to remove them. We did although I doubt we got them all. I never knew what happened with the ones we didn't get because that was the night I spent hiding from Haggy Mary in the cooks cabin.



We watched the first moon walk there.

Then there's this. My first "sexual" experience. I use the term loosely. There was a black kid there from New York City. I imagined he was from the ghetto because as far as I knew all black kids in NYC lived in ghettos. This was 1969 with all the racial riots and stuff and that's what we saw on TV. Anyway, he was in my brother's cabin and like us, he wasn't part of the main crowd and the three of us hung out at times. The day we had art in the art cabin, he and I were the last ones left in there. We were talking and somehow he backed me up against the wall. He started to put his knee between mine to separate my legs. I had an idea what he was trying to do and I got a squishy-afraid feeling in my gut. I forget what he said, but he stopped and we left. And I wondered how a kid that age knew about such things and would actually try something.

Then, it must have been the next year, there was Girl Scout camp. I was pretty into Girl Scouts until high school. My mom was a co leader and a Brownie leader and I helped her with that troop. I don't remember much about it except:

A counselor named Cricket, who scared me. I don't know why. We had to do some kind of secret friend thing. She was the one I had to secretly give gifts and notes to. Awkward.

There was a girl in my tent who was a sister dork. She had the hairiest armpits I had seen up to that point. She thought certain girls were lesbians and were after her. Or was it, other girls said she was a lesbian? I remember being in a canoe with her and listening to her talk about it. I did know what a lesbian was. Pretty much, in the culture of the time and place, if you were a girl who didn't hang out with anyone, you were fair game to be called a lesbian. It happened once to me somewhere else. Another story.

I was happy to go home to my noisy crowded home where my brothers called me "whale on the beach," and I had to change diapers and do the dishes and babysit. But my mom was there and not strangers.

Even though those camp experiences don't come with all-American wonderful memories of friendship and kum-by-ah--I supposed we sang that at least at Girl Scout camp--they tossed me right out of my comfort zone.

And I'm sure that was a good thing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: Arizona Redemption

In the interests of having something to post about and developing my reviewing and critiquing skills, I'm going to try posting a book review from time to time. We'll see how it goes. I'll try to back up what my opinions with reasons. And I suppose it will be the rare book that I love 100%.


I recently finished Arizona Redemption by SQ Eads. I acquired it free from one of the several Kindle pages I follow on Facebook. Arizona in the title interested me. I assumed Redemption meant it would be Christian and I was right. The cover reminded me of Bisbee AZ where I spent three non-Christian months in early 1982, right before I met my husband and Jesus. Low and behold, it was about Bisbee and I was sold.

Tori is on the run from San Diego with her sister, Bonnie, and an orphan, Carla, she rescued from the street a few years ago. They stop in Bisbee to use their last dollars for medicine for Carla's severe cough. From there, Tori has no clue, no money, little hope, only determination to work hard to build a new, safe life for her scared sister and the little girl.

As fate, or God, would have it, the first thing Tori sees is a shiny new dump truck about ready to tumble down the side of a small dirt cliff. She scrambles up to it and uses her heavy equipment skills from her last job to coax it back to safety. One of the co-owners, handsome Lance, is so grateful he offers Tori a job. She accepts. Sometimes, something like that happens in real life. Bonnie and Carla fall in love with Bisbee while waiting for Tori to do her truck thing.

Tori and Lance are young, single and immediately attracted to each other. Tori is full of self-doubt based on her past, especially her recent past that has her running from police. Lance, is a serious Christian who loves to laugh. They become good friends on the job and spend time with Lance's family and church, which Tori attends for Bonnie's sake. Lance keeps praying for Tori who gradually comes to think maybe there is a God who cares for her.

When the final bite from Tori's past becomes evident to her, she makes a decision alone, but a church-related event reveals God more fully to her and she decides to trust him instead of going through with the choice she made. An accident at work reveals the situation to Lance and in the end Tori must decide to trust both God and Lance for a life she thought impossible for her, or continue to go it alone.

There's that's kind of a summary without any spoilers. My comments:

I liked Lance and Tori. Tori's determination to take care of her family is the driving force behind her actions. She slowly learns to trust. Lance, who had suffered a severe loss, found his joy again and was able to love. His faith and trust in God are what make him who he is. However, there seemed to be a lack of depth to them. They each have a little back story gives us what happened but there's no emotional umph there. I feel like I observed them more than I experienced them. The other characters are very two-dimensional, or less.

Eads used the third person limited. Thoughts were put in italics, which kind of bothered me. Especially Lances's numerous prayers for Tori's salvation which became repetitious. As did Tori's thoughts of self-doubt.

I was afraid, due to previous experiences with Christian fiction, that there would be a "Come to Jesus" moment where the whole gospel of salvation is laid out and the light goes in the non-believers soul. The light did go on in Tori's soul in a quiet way. The combination of scripture, love from Lance's church and desperation work to help her realize God's love. I liked that so much better.

A mayor of Bisbee, the author's father, is mentioned several times. While on a tour or town history was being spoken of, the mayor was mentioned in a manor I found intrusive. Maybe that goes along with some of the dialog I thought didn't sound like the real way people speak.

I really would have liked some more emotion. I would have liked to see Lance talk to Tori about how he was able to maintain his faith after the loss of his wife and son. I would have like to see Tori tell Lance her story of growing up on the streets and what lead her to marry Ricky. They mention these things to each other, but the effect was flat.

It includes sketches of Bisbee by a local artist. I lived in an apartment building and a house on a hill below the big B.

It's light read that I enjoyed. Even though I knew how it was going to end, I kept picking it up again. But for me, who likes things a little deeper and more intense, I'll only go back to this author when I need something really light and airy.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Moonlight Swims


Here's a clip from material I won't be using in Lilyland. Enjoy!


 
And now there was Charlie. He had swept her away to his mountain top palace and treated her like a princess. Maybe there was a pea under her mattress to see if she really was one. It would be next to impossible to not fall in love with him. A guy from Indiana. Not any more. She was pretty sure it wasn’t his job or status or house that she was attracted to. It was the man. His candor with her. The fact that he had said he would call her next week and today was next week and he had called. The way he called her Lily Mayfield, like he had done the first time he had spoken to her at the fund raiser. The way he smiled at her and seemed impressed by her, like she was stooping to spend time with him.

Weightless and free, she twirled around in the water and sang “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” For now, she decided to be just Lily, alive, newly wealthy, thin and living in Scottsdale, if only temporarily. She laughed out loud.

When she got out of the water, she stripped her suit off outside, showered inside and went out again to dry off in the cool air, a towel wrapped lightly around her. She stood straight, enjoying the feel of the breeze in her hair and on her shoulders. Another place she could not believe she was at.

With a start Lily woke up about an hour later, disoriented; not unusual. On the way to the suite's sitting area, she noticed she had left the left the door to the patio open a bit and went to close it. But stopped when she saw Charlie in the pool. 

His easy strokes propelled his slim body through the water noiselessly, effortlessly. She stood behind the window covering, entranced. After a few minutes he swam to the wall closest to the building, and with an easy, practiced motion, used his arms to lift his body out of the pool and sit on the side for a second, shaking the water out of his hair. When he stood, the low light revealed enough of him to see he was nude. A hand went slowly to her mouth as if to cover the small unconscious smile that appeared. God, he is gorgeous. She had always tried not to make a person’s appearance more important than the person and she was glad she had met him with clothes on first. But still, it would be difficult to not remember seeing him like this the next time she laid eyes on him.

Light bounced off his tight back muscles as they worked. He tossed the towel on a nearby chair and turned toward her door, looking in her direction for several seconds before entering another door. The outside went dark.

The images burned themselves into her mind. She awoke later in the night from a dream that he was making love to her. She twisted and groaned in the bed, disappointed and unsatisfied. Evidently, princesses, even pretend ones, woke up horny from sex dreams. Holy cats. Why did I have to see him like that?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Empty Vessels and Blank Paper

Once upon a time, a widow was about to lose her 2 children, both sons. The man to whom her dead husband owed money was coming to take them into slavery as payment for the debt. Fortunately, the prophet Elisha was around and the woman cried out to him. "Help me!" He asked her what she had, which was only a little oil. He told her to borrow all the jugs and bowls that she could from neighbors and bring them to her house. Then, she was to lock herself and her sons in their house and pour oil into each borrowed vessel until full. Like magic, the oil continued filling until each and every jug and bowl was filled. Then, the flow of oil stopped. Elisha told her to sell the oil, pay the debts and live on the rest.

This story is from 2 Kings 4:1-7 (Yeah, the Bible)
I don't want to go all preachy here, but this story is amazing. My pastor has been doing a series called "Empty Vessels" and this is the story he started out with. This morning he touched on the responsibility of the widow to make this happen. It got me thinking about my writing in light of God's purpose for me.

"Empty" expresses a need; a need in me or a need in the world. I need to create. When I don't have some kind of creative project or three going on, I'm empty. Creating fills me, and I can give to others. Evidently, God sees a need in the world I can fill with my writing. Maybe one person, maybe thousands, but there's need. As a person who likes to encourage others, I can meet some needs.

The widow only had a little oil to her name. But she saw it as an asset when asked what she had to bring to the table. What do I have to offer people? Maybe a little wisdom born of experience, or a sense of humor or a different way of looking at something. Arranging some words around an idea that expresses it eloquently. Or hope or "Wow, someone understands." An entertaining story. Who knows what else.

Today, I saw the blank white pages I fill as empty vessels. I lock myself away with my computer or pen and notebook and fill vessels with ideas and stories, with myself. We creatives pour ourselves into our work. There's a phrase that writers slit our wrists and bleed onto the page. Maybe melodramatic, but figuratively true.

Empty vessels might also be the needs of the women who will read my books. Maybe something I write will help fill a need, spark some hope, ignite a smile or at least provide a respite from the tyranny of life.

Elisha told the widow to sell the oil. God knows, I'm trying to sell my books. And I'm giving some away, too. It would be awesome to be able to pay off our debts with my profits and live off the rest. Is that God's plan here? I hope so.

But later on in his message, Pastor Ron said, "What God's going to do might not look like I want it to." Hmmm...

If you're ever in Peoria, AZ on a Sunday morning, stop in at Generation Life Church, Peoria Ave and the 101 Freeway. Guaranteed hugs and a free cup of coffee. Ask for Terry. That's what I'm known as there.

How can you help fill the empty vessels of other people? What fills your empty vessel?

A note on the word vessel. We all know that a vessel is something that's built to contain something. It's a word we don't use much except maybe "blood vessel" of pertaining to a boar or ship. We don't say to our kids, "Please wash some vessels so we can have drinks with dinner." Or "We need to recycle those empty soda vessels." Or do you?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On Logjams and Naps

I think this will simply a dumping of the annoying contents of my brain which feels clogged up. No real reason. Maybe, like vomiting when my tummy feels bad, I'll feel better for it. You might not.

My works in progress are not progressing as I would like. I feel like I have a log jam in my head. I know where my stories are going, I have ideas, but nothing is flowing. If I get a few hundred words a day out, that's good. Most of it just sits in my head. Getting moldy like strawberries in my fridge.

For awhile, I had a pretty good writing routine down but that was interrupted by the three week field research gig in May. I thought I'd get my groove back after that. But, no. I thought that planning for the library programs would fit in, but not as nicely as I hoped. Then there was a job application that took me forever. And hanging out with my brother's kids while he and his wife went away, and then the job interview.

Oh, and let me not fail to mention the many naps. I'm not sure if I'm in hibernation mode because it's so blasted bright and hot out, or if I upped the laziness dial or if I'm anemic or what. But I want to sleep a lot. Getting out helps. But it doesn't help that the three other creatures in my house--my hubs and our two cats--sleep all day. Hubs has an excuse--he works nights.

This week I thought I'd be able to start back into a routine (although that word makes me cringe), but Mom went into the hospital again. So on top of the outside concern of what's wrong now, there's that inside one of...when? It could be anytime. It could be ten or twenty years.

Maybe I should just give in and watch movies all day. Do a little token house work each morning and work through my Netflix queue, supplementing it with Fassbender films from Amazon or Redbox. Devote a few minutes to Craig's List and Indeed.com to look for jobs. Give it up and wait for...what?

I thought straightening up the office would help. And cleaning up the clutter on my desk.


But, what I really need is a vacation. To get on a plane or in a car and head out to somewhere to talk to old friends and laugh and get reinspired. And I'm praying for that...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

To Free or Not To Free...and Bookcover Update

Sorry, just had to grab that title. I'm debating whether to give my book away for a day or two. There are pros and cons.

Pros: More downloads. Who doesn't like free? More readers, more reviews, maybe. More exposure leading to more sales. Do people who download free books write reviews? I do because as an indie author I know that's what is needed to sell books. I suspect most people don't. Free boosts your ranking on Amazon's things temporarily and sales get better for a few days. You can try out new genres and authors with no dollar commitment. Libraries are good for that, too, although mostly limited to traditionally published authors.

Cons: I worked hard on my book! For literally years. I want people to read it, sure, but I also want to make a little money. Some people have thousands of free books on their ereaders. And dozens, if not hundreds more free books become available every day. I have downloaded a few of varying degrees of skill and genres. If people get used to free books, will they ever buy one from an unknown writer? Are indie authors jeopardizing our futures by giving things away now? I know some authors who have given away tens of thousands of books and sold a few hundred. Granted, much more than I've sold...

I guess time will tell on that one. Indie publishing and marketing is still relatively new and most readers still rely on paper books so the dust has yet to settle. There are at least three pages on Facebook that post free Kindle books. I think they somehow make a little money with their sites.

Right now, I'm thinking when I get my next book out there--probably Whatever Doesn't Kill You--I'll do the free thing. Then, if someone likes it, I'll have another book they can buy that will have a sequel in a few months. I'm not very business-gifted. I don't know how to play in that sandbox.

But, in the meantime, I finalized the cover for Another Place on the Planet. I went with the pink, but rearranged and added a flower and used the cubism effect. I really like it. Using GIMP, it has 10 layers, if you know what that means. I've improved my skills on that program all by myself, using the little  couple people showed me. I'll utilize the same model for the other two books, using different lily varieties and colors.

So, that's the latest mental wanderings of this indie author. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Connecting

Woman and boy working on homework togetherI spent the last three weeks making connections. Very temporary connections with very young people of various races and cultures. I, a total stranger, stepped into their classroom and walked them away to another part of their school's campus to read tiny stories, ask questions and do brain-related activities. They all came. The vast majority stayed with me the 35-45 minutes it took to do the assessment--they all had the option to refuse. They didn't know I checked out okay with the Arizona Department of Public Safety and passed a security check performed by their school district. I said, "Come, please." Their teacher said, "You go." Children are very trusting.

view detailsI learned a little about each child in our short time together. One boy with long braids wanted to learn more about creatures (insects.) I knew right off that a little girl was too scared to stay for the assessment. She was very withdrawn, more than shy, like something scary was going on at home. Some kids were reserved until I showed them a page of 30 lines of small pictures of puppies, soccer balls and coffee cups where they were to circle a certain arrangement of the pictures. Often, their eyes widened at the seeming enormity of the task. I said, "Dunh dunh dunh..." in an ominous way, and they smiled and embraced the task. That made it fun for me, too. I liked seeing their reactions.

One little kindergartener slipped her hand into mine as we walked back to her classroom. How sweet! That was like the highlight of the three weeks for me. Somehow, we touched hearts in a way we probably can't explain and won't remember. It was special though, and affirming.

view detailsI also reestablished a few connections made in the fall when I did this job then (field research with Harvard U. and U. of Michigan.) And I made some new friends. Some of us connected on Facebook as soon as we got home!

I used to be a very shy person. I could walk into a room and be totally unnoticed. Quiet, overweight and ignored, it's a good position to observe people. Beware, the quiet ones are watching and listening... But that kind of treatment confirmed my self-talk that I was an uninteresting bumbling dork, condemned to life in a society that didn't acknowledge my existence, let alone my worth.
Businesswoman hiding
I credit writing for bringing me out. And maybe middle-age. As a writer wanting to improve, I reached out to a critique group and organized write-ins for NaNoWriMo and ScriptFrenzy. I've met writers and others online I wouldn't hesitate to meet in person. Talking about my writing lights me up and gets other people excited, too. People express awe when I tell them I wrote a novel.

Following this dream, accepting and using my God-given creativity has given me a new door to life. A wide French door with a beautiful view of people, ideas, emotions, dreams and experiences. And a door I can also close for awhile to create alone, as most writers do. That's a time I still crave and cherish. Each fuels me for the other. It's a glorious thing.

How do you connect with people? How do your personal giftings help or hinder forming new and improving old relationships?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bookcover Blues

Posts here had been getting slightly more frequent. Then I took a temp job. In the fall I worked with Harvard U. and the U. of Michigan doing field research for four weeks. I'm back at it for three. My brain is kind of dead when I get back, at least for writing. Maybe from talking too much all day. I have four days left. Might be a good time to rethink the cover for Another Place on the Planet. Hopefully, a new cover will improve sales.

One of many challenges for undersourced indie authors is the issue of book covers. As with anything, a book cover can be bought from a graphic artist. I suppose finding someone who will understand your vision for your book's audience, genre and story can involve quite a bit of finger (keyboard) work. And I also imagine how much you spend doesn't necessarily dictate the end result. It's equally possible to get something awesome from an inexpensive but sympathetic new graphic artist as it is to get something unusable from a highly paid pro.

But, with no budget, I'm left to my own devices. I have a little design background and a natural visual talent. I'm working my was through GIMP, a free program similar to Photoshop. I like learning, but wish it didn't take so much time.

Scrapped when I saw proof copy.


New and improved?


















I don't think many people get the minimalist image I developed for the cover I published with. I spent days and days on GIMP getting the lines as uniform as I could. I redid it when I received the first printed proof and spent more days reshaping the faces, which lots of people don't see. My daughter said I should lose the purple and the curly romantic font. Perhaps I should.
 (Side note: I had a Jane Eyre book cover on my desk and used Michael Fassbender's photo as a model for the male face on the new cover. Happy coincidence!)

First attempt at GIMP and cover design.
This is my first cover. My nephew took the photo of the lily. We had a photo shoot. This one turned out way too pink. A couple people in my critique group say it's not what they pictured. Not that I should base everything on others' opinions, but outside input is helpful.

The latest effort.

My most recent, I do not love. The photos capture elements of the story, but the they're bland, I think. It looks more like a "normal" book cover. However, it doesn't capture the spirit of the book.

The newest idea would include orange lilies, swirl brushes, maybe a female figure, and a orangey-yellow-gold color scheme.

My thinking has rarely meshed with that of the crowd, but I want to sell to the crowd. That's where I want to share my little bit of insight or whatever my book has to offer. What's a dorky author to do? Sigh.

I think I will know the perfect cover when I see it. How many will I have to create before that happens?

Meanwhile, I changed to the new cover on Smashwords and Amazon.

What do you look for in a book cover? Have you ever questioned the cover after you finished the book?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Non Internet Procrastinating


Photo by Brittany Anderson, my lovely niece.



As I promised this won't mention He Whom Shall Not Be Mentioned (boo. Can't wait for Prometheus on 6/8). And I don't mean Voldemort.

2. Using Your Basic Computer to Put Off Doing What You Love Doing.

a. Games. Ones you don't need the internet for. I used to play Spider Solitaire a lot. Lately it's been Majong Tiles. I almost snabbed my mom's Hoyle games disc when we had her yardsale here last fall, but I knew the Gravity Tiles on that would be my undoing.

b. Cleaning up the desktop. This is actually useful. I moved all the photos of He Whom Shall Not Be Mentioned to the trash. Painful!! I trashed other lesser things, as well. Created new folders for homeless documents and even put some folders in folders. Now it's easier to find folders and to see the lovely photo of a Maine beach that my niece took and posted on Facebook.
c. This is really cool. I shortened the bookmark titles on the bookmark bar. These are places I go to often like Goodreads, my website, this blog, Netflix, my bank. All I have to do is click on the bookmark...I put them there by dragging them from the address box, but some were long. To shorten, I went to the website so I could copy the URL. Then, I right clicked, chose new book mark, pasted the URL and added a shorter name, like Nano for National Novel Writing Month. The cute little icons came back when I restarted Firefox. I'm able to get many more on that way. You would need the internet for that, but it's not like you're messing around on it.

d. Pin icons to your task bar to take them off your desk top and make them easier to find.

e. Organize photos and music.

f. Edit photos and videos.

g. Change your desktop background using your own photo.

h. Learn how to use a program that's sitting on your desktop that you don't use because you never took the time to learn.

i. Write something that's not your WIP (Work In Progress. That;s writer insider lingo.)

This is a shorter list, but not sweeter because it's missing You Know Who.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I Want to Be Ready

I've had a busy writer week. Wish it was a busy selling week, but...

Here's some things I did or that happened:

  • My interview was featured on a friend's blog here.
  • I opened a Tweetdeck account, the usefulness thereof is still to be discovered.
  • As of this writing, I am 5 away from 300 Twitter followers. I've gained a bunche since I announced there I'm an indie author.
  • My book is scheduled to be featured here on Tuesday, 4/30.
  • I have liked/friended several authors.
  • I set up a meeting with Youngtown's library manager to discuss writing programs for children and adults this summer.
  • I'm in contact with a wonderful woman who is helping me with research for What Doesn't Kill You.
  • I made some nice progress on WDKY.
  • Added pictures to website and this blog. (I'm getting better at basic image manipulation!)
I don't know where any of this is leading, if indeed anywhere. I read a blog this week--wish I'd saved it--by a man who was achieving what he wanted. He said he was ready when it happened because he kept working on it.

I want to be ready.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

First Interview!

My interview and book was features today on the blog of fellow indie author, critique group member, mentor and friend, D. Jean Quarles. Check it out and follow her blog.

http://www.djeanquarles.blogspot.com/

Thanks!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Needed: Procrastination Techniques


I'm looking for new ways to put off writing. I love writing but lately, since I published my first book, my mind has been wanting to take more time off. It's like I was so focused on accomplishing that goal and once I did, I have failed to develop another all-consuming mental activity. Or, I haven't renewed a prescription with the beneficial side-effect of the ability to focus better. Yes, there is such a pill!

I have started a list of different categories. Some of these activities are hated by me, but for some unknown reason, at times I find them preferable to doing that which I enjoy most.

Today's technique will be the easiest. I'll save the harder ones for later. Feel free to adopt any of these as your own to put off what ever you like to do.


Technique 1: Employing the Computer to Procrastinate

This might be every writer's favorite, except for those who write by hand. I know several who do. I make lists by hand, and doodles. Not much else. This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope to have more to add in the future.

1. The Internet provides numerous ways to fritter away your life. I won't include online games here because I don't play.

a. Facebook--Of course. Do I have any new notifications on my personal page? My authors page? How about posting a status update. "My cat just yakked up a hairball." No, not really. He's snoozing with my husband.

b. Twitter--Tweet something writerly so people following me because I write will think I am productive and talented and so the filmmakers (how did I get filmmakers following me? Oh right--I mentioned I'm writing a screenplay) might think I'll have a novel to adapt. One can hope.

c. Click on links on FB and Twitter. Lots of writing stuff, movie stuff, lots of stuff stuff.


d. Look for pictures of Michael Fassbender.

e. Check Kindle to see if I sold any books recently. Same for Smashwords and CreateSpace.

f. On Amazon, read excerpts of Fifty Shades of Grey (okay, I did that once--for a long time. I think they took out the most juicy stuff, which is really all right with me.)
.
g. Check Gmail to see if I have any new Twitter followers.

h. YouTube--start off with something of value then digress in any direction I choose--usually comedy and parody.

i. look for and download free e-books.

j. Check Goodreads to see how many more people signed up for my book giveaway.

k.Sign up for newsletters.

l. Look for a job.

m. Look for more pictures of Michael Fassbender.

n. Check regular email. This is a double one because then I can read the stories on the Yahoo feed. None so far have mentioned Michael.

o. Then there's always good old fashioned research.

Wait-I have a new FB notification. Okay. Nothing exciting.

p. Watch movie trailers. Watch those with Michael several times.

q. Go to Huffpost women and read the sex articles.

r. Look for new movies to add to queue on Netflix (wish they had more Michael movies).

s. Write a blog post.

t. Go to Script Frenzy site and play with plot maker.

u. Tweak author website.

v. Look at blog stats to see if anyone read my last post.

w. Check bank account and clear away cobwebs to see if there is a positive balance.

x. check to see if I sold any more books than the last time I checked. Check to see how much I have to sell before I get a royalty payment

y. Go check the substitute teacher's chatboard I used to frequent.

z. Look for another pic of Michael.

Next post will be how to use your computer without the internet to procrastinate.

How do you procrastinate online? Share, please!

(I promise NOT to mention Michael Fassbender once in the next blog post)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Overwhelmed

I made a list of what I need to do as a writer. I'm like a small business owner. Back in the day, I had a very tiny sewing business I ran out of our dining room. I realized it's very easy to become so busy with the business end that I didn't have much time to do what I was in business to do: sew things for people.
Writing is the same way. Granted, I waste a bunch of time. Sometimes. I haven't really been doing much writing the past few weeks, but I feel like I have been working. Here are some things an indie-author has to do, which can be especially challenging in the beginning.



1. Network.
a) Blogs. This involves writing a blog like this, reading other writer's and general blogs and leaving thoughtful, encouraging comments.
b) Twitter--finding and following new people and people who follow me and composing intelligent, humorous tweets that are inconspicuously self-promoting. And retweeting and replying. And tweeting articles and such I think people might find interesting.
c) Facebook. First, there is personal Facebook I use for fun and to keep in touch with friends and family. Then there are a few writing groups I belong to where we help each other with answers, info and encouragement. And my author page--maintaining, sounding interesting and figuring out how to get people to notice and like it.
d) Goodreads. I have yet to use this to anywhere close to it's potential.
e) Pinterest? Haven't done that yet.
What's really great about this is I've met lots of other authors--indie and otherwise and we love to help each other out. But--always a but--do I know how to help anyone? How much should I do? Because that takes time away from what only I can do for me.
2. Publishing
a) learning how to format for various publishing platforms. E-books and paper and the differences in e-books formats.
b) recently, I went through my manuscript and caught typos and took down the versions I had online ad republished with the improved ones. That was just the e-book. The paper version is waiting for the same thing.
c) I also spent a few days seeing if I could make Kindle behave by learning some HTML-with very limited success.
d) cover design
e) interior design
3. Marketing
a) social networking--see above, minus the personal interests
b) media kit--bio, photo, book blurbs, interview...all from scratch.
c) researching outlets, options, resources, etc.
d) book launch--how do I throw a party for me and my book?
e) Speaking-preparing and presenting programs to inform, inspire and entertain people--then setting them up and actually doing them.
f) website-one that doesn't look like a bad one from week 1 of the internet.
4. Writing
a) research. One example is I need to talk to real police about some procedures for one of my works-in-progress (WIP).
b) improving my craft, honing my skills
c) pushing through "I don't feel like it" and dry, uncreative spells.
d) writing
e) rewriting
f) revising
g) editing
h) recruiting helpers-readers, editors, reviewers
i) critique group


5. Reading.
a) reading the genre I write
b) reading great books in other genres
c) reading about writing
6) Business
a) tracking sales (hopefully)
b) paperwork, records, etc.
c) tax laws for the self-employed writer (gah!)