Sunday, February 27, 2011

Show versus Tell

I've been doing a lot of editing for other wanna-be and published authors lately.  One of my chief complaints has been show the scene rather than tell it. I have posted a picture of my newest granddaughter eating a cupcake as an example for this lesson.

Telling the scene- Vanna snitched from the counter.She, my three year old granddaughter, is
eating a cupcake.

Now showing the scene-  "Yummy, Oma made cupcakes."  Vanna's arms stretched and stood up on tip toes until her fingertips touched the cupcake on Oma's high counter.  Oh yes, she wanted the freshly frosted contraband morsel.  She used one hand to brace herself on the counter extending her reach until her fingers grabbed her prize.  She looked left then right seeing if anyone was around before she lowered herself, ran to the table, and kneed her way up onto the chair with her trophy.  She took a bite savoring her sweet reward.

The explanation- Do you see the difference other than a whole lot more words?  Not once did I say she was three years old. I showed that she was small by having to get up on tiptoes, the counter was high, she had to brace herself against the counter to reach farther up to grab the cupcake, she kneed her way up into the chair.    You know she's not supposed to get it because she looks to see if someone is watching her. It involves you, as the reader, into the scene. It's her struggle to get the cupcake.  You walk through it every second.

This is an important element when writing your story.  A reader has to have a vested interest in what is going on with your characters.  If your reader does not, then your novel will be cast aside.  They need to know what's at stake, the process, and the reward.  They need to create a mental image of what the words are telling them...this is showing. 

Take a look at what you are writing today.  Can it be punched up a notch or two to make it a character driven novel?  Take any scene, are you showing or telling.  Every writer is a storyteller, but are you a storyshow-er?

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Well, I've Gone and Done It Now

I just published with a Print-on-Demand publisher.  All these little publishing type demands took more time than I thought.  I have gained the utmost respect for the publishing house, typesetters, editors, etc.

This is all part of my 2011 transformation.  Part of it was to try new things.  I had always thumbed my nose at authors who self-published as a cop out.  But then I really didn't know enough about the subject to really form an educated opinion.  So since January, I decided to reaearch and give it a whirl.

It has been a true education.  The whole what-you-see-is-what-you-get process of print on demand has been tedious to get things exactly the way I wanted it.  But then, this is part of the experience.  From the cover to the font used, was all my decision.  I had taken all these little steps of publishing for granted when publishing with the big houses. I have garnered a whole new respect for those hearty few who do self-publish.

Just because I've taken this step does not mean I will not publish with regular publishing houses ever again.  On the contrary, authoring and publishing through regular channels is a breeze by comparison.

Because most vanityPOD presses are small, the marketing is all up to me and as is the distribution. To me, the price is too high and the competition is too great.  Now, I'm not stopping you from grabbing a copy.  I could honestly use the money (can't we all?). Grab It Now Here!

Remember create something beautiful today!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Judging a Book by its Cover

 Have you ever been to a store or event when you just wanted to let your hair down and not get gussied up?

I did that this weekend at a APS Stamp Expo in Charleston, SC. I was on vacation and it wasn't a working one. Although I brushed my hair and teeth, and even put on deodorant, I did not dress up. In fact, I was in blue jeans and a flannel shirt.  I really didn't care what the dealers/buyers present at the show thought of me until...I approached one auction company.  I was treated like a small time operator.  He pointed out to me that a minimum lot for auction had to be over $2,000 worth based on current prices. He was actually looking down his nose at me.

I have been a stamp collector for over fifty years and my collection only fills one half of my office. It's value is lower than national debt, but much higher than my yearly power bills.  I guess by my appearance, I could have just been a curiosity seeker off the street, but I wasn't.  I am a card carrying member of that particular organization.There are other more serious collectors who fill up their entire houses, but that's overkill.  I go for quality over quantity.

Needless to say, his commission off any auction lots I would have given his company off the sales were history.  Out of my briefcase I pulled out three Confederate stamps and a couple of other gems I carried with me for possible sale, they were each worth much more than he had suggested.  I showed him the stamps.  His mouth kind of gaped open. Of course then, I took my business elsewhere. I was really irritated and this vendor lost a four to five figure commission plus any future sales.  I ran into two such vendors, but luckily there were others. They were nonjudgmental and respectful.

How many times have we all done this in our own lives?  As a Christian we are told, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." Doesn't the above prove it?

In writing, the author has little or no control over their covers. When you walk into a bookstore, what's the first thing you see...covers.  When you buy a book how much impact does the cover have in your purchasing decision.  I know as a previous marketing manager--a lot. Big bucks are spent trying to promote the image of items people buy.

I recently changed the image I created for Escape from Second Eden, since it is an e-published novel, I can do that.  Now that a few days have passed I may create another one.  What I am seeing is not projecting the image I want to convey. Yes, it would be easier to let someone else do it, but then I lose control over what I want to present. It is a dilemma within a dilemma, but exciting too. Eventually lightning will strike and I'll figure out the right design I want until then, it will be trial and error.  Isn't that how we all learn?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Time Management for Writers

Everyone has 365 days a year (give or take a leap year), 7 days in a week, 24 hours in a day...right?  But I think everyone fights the worst with time management.

Within your twenty-four hours, an average of 6-8 hours is spent sleeping.  The body needs this to repair all the damage you did to it in the previous 24-hours.  To make the math simplier let's just say 8 leaving you with 16 hours to do what needs to be done.  

Wait!  Subtract 8 hours for your job and now you have eight full hours left.  EIGHT! That's a whole lot of time, but wait... you have commuting time back and forth to work...possibly an hour on a good day with little traffic.  What do you do during your commute time?  Remember we are trying to maxmize the 480 minutes a day you have that is not committed to work and sleep.

For me, my commute time is spent in devotion. The way some people drive-- prayer is definitely needed.  Oh no, I'm not talking about the way you drive, but everyone else on the roadway is either an idiot who needs Divine guidance, or a little, gray-haired, old woman who has trouble seeing over the steering wheel...wait I ressemble that remark. Oh, nevermind, you know what I mean.

Other useful driving commute activities: audio foreign language lessons, the lastest novel you've been wanting to read but haven't had the time, lecture notes review for classes you've recorded not written.  I have very strong feelings against text messages and computers while driving.  Those same feelings apply to women putting on make-up, men getting dressed, and other activities which take your hands OFF the steering wheel.  Okay, you've made a selection from the above list or other you have thought of to take care of otherwise wasted communte time.  Your time management skill is on the way up.

So what do you do with the other seven hours?  Well, I gotta eat, you say.  Whether you hit the drive-thru or cook it yourself that's another hour at a minimum so let's say six hours left to your day.  Now everyone has these six hours, or 360 minutes, or 21,600 seconds if you really want to get anal about time management. If you resorted to seconds you have passed your time management test.

Some of us bring work home, some have homework, children, and assorted other duties.  (I won't include laundry in this because you have 30 minutes per load that you can be doing other things)  Let's say two hours have lapsed.  All these other things take time. Tick, tock, the seconds are counting down.

You now have four hours, or 240 minutes left in your original 24-hours.  On average I spent thirty minutes catching up on world and local events courtesy of the internet, so I'll subtract that. Another thirty minutes, checking out blogs, writer communities, and emails, so I'll subtract that.  Three hours left.

Now, you want to be an author/writer/journalist in your lifetime.  So now you have three hours, or 180 minutes left in your day. You spend an hour in research.  Two hours left. You are a part-time writer so you spend at least an hour in front of your computer actually writing.  No distrations, no getting up to get a drink, going to the bathroom, or thinking about what you are going to write. Actually writing/typing. For me, I type 50 words a minute that's 3,000 words on a good day.  At that rate, you could complete a 110,000-word manuscript in 37 days. One hour left of your 24-hour day.  Your last hour is spent in editing. 

As a writer/author/journalist, you will spend equal amounts of time researching your material, editing, and actually creating your novel/article/or whatever you are writing.  So if you spend 37 days in research, 37 days in producing your manuscript, and 37 days in editing your a minimum it is a 111 days or 6,660 minutes in producing one manuscript. I'm a writer not a mathematician... Almost 1/3 of a case you were wondering that's 122 days (rounded up)-- 2,928 hours-- 175,680 minutes and I won't begin calculating with the seconds.  That's if you adhere to a schedule like this.  I hear y'all out there yelling, "Ya right! I've spent over a year so far on mine!"

The only problem is life tends to get in the way.  All those things like someone going to the hospital (I stands up and wave wildly), spouses, grandchildren, children and their spouses, etc.  Friends, telephone calls and cell phone...geez how could I forget that? As writers we are lucky if we can spend three hours a day in writing, if we do not make our living writing books.    Of course, we could chuck it all out the window and only write on weekends, but where is the challenge in that? So how do you use the three hours a day of writing? I've spent an hour writing and tweaking this blog, so now I have to choose between writing or editing.  Whatever you choose to do make it worthwhile.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Escape from Second Eden" Now Available

It's a new year and time to try new things.  I've just uploaded "Escape from Second Eden" to  I can hear my grandson now..."Welcome to the 21st century, Grandma."

Unabashed advertising here--
"Escape from Second Eden"
What would you do if there were no one you could trust and everything you once believed is false?  Eiko Mueller’s life spirals out of control with her husband’s embassy assignment in Ceylon.  In 1969 on this tropical island, the duty starts out just like any other until the Ceylon switches from democracy to socialism.  She is a pawn in a nation-against-nation chess match for power and control.  But unlike in real chess, this pawn has assets and survival skills beyond measure.
The download price is $7.99
Enjoy 20% of the novel for free

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Twiddling My Thumbs

Today finds me with a day off sort of. A day off??? What's that? Those you have followed the Murphey saga over the years, previous to this blog, wonder if I ever get down time.

It is 1 P.M.  Prayers and Bible study are done.  My homework for the week is completed.  My husband is sleeping comfortably and no oxygen or cardiac alarms are making a god-awful racket.  My youngest daughter is in Savannah with her fiancee.  My lesson plans are done.  My sermon for tomorrow is completed and rehearsed.  Dinner is planned and cooking low and slow--a pot roast.  I've written a chapter in my new novel, Engineered Death.  I've edited several chapters in previously completed works-in-progress.  Written another 500 words to a couple of work-in- progress non-fictions.  I've read and posted in Compuserve's Books and Writers Community. I answered and returned emails from five separate accounts.  I know y'all are reading this and thinking wait a minute...this is a day off?

Yes for me, this is now considered a day off. Everything I had planned, or worked on is as complete as I want it to be at this point.  For fun, I sat back and read fellow bloggers' posting for enjoyment.  As you will probably notice I've even played around with the formatting to this blog.  Now I sit twiddling my thumbs trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my day.  Of course, this day off and thumb twiddling could come to screeching halt with a telephone this instant, I am free with options to do what I WANT to do rather than have to do.  This is honestly a rare occasion. 

What do I do?  Hm, a hot bubble bath and a novel?  Scrapbook? Do the dishes or laundry (Ugh, what a waste of free time)?  Garden or turn the compost pile?  The options are unlimited.  How many of us have said...if I only had the time?  I've got it!  I think I'll blog about twiddling my thumbs. And there you have it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I've often been asked how it is I do what I do...juggle like a mad woman.  I tend to be a multi-faceted, multitasking kind of gal and have been my whole life.  Of course, this has not been done easily.

In the past I have juggled two full-time jobs, a spouse, a very large extended family, full time classes, and my five children with all their extra baggage, ie ballet, band, this or that function etc. (now I include their spouses and children into the mix so it's a trade off.) 

Today, (I cut back when I turned fifty...sort of)I juggle two part-time careers in ministry work and  college professor, but I'm also  a part time college student, author, mother, grandmother, and caregiver for not one, but three people dear to me- my spouse who is terminally ill, my 24-year old daughter with an inoperable brain tumor, and my 91-year old father-in-law with Alzheimers.

I seem to have the ability to shuck off concerns to the point where I seem stressless.  In truth, I feel stress just like everyone else does. I have days where the world crashes in on me, just like people around the world. I just act on it differently.  That's where today's blog comes from.  It is my GI2GB.

I can't admit to creating this, but I can say it has been successful in my life for seven years.  I can't even tell you where I got this idea from because it was one of fw:fw:fw infinity type emails someone sent me years ago.  Have I peaked your interest yet?

It is my Give It 2 God Box.  The principle behind it is so simple, but when used correctly, the results are surprising.  Mine is really nothing more than a plastic box I keep at my bedside with a slit in the top.  It can be anything, a salt box, a shoe box, or whatever.  I will warn you.  This can be addicting in a most heavenly way.

The premise is simple also.  Whenever you reach the end of your rope and feel like there is nothing that will fix XYZ problem, you write it down on a piece of paper and you put it in the box.  Yes, most of us will pray, but there is nothing tangible in prayer.  Believe me, I am not knocking prayer, because I spend hours in prayer every day.  This is a prayer with a tangible action, since most people respond better when they feel they are actually doing something about a problem which overwhelms them.

Now, let's be honest, quite a few of us give our problems to God and then continue worrying about it and trying to figure out solutions, etc.  Quit that!  If a problem is bad enough to be put in the GI2GB, then why in the world would you want to play indian-giver and take it back??? If it is so mind boggling a problem and you have looked to every other resource to solve it and found none, give it to God and forget about it.  Let God be God.

Have you ever watched a toddler who wants a cookie on the table and was told he couldn't have it?  The toddler inches his way over to it, and then his little fingers stretch out to grab it...all the time looking over his shoulder to see if his parents are looking.  Now, think of your prayers, are you this toddler?  You gave the problem to God, and then wiggle your way back to the problem?  Raise your hand, you indian-giver, you!

Okay, now you've decided to give this box a try.  You cut the slit into the top of the box.  You go out and buy some special little notepad to write your problems on. This is not necessary, I've written some of mine on napkins.  You've got a problem you want to give to God.  For me, it's my husband, daughter, and father-in-law.  I have no control over the outcome and it really irks me, at least for today.  Tomorrow will be another set of insurmountable problems.

Sorry, I got sidetracked.  I write the problem on the piece of paper and put it in the box and forget about it.  It's amazing. I've done an action to solve a problem when I didn't think there was anything to fix it.  By doing an action against your problem you reduce your stress, but more importantly it is a step in faith.  Now this is the hard part...forget about it, because you have given it to God and let God work.  DO NOT OPEN THE BOX.

Now pick a time frame, for me it is a year,  a New Year's Day event.  Remember, God's time is not your time.  Open the box. Yes, I said open it. Now take out all those pieces of paper.  Read each one.  Make two piles- one for those that have been answered or do not apply anymore, and the other for those not answered.  The pile of unanswered messages go back in the box for the next year...they need to cook a while longer.  Remember it's God's time, not yours.  For those that no longer apply or have been answered, write on the back how it was answered or why it no longer applied.  I actually keep a journal of these.

Would it surprise you that over 98% of my pieces of paper went into the answered or no longer applied pile?  All the added stress that I lost by just giving it to God.  Oh, and don't forget to thank Him for the answered ones.  Be faithful unto the Lord.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Reflections on Parenting

I had an opportunity to reviews my parenting skills this past week.  I laid in a hospital bed after my heart to try a few new steps in its usual tap dance.  I had almost forty-eight hours to do nothing but lay there and count the many spots on the ceiling.  I started thinking about how I raised my children and what was the hardest part short of burying one of your own.  Been there, done that and don't particularly want to do that again.  All my children are grown now and in their own little worlds of parenting in various cycles.

The hardest part is not when your child is sick, as most would think, or raising teenagers.  It is allowing them to make their own decisions in their lives.  Whether it is the wrong decision (by my accounting) or right one.  Allowing them to learn from their mistakes.  I know you are shaking your head and saying wait a's a parent's job to protect your children.  It is after all a mother's job.  I've watched my children go through some of trials of life, which I have experienced, and it would be so easy to tell them not to take this road or that road.

The self-help aisles of bookstores are full of parenting guidelines, and how-to books.  All these are readily available, but nothing beats experience even hurtful ones.  I often wonder whether I have done right by my children by allowing them to make their own beds to lie on.  Part of me says yes, it was the right thing to do, but my mother's heart cries out how I should have helped them and protected them better.

A very recent discussion with my oldest daughter comes to mind about one of her sisters.  Why is her younger sibling staying in her marriage instead of leaving her husband?  I simply pulled from my stash of lessons I learned the hard way and explained it to her.  The reason her sister has not left her husband is fear of the unknown.  She knows what she has with her husband...good, bad, indifferent.  Until she reaches the point of of where what she has in her current relationship is more harmful or unbearable than her fear of what the unknown of leaving and raising her children on her own, she is not ready to take the next step.  Nobody can make this decision for her.  Only she knows how much she can bear and what will tip the scales in this momumental decision she makes.

Now, in my mother's heart I want to go to my child and tell her no matter what momma is here and love you no matter what your decision is.  The old momma will kiss it and make it better routine.  They are some decisions in life that momma can not kiss away.  Your children will experience heart ache, your children will be scared, your children will have dozens of experiences in life which you can not control.  Sad as the thought may be, it is true.

The same is true about another incident this past month.  My youngest had a miscarriage.  I wanted to run to her side the moment she called and be with her.  But I also understood this was something she and her significant other had to work through as one of those tough times in any relationship.  I called several times over the course of the day to see how she was doing.  She would not answer the phone, but would text me that she was okay. I texted her back asking her why did not answer my calls.  She answered back in text that she did not want to talk to me. 

I understood this as her way of coping with her tragic event.  Personally, I was hurt and hurting for my daughter, but in my sage wisdom I let it go knowing she would call and talk to me when she was ready.  Very hard decision for me to accept.  She did eventually call me and we talked on the phone for several hours.  Was I a bad parent? As mothers usually do I second guess myself constantly.  Ah tis, the mother's lot and heavy to bear.

So I lay in that blasted hospital bed, unable to move because of monitors, IV lines, blood pressure cuff, etc and thought about my children.  I think I've done okay by them overall.  Being a mother is never an easy job.  But it is a way of God teaching us patience, trust, and letting God be God.  All of us make mistakes and make ammends, it is after all life.