Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday Writerly Ways~ Investing Readers

First I'd like to thank Deniz Bevan over at her blog, The Girdle of Melian, for the inspiration for this blog. In one of her blogs she asked the question... how to make the reader care about the main characters? Poor Deniz, she did a slash and burn on her manuscript. That's when you cut apart the book you are writing losing large chunks of it if not whole chapters like she did.

That got me thinking how do people become invested in main character? Investing a reader means to care what happens to a character, to empathize with them. Similarities that the reader can relate to instantly came to mind as I answered her. But it is deeper than that. You have to know the character inside and out so you will know how the character will react to any given situation. Under my PAGES to the right you'll find a section called "Lesson-Know Your Character" my character sketch is an example of how I define my main character in a story. This one is for my novel, Surviving Hank. I go into great detail about the character "Cassie." Aw heck, why flip back and forth like me -I'll just copy it here.

Character Profile Worksheet

Basic Statistics
Name: Cassie Reidman
Age: 35
Nationality: White
Socioeconomic Level as an adult: Poverty level or close to it.
Hometown: Oakville, born and raised.
Current Residence: 46 Madison Street, Oakville, GA at the intersection of Madison and Jackson Avenue
Occupation: Manufactured home builder- insulation team
Income: $467 per week, small inheritance $5K from Grandmother which is almost exhausted from her legal battles with ex-husband.
Talents: hand embroiders wedding dresses
Birth order: Only child
Spouse: Ex husband Hank Gardener, his towards her-openly hostile.  Hers towards him-indifference.
Children (describe relationship): Tommy Gardner, excellent
Grandparents (describe relationship) : both deceased, fantastic relationship with grandmother (Avis) who passed away two years ago of heart attack at age 75, (Jeremy) passed away 20 years ago from industrial accident at Cornerstone Homes, electric saw short-circuited and electrocuted him.
Parents:deceased in car accident ten years ago while driving her to the hospital in labor, Crystal and Henry Reidman, father was professor at Swainsboro Technical College taught welding, mother was homemaker
Significant Others: None, doesn’t date although many have asked. Doesn’t want a repeat of Hank.  Relationship with Les Brubacker after ex’s murder
Relationship skills: Introvert
Physical Characteristics: athletic build, busty, average in looks, muscular arms and legs from running
Height: 5’4”
Weight: 120 lbs
Race: white
Eye Color: blue-gray like storm clouds
Hair Color: mousy brown, short, shaggy hair cut.
Glasses or contact lenses? none
Skin color: pale but slightly tanned during summer
Shape of Face: heart shaped
Distinguishing features: Mole over left lip, considers this a beauty mark. 2” faded scar above right eyebrow from accident which killed her parents.
How does he/she dress? mainly jeans and t-shirts, sundresses and sandals. Has a scandalous black mini dress in the back of her closet which she is afraid to wear.
Mannerisms: Clicks tongue in disgust, rolls eyes in disbelief, will flip her hair back in anger, will run her hands through her short, shaggy hair when frustrated.
Habits: (smoking, drinking etc.) bad habit- occasional drink, a beer with friends.
Health: perfect health, sick with childhood diseases like chicken pox, measles, and mumps.
Hobbies: Healing sick animals, reads romances, loves to cook
Favorite Sayings: “Kiss my grits!” Flo from “Alice” TV show she watched in 1985 as a kid, now empathizes with the Alice character as a single mother. A.A. Milline’s Pooh character, “Oh bother.”
Speech patterns: southern, drops “g” in “ing”, gonna, ain’t, fixin’ to, and a lot of slang
Style: Neat, but not fashionable. Down to Earth.

Greatest flaw: Too big of a heart and can’t say “no.”Graduated from high school only to her father’s disappointment. Wants to get away from Oakville but is afraid of moving.

Best quality: Her smile. Genuine and smiles with her whole body language.  Believes in college for her son. She reads constantly.
Intelligence Level: 12th grade. Well read. Attending college via internet for Business Administration.
Any Mental Illnesses? None except temporary insanity in marrying Hank
Learning Experiences: Take everything you hear with a grain of salt, reserve judgment, treat others like you want to be treated.
Character's short-term goals in life: graduate from business school, see justice done by her ex, survival.
Character's long-term goals in life: How does Character see himself/herself? Cassie sees herself in a dead-end job, too little education to go higher in any career, thinks with a degree she can get a better paying job and helping others.
How is Character perceived by others? She’s wonderful, helpful, dependable
How self-confident is the character? Struggles with confidence issues
Does the character seem ruled by emotion or logic or some combination? Ruled by emotions tempered with logic.
What would most embarass this character? Public scrutiny.
Emotional Characteristics Strengths/Weaknesses: Very introverted, shy, can’t take a compliment. Has conviction that she can graduate from college. She’s a peace maker and avoids conflicts.
How does the character deal with anger?  She mostly outwardly stuffs it and lets it brew inside.
With sadness? She cries then gets angry with herself for crying because it’s a waste of time.
With conflict? Heads it off at the beginning most times, but mostly tries to avoid conflicts at any cost.  She’s a coaster.
With change? With loss? Heart sick with loss. Avoids change with fear
What does the character want out of life? A better life for her son. Graduate from college. Really wants to be a vet, but settles for working with people.
What would the character like to change in his/her life? Of course wouldn’t everyone?
What motivates this character? Her son and hurt animals.
What frightens this character? Death and leaving her son to be raised by his father.  She hates fire.  She hates guns, but buys one as a last resort.
What makes this character happy? She takes pride in her son’s accomplishments, is embarrassed by her own, cooking a new recipe and it coming out perfect,
Is the character judgmental of others? No. The only exception is her ex husband and that’s more making him do right by his son.
Is the character generous or stingy? Too generous
Is the character generally polite or rude? Very polite to all
Spiritual Characteristics?  Christian believer.  Has firm faith and foundation. Prays, attends church, studies her bible, active participant in church functions.
Favorite book genre- historical romance, action, murder mysteries.
Favorite author- Barbara Taylor Bradford & Anya Seton
Favorite music/artist- Contemporary Christian- Third Day & Jars of Clay
Character’s Position in story- Protagonist
          Scene where character first appears: 1st chapter POV

Relationships with other characters:
1. Hank Gardener: -- Her ex husband, married in lust and then found his true nature and left while newly pregnant with their son. Actually, she wants nothing to do with him.  She just wants him to abide by the court ordered child support of $50 a week.  This is a necessity in her life to pay bills.  Deadbeat dad. He is murdered.
2. Tommy Gardner: -- son.  Cherishes him, but does not spoil him. Reprimands with firm hand and earns respect from him. Loving and protecting from his dead-beat dad.  Is 5’4” tall until confronted with something which hurts her son and then can be 10’ tall and in your face.
3. Les Brubacker: -- Detective with Johnson County sheriff’s office investigating the murder of Hank Gardner.  She is attracted to him, but she is also the suspect of her ex husband’s murder.
4. Wills Conners: -- Cassie’s attorney.  He’s made a mint in all the contempt charges Cassie has brought against her husband in the past ten years.  Relationship is friendly and good. He constantly asks her for dates.
 So who would be interested in a character like this and why? I always start with this because it's my target market of readers. From this it helps me make a decision where to start. I got a degree in marketing and I still use it so sue me. No, not really please.

  • It's a southern fiction because of where it happens and the dialect.
  • Women-because I write women's fiction. God, I hate that term.
  • Ex-wives of dead beat dads.
  • Someone looking for romance but not overly romantic sort.
Since this is a suspense the action or investing qualities have to begin right up front. I can just about start anywhere.
  • I can start with Cassie going to court against her dead beat dad ex husband for nonsupport. I'd make the readers  aware that this isn't the first time. How many ex-wives of dead beat dads couldn't relate to that?
  • I could start with the murder of the ex-husband. That would definitely be exciting with her protesting her innocence. Who couldn't relate to that? Wouldn't anyone really want a dead beat dad, worthless human being out of the way?
  • I could start it in a jail cell after she's been arrested. With misery, despair, and worry about her son. What mother couldn't relate to that? It pulls at the heartstrings.
I chose to start the story with the first one. To show what she's had to endure up to this point. With the actual murder occurring in chapter two. The reader is then drawn into a conflict that many ex-wives face. They feel sympathy for her having to go through this charade of a court system against a dead beat dad with money and power behind him. They root for her to get revenge against this tyrant and hope there won't be a backlash, but I wouldn't have a story if there wasn't some kind of backlash, now would I?

Sometimes a writer will write a dozen chapters or more only to find the beginning is not right. I've done that and still sometime do that. I prefer the scientific or methodical approach when writing fiction... rough expandable outline, and character sketches. The story will follow.

Any beginning you choose remember...
  • Make the reader feel the same punch in the gut, elation, or whatever the character feels. Use all the senses.
  • Define the problem.
  • What's at stake or consequences of the action.
  •  Make a reader relate on some level of their subconscious mind.
Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesday Tumbling Terms ~ Edit

The word for today as it pertains to writers is edit.
verb (used with object)
1. to supervise or direct the preparation of (a newspaper, magazine, book, etc.); serve as editor of; direct the editorial policies of.
2. to collect, prepare, and arrange (materials) for publication.
3. to revise or correct, as a manuscript.
4. to expunge; eliminate (often followed by out  ): The author has edited out all references to his own family.
5. to add (usually followed by in  ).

Of course the definition above except for #1 all pertain to writing.  But #1 deals with what an outside editor other than the author.

Many writers will read through their work on average of twenty times before saying it is ready for someone else's eyes. Actually when you think about it when was the last time you read a whole book that many times not including your own. You haven't? Neither have I. Usually a dozen times over decades works for me, even if it is my favorite thing in the whole wide world.

Isn't it strange as writers we read the same thing over and over again. Revising, rewriting, editing multiple times and still can't get it right in our mind? We will cross out entire sections and chapters with big Xs. We will ball it up into little wads of paper and throw it in trashcan after slaving for hours, weeks, and months because mentally it isn't right.

Who are we to judge? The author that's who. As a child, every Easter we got a brand new dress, shoes, little lacy socks, a white purses, gloves, and a hat to wear to church. Our mothers wanted us to shine in front of the others in the congregation. Isn't that what we do with our manuscripts? We want to show off our babies to the world looking their best? Of course we do.

We moaned and groan during the process of editing, making sure every word is exactly what we mean. Every sentence is formed correctly with the right punctuation. Every Paragraph and dialog segment is perfect. Every page (roughly 250 words) ends with a reason for the reader to turn the page to read more. This is exactly what every how-to writing book says to do it and they can't all be wrong can they?

Yes and no. If you follow one of those writing books to the letter, you may still never be published. You are giving that author authority over you and how you write. It kills creative thinking. By all means use the information as a guideline, but do your own thing. That's the fresh or new voice which every agent and publisher is looking for.

Does that mean you should submit something unedited? NO! Don't even try it. You won't be laughed out of the office but your manuscript will be thrown in the nearest waste can.

But you don't have to do it alone either. Your job while writing is writing. Get it down on paper or your computer. I'll correct spelling errors as I go. As for editing, I'll fill in bits and change bits after I finish the chapter. If something needs to change I'll wait until after I get the first ten chapters written for a major overhaul. That way I'll only read through a section (10 chapters ) twice. By the second read through, I know where my story is going next so I don't get stumped after editing. I'll continue on with the next ten chapters and only read those chapters twice and continue this until the book is finished.

I'll print it out and stick it a drawer for at least a week. After that time and I've have a chance to forget a bit. I'll pull out the pages. Read them aloud to an audience...usually my husband or children. Whenever I reach a stumbling point, out comes the red pen and I'll make a mark, but continue reading. If my audience has a puzzled look on their face and a question in their eyes, I'll make another mark and so on until I reach a stopping point usually the end of a chapter. We'll have a open discussion for fifteen minutes while I continue to scribble notes. Then, its on to the next chapter repeated until the end.

I'll go back through my notes and edit again. After that it's off to the critique group for further analysis. The extra pairs of eyes. The corrections are made once the book has been completely reviewed.

Then finally, it will go out to my beta readers for yet another extra set of eyes. This one is for overall content and impressions.

If it ain't perfect, its pretty darn close. I'll do yet another total read through. For the last time. By this time months have passed since I wrote the first "The End," so I can read it with fresh eyes. I kiss my baby goodbye and it is off to the publishers.

With a sigh of relief, I start writing the next one.

Any questions on the Madness Method of Editing?

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Mailbox~ A Survivalist with Disabilities

I had a couple of interesting emails this week. They both concerned my book Are You a Survivalist or a Prepper? The gist of the emails were this...How am I a survivalist/prepper if I'm disabled too? This book just got its first 5-star review on Amazon! I'm excited.

Interesting question, but I am still both just slower at it now. I guess the easiest answer is that I started the ball rolling before my stroke. I had all the building blocks in place. If I hadn't I would have to hire a handyman or specialists to do the conversions for me.

But now for the longer answer. Being proactive for any eventuality is a lifestyle. I learned and practiced this lifestyle since I became responsible for my children. The world of responsibility changes once you have another mouth or five to feed, clothe, or be responsible for instead of just your own. You start thinking in terms of future instead of the pleasures of the moment. You are the custodians of the future.

Growing up with parents and grandparent, who survived war shortages and the Great Depression doesn't hurt either. Like all elder relatives they have an impact on your life and how you grow up. By the time I was born most of that strife was history, but not forgotten history. It missed me by that <holding thumb an index finger a half inch apart> much. I was too young to remember the hardships.

I never forgot the stories. I knew history had a way of repeating itself in various forms. The World Wars were dubbed the war that would end all wars was not true. Did wars end, no, but we don't feel the impact as a society as we once did.Years spent hiding under a desk in mock atomic blast drills are still in my memory. Not that a desk would stop annihilation from a nuclear bomb, but it might protect us from some falling debris. Money would never be as tight as the Great Depression, or will it? Where are we now? Very close.

So when I became the parent, I wanted my children to know a life of ease, but not forget the past. While I passed on the stories from their grands and great-grand, I began implementing my own strategy of what I would do if it happened again. My Momma always told me never to forget there would be an again. I started researching ways to put food up for long storage, making friends with people who knew these things, and studied hard because now the future was in my hands. I've devote my whole adult life to this concept of again.

Not that the errors of the past have repeated themselves in my life, but maybe in my adult children or grandchildren's lives. They will be armed for that eventuality. My stores are not for some future calamity, but comfort for daily living the smart way. But if there were ever a crisis on a global scale, we would survived.

Now that I've covered the background information into my current mindset let's get on to my present condition. My stores that I have been collecting and rotating for years has come in pretty handy in the past nine months to the day of my stroke.  Imagine you have a grocery store, albeit small, in your home. How often do you need to go shopping? How much do you really have to cook from scratch or chop vegetables? Especially, if you have them pre-chopped and frozen or dehydrated already? My stores are my life line. It saves me money and it's practical. Yes, my stores will eventually run low and I'll have to replace them.

That's why I still coupon and weekly grocery shop. Granted I'm not hitting ten stores to get the best price even free anymore, but still I'm replenishing what we are using. My garden died last year, but I had enough in stores to handle that. In my book, I talked about putting up my stores with twenty mouths to feed for six months to a year, how much do you think two mouths would have depleted the supplies? That's right, not much. My storeroom still looks like this and that's with my children pulling for their families too. By the way, this is two shelves out of ten.

But Jo, you are a hemiplegic. No, I can't shop by myself anymore, but my children are beside me learning as I go. Then they are  leading by example for their children by practicing the same preparedness behavior.  I don't object to spending good money for something I need or want, but I'll squeeze a penny until it screams for mercy. If I need a new computer, I'll buy a new computer as good or better than I want for a great price. I have valuable knowledge to impart on the future generations.

After my stroke I bought one of those slice-o-matic things that you see on TV. I couldn't justify the price before when I had a knife and skills to use it. But now, it's about convenience. I can pop vegetables in it and slice away to my heart's content for my dehydrator.  Perfect uniformed slices every time and with one hand. So I can continue taking advantage of BOGO (buy one get one free) sales.

While I finally had to fork out the cash for a new stove, my solar oven and twig stove are dismantled for future use. Yes, it is an added drain on electricity from my solar panels but that's why I didn't totally go off of my regular electricity server. I'd planned for total off-the-grid living for our property. It may be a few years for that move. At least until I can get one of my children's family to move out there with us. That doesn't stop my son-in-law from building the trailer homes for the property though.

My stroke was a bump in the road. Eventually, I'll figure out a way to do all the things before or regain the use of limbs that don't work like gardening on a large scale instead of in raised pots. Until then, I'll keep plugging away at my new book, have the knowledge I do, and do what I can.

Are you prepared?

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Me and My Cane/ My Shadow

I was going through old records today looking for a particular record (yes the old vinyl kind) to play while I was writing. I ran across an old 45 that I've had since childhood. Now I've had this song stuck in my head. Arghhh! Don't you just hate when that happens! Now you can get it stuck in your because I found it on youtube. <Wicked Evil Grin> That leads me into my blog for today about canes. See, music is good for something.

I started singing it to my cane. Might as well I thought, since it is stuck in head anyhow. My cane is, for right now, an extension of me similar to my shadow. I don't go anywhere without it just like my shadow. In other words, I was making applesauce or lemonade.

Transitioning from wheelchair to a hemi walker was a big step towards independence for many and mobility for stroke survivors, and I was no different. I remember when, after I got out of the hospital, asking my PT if she thought I could transition to a cane instead of the walker. Wheelchairs and walkers are just bulky. They are hard to get in and out of cars and hard to do anything other than be mobile with them. A stroke survivor is hard pressed to get a wheelchair in and out of the car without help, and there goes the independence. Being dependent after so many years of independence is a tough pill to swallow.

Then came the hard decision. After she said yes, the decision was mine of whether to get a quad cane or single cane.Yes, my balance was improved but was it improved enough for a single cane? The doubts came into play with my head. The quad cane offered more stability. The single cane offers a compact size and more use time. Now, humming the theme from Jeopardy, what is it with me and music today! At least Peter Pan is out of my head. Decisions, decisions. The only way to know for sure was to try.

I went to my local CVS. They know me there and don't bother me much as I block one of their aisles trying each cane out. Since it is one of their long aisles, there was ample space to try it out. In the end, money ruled. I would get more use out of the single cane for longer. I knew from past experience with walking canes which one supported me best.

Then my husband and daughter got involved. Ya gotta love families, don't you? I wanted to buy a roll of duct tape to cover their mouths.

Husband: You aren't going to have a basket to carry your wallet in. Maybe you need one of these nifty cane purses. What color do you want? Black, blue, green or white? Here's a print one, how about it?

Daughter: You don't want one of those plain canes. Look at all these pretty ones. How about this hot pink flowered one? You can pretend you're in Hawaii. Don't you want more than one to color coordinate with your wardrobe?
At this last question, my husband and I looked at her as if she was nuts.

All I wanted was a cane to walk with! Geez! Before when I went to purchase a cane, you had a choice of black and silver colored canes or wood, and different styles. And I thought I only had to make a decision between a quad or single cane. I bought the blue print cane and black purse just to shut both of them up.

I guess I should have been thankful to be just shopping for a cane I could use, but I was tired. Before shopping, I'd had a triple therapy session between PT, OT, and speech. My first true test if I'd made a mistake in cane choice was trying it out on an uneven surface like my front yard.

I got out of the car when we got home and immediately grabbed the cane that I just bought. A chorus of, "Are you sure?" followed my decision. The driveway was no problem and then I hit the grass. I wobbled but caught my balance and oh so slowly made my way to the front door. I'd already fallen severely once and didn't want a repeat performance. The next challenge was getting up two small steps with the cane. I did it much to chagrin of my husband and daughter who hovered with arms outstretched to catch me if I fell. As if I wasn't having doubts about my choice already.

By my next therapy session, I was sure. I told my therapist with unhidden pride, "Look. I've transitioned!"

It took me a short amount of time to get my cane to react as a part of me. Although I walk around my house without it now, it is still part of my life and will be for the foreseeable future. Eventually, I'll reach a point like last time when I feel stable enough to walk without it no matter what terrain is underfoot, but for's me and my shadow. My shadow and me...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday Saunter~ Helping Friends

Two items today.

 3, 2, 1, Launch...

First, Alex J. Cavanaugh did a cover reveal of his new book. WTG Alex, oh ninja master, mine. I'm standing in line for this one. It sounds so good! Coming in September.

CassaStorm by Alex J. Cavanaugh

A storm gathers across the galaxy…

Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, his only struggles are occasional rogue pirate raids and endless government bureaucracies. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, shaking Bassan to the core and threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could be on its way back. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

Release date: September 17, 2013
Science Fiction - Space Opera/Adventure
Print ISBN 9781939844002
E-book ISBN 9781939844019

The second bit of news is from Nick Wilford. As you may remember, I participated in his blog hop a month ago. He is trying to raise funds for his son to go to a specialty school in Scotland. Andrew, his son, has complex medical needs and it was the only college that Nick could find that would accommodate his special needs. While most colleges in the U.S. meet or exceed the disabled via 504 and ADA, Andrew's needs are profound.

Nick has been blogging and blog hopping since 2011. He chose my "Diaper, Pads, and Back Again" for his anthology and I am honored to be included. Out of over a hundred of bloggers that participated in the blog hop, he chose seventy to include.

The book will launch on March 4th. More details when they become available. Oh, almost forgot the title, Overcoming Adversity - An Anthology for Andrew. Here's to success on the anthology and Andrew going to Scotland!

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Fun~Television

Well as you know Last Resort has been canceled. At least that's my understanding. The last show was a bang up, utterly fantastic episode. It tied up most of the loose ends which many shows do not. I can't count how many shows have ended and left questions unanswered.

If you haven't seen it, it's worth your time. Action packed, and a happy but bittersweet end for some of the characters I'd become invested in.

If you happen to notice, I do not do spoilers. I'd rather leave you hanging.

I'm happy that Walking Dead is back. I missed it terribly while the show was on a mini break. The action is still high paced with added twists and turns along the way. Even if you are not a zombie fan, this show has a great story line.

I was a bit disheartened by the deaths of some of the main characters in the beginning of the season like T-Dog. But the new characters are adding some interesting additions to the show. If you are a graphic comic book fan, which I'm not, the comics have been around since 2003. While the story line of the show does not follow the comics exactly, there is enough correlation between the two to keep the fans happy.

Arrow is heating up again after a slump. Oliver has finally got his head screwed on straight, if it ever was, and fulfilling his promise to his father.

So what do you think...does Laurel get back together with Oliver?
This another show based on a comic book series and makes me wonder what I've been missing all these years.

Scandal keeps getting better and better. Lord knows, there is enough dirt in Washington to keep this show going indefinitely! Who has to make anything up?

Kerry Washington's character is the epitome of a Washingtonian hard ball player. With the president asking Mellie for a divorce, will she give up being a power player? I doubt it. I'm not a racist, but an interracial couple heading the most powerful nation in world? Stranger things have been known to happen.

A new show I started watching for S&Gs (stuff & giggles) is 1600 Penn. It's a hilarious take on the goings on in the big white house in the capital. It's a far different Presidential role from Independence Day for Bill Pullman. It follows the similar lines of That's My Bush and The First Family. This show makes Jimmy Carter's beer guzzling, out spoken, idiotic brother look like a MENSA genius compared to the dysfunctional family portrayed in the show.

It's all clean fun. I haven't had so many laughs except for watching America's Funniest Home Videos.

That's my Fun Friday for this week. Remember not balancing work and play makes you exhausted!

What have you done fun lately?

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I'm Off

This week I have been juggling the IndieRecon conference online, my therapy schedule, and doctors appointments. Added to the mix- today, my DH (darling hubby) has a surgical procedure.

His pain has been increasing. He might be my caregiver, but I'm his. He's going in to have some more nerves sliced and torched to make his morphine work better. It will also weaken some of his motor functions more.

So wish us luck and we're off to the surgical center.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesaday Writerly Ways ~Negative Comments

How do negative comments or reviews affect you? I've had my share of raves and stinkers.

If any of the words in the picture describe the way you feel...STOP IT RIGHT NOW!

Here's how...

  • Consider the source. Maybe they are having a bad week, month, year, or life. Just like there are basically upbeat people in this world; there are those who have a destructive negative view in all things. A perpetual glass half full type person. Take a gander at other opinions/reviews they've left.
  • It is just one opinion. Everyone has an opinion on something they've read or seen. It is up to you to decide whether it is fact or bull hockey pucks. My mother used to say opinions are like butt holes. Everyone has one. Is one opinion or comment because it is voiced more important than a hundred favorable opinions/comments because it isn't voiced? Nope.
  • Giving a negative opinion more power than it deserves. I feel we are all guilty of this in some respect. We want everyone to love our writing unconditionally. The fact is only one person was capable of that kind of love and now He is in heaven.  We'll stew about the negative until it becomes unhealthy.
  • Whomever screams the loudest is right. Wrong. I'm not getting political here, but this is a prime example. Have you ever seen an abortion picket line? On one side you have the pro-lifers and on the other you have the pro-choicers. Both have an belief and feel justified. Neither is right or wrong in their choice of beliefs. It is their choice trying to impose their beliefs on others. To impose one's beliefs on anyone is wrong. 
 The fact is you cannot buffer yourself against the negative reactions/ comments/ reviews. You can only hope for positive  comments/ reviews on your work. The only way you avoid all negatives is live under a rock and not publish your book. That just isn't an option for me, is it for you?

As a writer, the only thing can do is write the best book you can, try to consider the things above, and move on. Once you publish, your work is out there good or bad. You become a public entity for all to judge the excellent, the good, the bad, and the ugly. My advice... grow a thicker skin beforehand.

So how will you handle negative comments/reviews from now on?

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tuesday Tumbling Term~ Opposites - Yin Yang

Tuesday term for the indie writer is Yin Yang.

yin yang
(in Chinese philosophy and religion) two principles, one negative, dark, and feminine (yin)  and one positive, bright, and masculine (yang)  whose interaction influences the destinies of creatures and things.

I often talk about balance as a writer. You can't really appreciate good reviews unless you've had some bad. You can't work all the time without some play thrown in. They are not mutually exclusive or inclusive. While form a perfect circle you balance it all in the whole picture.

I've often hears it said that Dan Brown, author of The DaVinci Code, was a bad writer. In some ways he is. His characters never slow down or get tired. He refuses to let them. They'll run hither and yon for an entire three hundred pages.   Humanly impossible comes to mind.

I much prefer his earlier novels to his latter ones. And yes, I've read them all. The grammar is side-swept in the latter two than in his three previous novels in the publisher's rush to print. To my way of thinking, the editors just didn't do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

If you have a balance between good and bad reviews of say 25:5, I'd call that a success. You could learn something valuable from those negatives. Every reader will have a different take on your story. Not everyone will love it or hate it.  Realizing that the ones that hate it are just more vocal helps too. There has to be a balance between the black and the white.

As indie author we juggle a lot. Some balance issues as an indie author:
  • Writing versus promotion- If you spend all your time promoting and not writing your next book, or vice versa, you are putting all your eggs in one basket. The success due to any successful author is volume to be easier to find. If you have one book in a ocean of thousands of other books its like finding a drop of water in the ocean. But if you spend all your time in writing and not getting out there to promote, who will care? You're just an unknown author who writes a bunch of books. There are tons of these type authors in traditional publishing, but times are changing.
  • Work versus play- Without balance in this area, you will find yourself exhausted and unable to write. Too much play and you lack the will to write.
  • Volume versus quality- So you write a bunch of books but the quality is lacking (weak plot, 2D characters, and poor grammar and spelling). They might sell a few copies. Readers who buy indie authors come in two main categories: 1) the cheap thrill reader, and 2) the perfectionist. The cheap thriller reader doesn't care about the poor quality of what is written the proverbial dime store novelist. They will read anything so long as it's free or almost free. The perfectionist holds the all authors to a higher standard. These are honestly the readers you want. They will buy your book no matter what the cost and heaven help you if you tick them off.
  • Time versus no time- we all have excuses for not writing, but ultimately it's a choice we choose to make. Somethings we take as life and death issues are really not and some are. My husband stops breathing or is in pain that's life or death and MUST be dealt with. The pain due to my fibromyalgia and stroke need to be worked through and may momentarily stop my writing process, but it won't stop my writing. You may have spent five years writing your first book. Congrats, you did it! But the down side is readers have come to expect, thanks to traditional publishing, your next book in eighteen months or two years. That's a maximum of eighteen months to write the next one and edit it.
So do you have a Yin Yang in place? Do you know your balance?
Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Mailbox ~ Games People Can Play After a Stroke

All I can say is wow. My mailbox was on fire after I posted about the games I played and why. By a large margin one of the highest email responses for a single post with 78 emails in one week. This is a long answer so be warned.

That has to be a record of some kind. The general gist of most of the emails follow two basic trains of thoughts: 1) I never thought of that! and 2) How clever or smart. How do I find out more?

Thank you, thank you. Since I pay for membership every year for Pogo, why not use what I have at my disposal? Made sense to me. They do have free games on Pogo, but I've been a member for five years and don't know which games are free.

Lord knows, the what the average stroke recovery patient pays for in braces, splints, assorted orthotics and other adaptive equipment are big bucks. All of it is not covered by insurance. Not to mention the cost of physical, speech, and occupational therapies.

I'm all about squeezing pennies into a dime. I'm still in some financial bind without me bring home the extra bacon we need to live comfortably. I'm not working and still unknown when I'll be able to return to work. Social Security Disability is in the hands of the lawyers, but God knows when that will kick in...if ever.

I often say that of all the things I lost with the stroke, I miss my mind the most and it's true. I can learn to type one-handed (obviously), to use a calculator for math instead of doing it all in my head, cook one-handed, and a lot of other things eventually as the need arises. But what do you do when your brain cells cannot remember to spell or which punctuation is used when, or you cannot plan a day without backtracking all over the place, or sequence numbers in order or recognize them? I play games. I used to do it for the challenge and fun, but now I do it to relearn and challenge myself.

My family has always been into games. They teach children counting, addition, subtraction, and logic. So why wouldn't it work to help rebuild my mind? It does.

I first started with Tri Peaks Pyramid because it was forwards and backwards sequencing. Almost everyone knows playing cards, right? I played nothing else but this game for two months until I could play it without having to think of the order or have a cheat sheet of the order in front of me. My husband wrote it out on a 3x5 card. Is it really cheating, if you honestly cannot remember? Nope this isn't a test. It's relearning something you already knew.

My life revolves around words as a public speaker, as an author, as an editor, as a minister, and as a wife of a hearing impaired husband...spoken and written So I added QWERTY, a word game like Scrabble, to my list of games. My spelling ability increased over time. To reinforce my spelling and grammar I started to do what I always did, I blogged and started a book. As time, now nine months worth, passed I increased this blog from once a week to five to seven times a week and my other one to twice a month. It helped my writing go more smoothly. Does this mean I don't misspell words or use anything but simple grammar? No, I still have brain fart moments but it is getting better. You will have to figure out what works best for you.

I added other games as I noticed other areas which needed work. Now I've moved on to Bingo. More precisely Bingo Luau. The number recognition is now up to seventy-five numbers. I still get confused by my "dyslexic ADD" with multiple combinations such as 57 & 75 and the like. There is a handy chart up at the top for any number I might have missed plus they light up if they've been called when you put your cursor on them. I'm not playing to call Bingo, but I wouldn't mind if I did. Humans are such a competitive race. My main focus is to find the right numbers. As I said in my previous post, I have worked my way up to a medium speed caller and three cards.

That's basically how it works. Now for matching skills, it's Mahjong, I gave up trying to play Mahjong with regular tiles because my brain spent too much time trying to translate the tile faces. My brain would tell me, "Come on. You know this!"

It became very frustrating, but Pogo had a solution, Mahjong Safari. It uses animals instead of Chinese characters.

Yes, I'm writing a new book and eventually it will be finished, but it isn't bringing in income. The argument-But you have other books, I hear you asking. Yes, and since my stroke I haven't been marketing them as hard as I used to. I'm not doing public appearances or spending the time I should be to promote them. The royalties per quarter are less  than my house payment for a month. NO, I'm not on the pity pot again. My finances are my finances. They will work out over time.

Getting back to games. I realized my cognitive difficulties after I tried to resume my life after my stroke. I've always believed that nothing is impossible with hard work. I'm also too stubborn for my own good. Why should I spend dwindling funds on speech therapy when I could do most of it myself.

My aphasia was not as bad as some others. It was holey like Swiss cheese, but recovery from a stroke was creating new pathways past the damaged parts. I speak aloud and I am helped and corrected. Patience is always in the forefront with others I am talking to. I am not shushed or talked for. I'm luckier than most. I can see that now after time has gone by. The cognitive issues are slowly resolving, but faster than my physical ones.

One of the first issues I had was I was DOMINANTLY right handed. My left hand did not have much in the way of fine motor skills and was weaker than my right hand usually was. Now everything that needed doing had to be done left handed.

Eating and drinking was no problem because I've never had a problem stuffing my face. My weight problem proves it. Brushing my teeth and bathing, I'd rather use my right hand but my left works just fine. Writing was another story as was using the computer mouse and typing. These were new skills I had to learn.

Just like in business, it's location, location, location; after a stroke it's repeat, repeat, repeat to create new pathways for functioning. Just like for anything new you are learning its practice, practice, practice. Is my repeating things three times annoying you? I'll stop now.

I could have played solitaire with real cards but then I'd have to shuffle the deck. The computer was easier with a click of the mouse button. It also served to build the strength and dexterity in my left hand. Sometimes we forget just how weak our nondominant hand really is until we need it, but that's all changing now.

Most computers these days have a couple of solitaire games installed with Windows. Try these first. Nothing beats free or included with the price of the computer. For me, I'll keep trying to connect the pathways. Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Arghhh! Ghosts!

There is something seriously wrong with the scheduling button on Blogger!

There are ghosts in the program! In looking at the programming of the schedule and times of each post, I carefully set the date and time each blog appears, but it has an AI mind of its own.

It all started with a post appearing twelve hours later. Inconvenient, but okay. Last Monday, two mailboxes appeared instead of one. Now my Sunday Stroke Survival appeared yesterday instead of today.

Now admittedly, I went around all week last week thinking it was the day before. On Thursday I though it was Friday, Friday was Saturday etc. That's what happens when you take too many muscle relaxers and the sequencing area of my brain. But in the scheduler you are looking at a physical calendar.

Right now all of this has got me paranoid and going back and checking each and every blog I've prewritten...a month's worth daily.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survival~ Missing My Old Life

Well  this week I performed the wedding ceremony for the family friend that wouldn't take "no" for an answer. I had been taping my reading of the ceremony since December to try and work on my aphasia issues. Yes, I wrote a special ceremony just for them using words I knew I would have no trouble with.

Even though it wasn't a paid for service, I was excited to go back to at least some of my old life. It was the beginning and the end of a nine-month hope of returning to my old life.

The couple chose the courthouse garden in between the historic courthouse and the new one. For February, it was a beautiful day. Not too cold or not too warm. No no-see-ems (gnats) or pesky mosquitoes to mar the ceremony. The couple chose this spot because it had easy access for me with ramps and paved walkways. There was no way I could walk through sandy beaches or tree roots to trip me up. They chose mid-afternoon so I could get my rest in. They dressed up a folding chair for me if I needed it, I didn't. In other words, they tailored the wedding according to my abilities which was sweet.

Everyone gathered around the bride and groom as is my custom. With my voice being low, I wanted everyone to hear. It started off well until my aphasia kicked it. There were long pauses as I searched for the words and how to pronounce them. I had the written text in front of me. I always print my ceremonies with double spaced lines in between the sections, break to sentences down to be read in one breath especially those where the couple has to repeat what I say, and in a 16-point font. You'd think that I had all the bases covered. I did except for my mind.

I'm just glad I was surrounded by friends and family! At one point the bride reached out her hand and gave me a reassuring smile and a wink. Of course, the giggles took over then. All of it came with my stroke. The difficulties- talking, reading and inappropriate responses. The bride made it worse by saying in a minister-like tone, "Let us pause, while the minister gets back her composure."

The witnesses, family, friends, and bridal party then joined in with raucous laughter which set me off for longer. Needless to say, all weddings have their little glitches and it went downhill from there. By the end of what was supposed to be a twenty-minute ceremony, it was closer to thirty-five minutes, they were officially married.

I realized that I've missed out on so much since my stroke because of my stroke. While I have spoken with the ladies at the courthouse and the probate judge, this was the first time I'd seen them in nine months. A far cry from the sometimes two to sixteen times a week I was seeing them.

They expressed their missing me with hugs. They cried and I cried. We'd had so many good times since I branched out to include weddings in my services provided two  years ago. So many stories and family events passed across that counter. Saddened by my lack of multilingual skills aside, they are my friends. I was one of the few ministers in town they could call to translate Spanish, Russian, Korean, Japanese, German, French, Singhalese, Mandarin Chinese, and even Latin for them at a moment's notice, and all in one person. Even with this loss, they can still count on me for laughs. In a job that's almost thankless. I am their fabulous go-to-girl for a smile.

Yes, I miss my old life and working. But, I realized with this part of my old life...I'm just not ready yet. I wish I were but my body is telling me otherwise. I remember my new year's resolution of sorts...I'm focusing this year on recovering what I lost. At least I had a glimpse of my old life. I know how impossible that is for most stroke survivors. All I can do is what's possible right now and keep pushing up against the boundaries of my life. But I'm not yet giving up on my old life.

You might have noticed that my progress on my book, Don't Get Your Panties in a Wad, has plateaued of sorts. That because since my dream, I've been trying to edit out the passive sentences, eliminate useless words, and edit including filling in those wicked little (xxx) as well as making some more while I write text. It's a challenge on good days. I won't go into the bad days. Everything is back and forth with stroke recovery. In fact I can't count on doing today what I was able to do yesterday or maybe be able to do more. There are no definites with recovery from a stroke.

Each day I'm reminded of how far I've come in my recovery. Just the fact that I can remember and type is a blessing.  Remind yourself everyday. As I used to tell my drug and alcohol counseling clients...everyday at least once a day and on bad days several times. Good advice if I do say so myself. I just have to keep reminding myself to practice what I preached.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.