Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Mailbox ~Give Me aBreak

I've been borrowing from Peter to pay Paul to keep this blog going through some pretty tough times of late. My energy level is low even with three hours of naps during the day and eight hours of sleep a night, and everything else is suffering because it. In short, I'm taking a break from blogging except for the Sunday Stroke series I started.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Stroke Suvivor ~ Grief- Denial

As promised this is the first of my grief counseling for stroke survivors. Not all the stages occur in order within your life and you may experience several at the same time. The order is just a guideline.

Today is about denial, bargaining and guilt. Now don't say you are not going through this because you are. You are just in denial. <G>

At first denial is easy. I spent my first 24-hours in denial. I still go to sleep each night, after a year, hoping to wake up in the morning and finding this has been a bad dream similar to "Dallas." If you are not familiar with this old television show, a whole season was choked up up a bad dream sequence. Well, I can hope can't I. But the next morning I awake and find it wasn't a bad dream. I had a stroke. I'm am recovering daily from a stroke and all the new and old challenges from the day before lay in front of me. I could deny it all day long if I could lie in bed not moving, thinking, or speaking not that it happens that way. I can only play Ostrich with my head buried in the sand so long before I have to roll over to shift positions or have to pee.

Eventually nature will call and I'll have to put my AFO and shoes on to toddle off to the toilet. It only works for the short term, but may be intermittent and come and go. Something will always smack you in the face with the reality of the situation.

 "No, I can do it myself!" This statement is a form of denial. In reality, I can't do it myself, but I've got to prove it to me. A painful thing for caregivers to watch. It's a doubled edged sword which often has me in tears of frustration when I finally get it through my thick skull that I can't do it myself.This has worked for me and against me.

"I'm not listening! LaLaLa!" and "Talk to the hand." When we refuse to listen to others we only hurt ourselves. Sure they might not have the answers either, but if all else fails, they are a sounding board. Granted if you are in depression nobody can stand listening to grunt and groan on the pity pot, but more on that later. Just know that denial is a short protective mechanism of the mind. Realize this. Accept this. Sometimes everyone needs small breaks from reality. Now if your denial lasts for a prolonged period, professional help is advised.

Bargaining- "Lord, please take this burden from me. I'll do this or that better from now on." Or something along these lines, is another natural stage of grief. If you will do this, I'll do that. "I'll stop smoking, lose weight, eat right, do what my doctor says, (insert your own bargaining chip here) from now on, but just make it better."

Honestly we may mean them when we say them, but life has a way of interjecting them back into our lives no matter how hard we try. It's an Indian Giver's promise at best.

After my stroke I promised to stop smoking and then I was discharged home to a house full of nicotine. I was almost violently ill just walking into it. All my clothes, bedding, curtains, carpets, furniture, painted surfaces etc are drenched with the stuff accumulated over the past fifteen years. So I puffed and coughed through a cigarette to just be able to live in my house. I haven't put them away yet.

I started losing weight in the hospital and continued after I got home. I was very incapable of doing much besides the basics of self care. Meals were the TV dinner types. The nuke and eat. Of course with all that processed food entering my body, the weight inched back up. Having a bad heart doesn't help when you can hold thirteen pounds of just extra fluids in your body at any given time. It was frustrating at best. I zigzagged on the scales not knowing if it was fluids or fat. I finally gave up. My allergies went haywire during this time and I couldn't do anything about it.

Starting this Spring brought about better changes. I started gardening again to reduce my allergens. But still my weight was at issue due to my heart. Try as I might and with three cholesterol medicine I couldn't lower my LDLs more than 50 points. I swore off red meats and eating animal based protiens twice a week substituting bean curd, vegetables, and ate rich HDL foods to no avail. It's heredity for me to have high bad cholesterol.

So all in all bargaining and begging doesn't work. No amount of bargaining will change the outcome.

That brings us to guilt. The what-ifs. Now I'm big on what-ifs as a writer. Some of my best stories start off this way.Of course, we are our own worse critics. Nobody can be as hard on themselves as I can be. That's part of my stubborn nature. But all of us have a stubborn streak. It's part of being human, but I got a triple helping when God was handing out this one. I'm worse than a Jewish and Catholic mother combined when it comes to guilt trips and I do it to myself.

If I had done this or that, this would not have happened to me. The fact is, it probably would have. Guilt leads to depression. Guilt leads to low self worth. Guilt leads to you not fighting to get better. Guilt is the root of all evil thoughts and actions.

I had a physical therapist (not my regular one) ask me this week if I did everything in my power to prevent this stroke. I looked at her in shock. Now I had worked through my guilt ridden stage before now so needless to say I didn't need an additional thing to feel guilty about. She said I smoked so I didn't do everything in my power to prevent a stroke. Did the woman fall off the sensitivity truck? But like I always do, I pondered her words.

I thought back to my cousin Ricky who recently died from a stroke. He lived a healthy life style. The number of babies who have strokes yearly. They are innocents. Others who have no bad health habits who suffer strokes each year. No, I'm not helping my body by smoking. Yes, it is a big no-no for people susceptible to stroke or had a stroke.  I accept that risk factor. We all make choices. Accept the choices you make and move on.

I'm fond of saying, "Don't borrow trouble." Until the doctor pronounces the big "C" word, don't worry the whole time while waiting for the results for it to be cancer and how you will react. I got news for you. It won't change the outcome. Guilt is an indicator that you've done something wrong and deserve what is happening to you. Unless you've gotten behind the wheel intoxicated, hit and harmed someone else, it just ain't your fault! Yes, you could have done this or that differently but does it really change what you are going through now? No, not a lick. This is almost a part of bargaining.

It's time to move on. Accept what has happened as an unchangeable fact and go on from here. Because in the grand scheme of your life, this is a small segment. It's what you do from here on out that counts.

Next Sunday is about Anger.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Fun ~ Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

I our households we get together every two weeks as a family for a fun day. Four grown children, spouses and their children. This weekend is it. We've run into a situation where my grandchildren have started telling fibs. Not the older ones mind you. They've learned they will get caught, but the younger ones not so much. So it's time for "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire."

Years ago I came up with a game when my children were growing up. It was based on the Red light-Green light and Truth or Dare. I'm not the judge. The children are. It gives them a chance to tell whoppers and face the consequences. It also a lesson about lying. All my games and stories have a lesson in there somewhere. The consequences are basically harmless like getting shot with a water gun or sticking your hand into goo and finding a clothes pin of disgrace to wear the rest of the day. I cut the spots out of old carpet or you can use cardboard. They will get messy.

Each older child will serve as the gate keeper to begin with while an adult monitors the game for foul play. They start at the starting line and there are dots for forward progress.  There's about ten spots to the end. When I'm playing this with the older ones, it's twenty. Adults are omnipotent beings which can always tell when children are fibbing in a child's mind although it doesn't stop them from trying.

Playing the game:
  • Each child at the starting line and makes the choice to either tell a lie or a truth.
  • If they choose a lie, the gatekeeper has to judge whether it's a truth or a lie. This builds decision making skills in the older children.
  • If the child telling the lie/truth is judged wrong they put a regular clothes pin on the judge's shirt. Five pins on the judge's shirt gets him replaced. The teller of the truth/ lie step forward one spot.
  • If judged right or caught in a lie,the child has to pick a clothes pin out of the bucket of goo and wear it. Five cloths pins and they are out of the game but still need to wear the clothes pins while at Grandma's house.
  • This continues on until one child reaches the judge position at the front of the line and becomes the judge. As much as they think of this as a reward, judging right from wrong is hard.
  • If a water gun is used no head shots. Those can be painful.
While this is fun for all involved it is also learning.

Now the adults in the group play their own version of "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire" called poker. Usually Texas Hold 'em. We all start out with even amount of chips. They put a dollar per player and we put in twenty bucks is up for grabs, gas money. With my fuel perks I save that much and more each month with 20 gallons costing me $2.20 to $10 per fill up a month so I can afford it. The winner takes it all.

Whatever you do to have fun- be safe, involve others, and relax. You are among friends.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wednesday Writerly Way ~ Steps to Publishing- Thank You Joanna Bourne

I've read and written a lot of advice on how to publish your manuscript. The best advice was posted in our own Books and Writers Community last week to a newbie who first her MS. This advice came from Joanna Bourne. She is the author of Black Hawk, Spymaster's Lady, My Lord and Spymaster, and Forbidden Rose. Yes, she writes historical romance, but I won't hold that against her. She's a darn great author and held my hand numerous times in the past and present. The discussion was about whether to get an agent or not and to self publish or traditionally publish.

So many people ask me this so and I always basically answered the same. Don't believe me, take a look at some of my past posts on the subject. While she took the traditional route and still continues it, I ventured into self publishing. No matter whether you want to self publish or traditionally publish these steps are the same.

"Congratulations on finishing your work.

There are a few necessary steps to take from here.

I. Get Crits

What:  Turn some chapters of you manuscript over to harsh, knowledgeable critics.  Listen to what they say.
You need critics who haven't been with you every step of the way as you wrote.  Critics who are not your family or friends.
This is not putting out a saucer of milk for the tabby.  This is wrapping yourself in raw meat and stepping into the lions' cage.

How:  There's a Writers' Workshop here in the Forum.  Absolute Write here has a 'Share Your Work' section.  Writer's Forum here has a Writers' Workshop.
If you are writing genre, there are probably specialized sites for writers of your genre.

Why:  Intelligent criticism of your work will help you write better and will prepare you to edit your manuscript.

II.  Let the manuscript rest

What:  Put the work away for as long as you can.  Six weeks.  Three months.  Six months.
(You spend this time working on the next ms and critting other folks' manuscripts, which is an excellent way to improve your own writing skills.)

How:  Print it out and put it in a locked drawer in the bottom of your desk.  Put all the work in a folder named "Open in January.

Why:  This lets you look at your own work with a critical editorial eye.  It gives you distance.

III.  Learn how publishing works

What:  Spend a solid 40 hours studying the publishing industry.

How:  Start out by Googling everything you can find on the subject.  Then drop into places full of knowledgeable folks and ask questions.

Why:  If you were going to (a) take a job in Thailand for a year or (b) go to State Aggie to study animal husbandry or (c) work for Avis Rent-a-car, you'd do that much research about (a) the country, (b) the university or (c) the business.
Why would you go into writing with less preparation?
IV.  Learn about agents

What:  Start making a spread sheet of agents who work in your field.  See who they represent.  See who they sell to.  See what kind of deals they're making.  Find out what folks say about them.
If they have an on-line presence, get a feel for who they are.

How:  Google.  Look at the acks in the front of books similar to your own writing.  Publisher's Lunch and Publisher's Marketplace.

Why:  That's the list you will query, when you query, if you decide you want an agent.  And after all, you have some time while your manuscript is resting.

V.  Revise
What:  Take the manuscript out of hiding and read it over.

How: Read and correct as if someone else had written it.

Why:  Because, unless you have indeed done this, the manuscript is not as good as you can make it.

VI.  Find Beta Readers

What:  Beta readers take an entire manuscript that is ready for submission and crit it.  Beta readers, if possible, have never seen the manuscript before.

How:  Find them by doing beta reads for others.  Find them by making friends in writers forums.  Pay them in chocolate.

Why:  Because they will tell you if the whole thing works.  They'll point out illogical story lines.  They'll improve the manuscript.

VII.  Re-revise in light of the Beta read

'nuff said.

VIII.  Get an agent ... or not

Three months have passed since you declared your manuscript finished.

You will have read 10,000 words arguing Indie/Big Press/Small Press.
You'll have the best manuscript you can write in one hand and a significant bit of WIP in the other.
Now you make this decision."

I know y'all have read me discuss the value of the Compuserve's Books and Writers Forum before, but this is an example of the caliber of answers you get. This is very important when you want the straight skinny on a subject. This is why after twenty plus years I still frequent this site.Look for the link "Links for your enjoyment." Hope to see you there.

Thank JoB, I couldn't have said it better myself.

Keep writing and loving the Lord

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Mailbox ~ Comments from the Blitz

I know y'all are probably tired of hearing about the Blitz blog and my being blitzed, but while I joined to support DL Hammon, I really didn't expect the overwhelming feeling that goes along with being Blitzed. To finish this topic off I wanted to touch on a few comments made.
  • Awe- Quite a few commenter mentioned being in awe of me. I'm just me. You can't spend as many decades, well over half a century, as I have on this Earth and not learn a few things by the journey. I don't write my blog to instill awe in anyone. Just to encourage others.
  • Inspiration- A vast number of you commented about me being an inspiration. The quick and easy answer is- isn't that what a good pastor does, but it's deeper than that. I was this way before I became an ordained minister. Yes, I have a story which I've only scratched the surface of in the blog, but so do you. We all have stories to tell. Some are are more "Oh my goodness!" than others but we all have a story. My blog is just to let others know "You are not alone."
  • Speed Bumps- My speed bumps in life are always retrospectives. I guarantee you while facing those mountains there were many times I wanted to give up but couldn't. Just like you. Wouldn't it be easier to be the victim, yes, but is that any way to go through life?
  • Attitude- My attitude comes from living life on a roller coaster. Everyone has ups and downs. I just prefer to be proactive. I just refuse to have a life that I didn't order. Yeah, I'm stubborn, mule headed, and down right cantankerous at times. I prefer to be the pusher instead of the pushed. That way I'm always on top. I stand on the rock of Christ and though I may sway and almost lose my footing, I don't fall. It's a lifestyle decision. I could sit around everyday and cry but I'd rather conquer and laugh.
  • Prenotice of being Blitzed- No, I didn't have prenotice that I was being Blitzed but being proactive in all things armed me by a few comments overnight that I was the blitzee that day. So I thought I'd write about the Blitz since it wasn't a usual blog day.
Again, thank you for the comments and following. It happened after a really low couple of months here at the Murphey Saga household. I appreciate it all the more.

A couple things to note about the blog hops you choose. As you can see from my recent blitz of comments during Blitz Blog, promotion in writing is all about exposure to new readers and publicity as a writer this is of paramount importance. I hit 121 followers via Google Friends with my one time up at bat during this Blitz that equates to 40 new readers reading this blog from a minimal effort on my part. My name is read by all participants when I comment on their sites that can be linked back to me. An arrow does have two sharp sides.

Most blog hops are a flood over a short period of time. Haphazard at best for obtaining followers. This blog hop and the Indelibles Indie Life are the type of of in your face in bursts rather than beating you over the head without mercy. You can make an informed choice over time whether you want to follow the poster or not. On average it takes twenty exposures to make a decision for the majority of folks. Which would you prefer a slow burn that gives warmth continually on a cold night, or a flash fire,  intense warmth for a short time.  I choose the slow burn.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ The Stages of Grief

Wait a minute Jo! I'm not dead, but survived a stroke. I hear you, but a devastating, life altering event such as a stroke has a grief or loss process similar to a death of a loved one. Once again this is an Amy inspired blog. She just blogs so prolifically that's hard not to reference back to her.

I've actually mentioned the stages of grief in various blogs but I don't think I've ever broken it down like this before. I do know that I charged $100 for grief counseling sessions that lasted twelve weeks in my ministry profession. This is a gimme course that is free so take advantage of it.

So over the next five weeks I'm going to explain to you the stages as it pertains to your stroke recovery. I will give real world examples of what I've gone through, coping skills, and exercises for you to do to gain a level of acceptance in conquering each step. After all, knowledge is power and control. It is something we as stroke survivors rarely feel until we work through the process. Understanding is the key. Think you've mastered it all? You've been a survivor for multiple years and this doesn't pertain to you, think again. I've met dozen of survivors still grappling with these after ten or twenty years post stroke. Am I through it all? Yes and no. I'm still bouncing around the steps taking victories where I can.

If it seems like I'm donning my ministerial hat, I am in a way. I'll be paraphrasing this to my pastor's blog as well because it is a whole spirit concept. I've spent years in grief counseling both as a grief stricken person and as a counselor. So needless to say, I recognized it in my own stroke recovery as well.

The Stages

And if you want to carry it farther into seven steps, you can.

Both apply in a case like a stroke. I usually combine Shock and Denial, and Bargaining and Guilt, the Upturn, Reconstruction with Acceptance. So my version is five steps while taking the seven into consideration. Now with death this process takes roughly a year to complete or maybe a little longer. With stroke recovery it may takes years! You may bounce between levels or be on multiple levels at the same time and you may gain acceptance in certain areas faster than others.

Why should stroke survivors care about this? The ultimate of ultimates of recovery is to be...
  •  the best you can be given the circumstances
  • a more proactive survivor
  • aware that this is going on and it's normal. Isn't it nice to be considered normal. <g>
  • forewarned is forearmed
Knowledge is power. Foresight is awesome. Being prepared is everything. Tune in next week for the first installment...Shock and Denial.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday Saunter ~ Bet Y'all Were Curirous

Just in case y'all caught my post yesterday, I thought I'd show you the results of our Friday Fun.

Adventures in soap making...
No this isn't chocolate cake mix
Once the soap came to a thick trace, we scooped it into the muffin pans. If I had to do it over again, I'd go with a light trace for more time, but with five hands it went quick. We scooped out sixteen "cupcakes."

Wait a minute, Jo. Five hands? Jenn's two, my grandson Grant's two, and my one equals five hands. It was his time with grandma day after school. His brother was too busy with Angry Birds and only seven years old...too young for strong active lye in the soap making process. Although he thought the Playtex gloves and protective eye wear were kinda cool.

Next we piped on the white, vanilla whipped cream "frosting." Neat trick one handed but nothing a rubber band and a big chip clip couldn't handle. See I gave a lot of thought prior to starting on the mechanics. I actually practiced a couple of days before with real cupcakes much to my husband's enjoyment. He's still a kid at heart and loves to lick the frosting bowl and beaters. :)

Then Jenn, my fabulous in house pastry chef, put the final touches to prettify them. Now mind you, soap at this stage is almost 100 degrees and hardening fast unlike regular frosting that warms and thins with the heat of your hand. She also took a toothpick and made cracks in the cupcake like real cupcakes.
The end results...

Then the "cherries," Grant rolled the red colored soap into little balls. I do mean little. They are 1/4 inch balls. For the mini "cupcakes" the were the size of Red Hots. A bit og vegetable glycerine adds the shine. Jenn brain stormed with left over chocolate soap, we had to reheat it. The sprinkles are regular confectionery sprinkles. They'll melt in hot water.

I can picture them in cellophane bags with curling ribbon and a label. What would be on the label besides the required info? "Your skin needs to eat too. Nourish it. The soap contains Olive, Coca Butter, and Jojoba oils, milk, whipped cream, Vitamin E, and superfatted with Shea Butter. All the essential oils and nutrient rich  elements your skin needs to replenish it. Decadent as chocolate is for the soul. What's not to love?

Like I commented to Shannon, the Warrior Muse, yesterday, good enough to eat. The house is filled with a heavenly chocolate/vanilla scent even this morning. Now the hard part...waiting the four weeks for the soap to cure before we try them out.

What do you think?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Fun~ The Decadence of Bathing with Milk Chocolate

This week I've been contemplating reopening my herbal products company. Herbal Renaissance was the dream of my husband and myself a decade and a half ago before he became ill. He was in charge of sales and promotion while I was the product designer and creator. Having degrees in herbatology and aromatherapy helped. It was a family business with two daughters handling production and a son-in-law handling shipping. It was fun. I still have doctors and people calling me for items from our product line.

I've spent a lot of time on youtube, facebook, and the web this week researching the market and innovative ideas. The one thing I absolutely loved was making bath soaps and custom fragrance oils. Even though our business closed due to my husband's illness, I still make our own bath and beauty products here at home for personal use. These also included cleaning supplies like scrubbing powder (comet), laundry soap, and dish soap. Of course now, I need help lifting pots of hot processed soap and releasing soaps from the molds being only one handed.

I saw a video on making cupcake soap. Now almost everyone loves chocolate. Imagine bathing in it with emollient rich coca butter and milk soap. Sounds decadent doesn't it? My youngest being a pastry chef sure doesn't hurt either. We decided to give it a whirl today. I'll have to let you know how it turns out and maybe post a pic or two of my own.

I talked to her yesterday about it and her mind went into pie, lemon meringue, carrot cake and all sorts of yummies. Can't you just just see little pie tins filled with soap, smelling yummy enough to eat? I imagine her mind was still going with ideas for at least an hour after I hung up the phone. Whether or not we renergize our former company will take some more research. But until then, it's just fun especially now that I have a tub to bathe in again.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wednesday Writerly Way ~ Fear

Credit Wikipedia
  • Fear is the enemy. 
  • Fear produces nothing but insecurity. 
  • Fear can paralyze.
  • Fear is counterproductive. 
I know all of this. So why am I talking about fear once again today? Because I've been analyzing my inability to write. I keep saying, when things slow down at bit the muse will always has in the past. But the reality is that my life will never slow down. I move from this or that crisis continuously and always have, but still wrote.

With my previous agents both vying for me to sign with them again... With the talk of a bidding war for publishing right... With me only halfway finished with the rough draft. All of it is adding extra pressure on me. I should be totally excited and invigorated to finish, but I'm not.  So it makes me wonder if I'm not afraid. There are few things in this world that frighten me barring snakes, so why this? Why now? It's not like I haven't been here before. I have. Granted it's been twenty years since my last bidding war, but I have been here before.

I should take my own advice and just write the book? The more time that passes without writing the harder it is to get back into the swing of writing. Granted, I've had more than my share of Murphy's Law hitting me these past few months, but still. When I first started writing books, I had two kids under the age of five, a full time job, and was self-employed as a caterer, but still I wrote. Later, I was recovering from a hellish helicopter crash injuries, with four kids under the age of ten and still I wrote. Later still, I have a terminally ill husband, four grown children, eight grandchildren, two jobs, and still I wrote penning six books in two years. So why now?

Yes, I've had a stroke, but I typed 37K words in a matter of months one-handed. Too many irons in the pot with too many distractions? Possibly. I can't focus as well as I used to. Lack of drive stemming from constant fatigue? That's another factor too. I used to be the type of person that operated very well on three or four hours of sleep at night. While awake I burned the candle at both ends and in the middle. Now it's more fizzle time. Maybe I'm paying for forty years of doing that.

Shouldn't the prospect of continuing in the traditional publishing rat race, be a bright spot? Many authors would kill for such an opportunity, wouldn't you? Perhaps I'm over thinking the whole situation. I have after all have been an indie author with my own schedule for the past two years and liked the unpressured (almost) lifestyle. If I worked hard at promotion, I saw an instant rise in my pocket in royalties within a month or quarterly time period. If I didn't work hard, the sales still trickled in. With traditional publishing, it's six months, 3 months prior to release and 3 months after. Sporadically after that and I got paid bi-annually until it goes out of print.

Is it fear? Is it insecurity? Is it laziness? Is this the end? I'm just wondering.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Mailbox ~ You're a Published Author?

It's Monday and time to answer your questions. Today's email is decidedly not a good one, but a common question.

You say you're a published author, but I've never heard of you and can't find a reference of your previously published books. Why is that? VR

My response...

It depends on what you've read, what it pertains to and in the circles you follow. I haven't always wrote fiction. I started my publishing career in nonfiction. Do you have any interest in Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis? Arthritis in general? Physical therapy with children? Medical text? Dissertations? Medical Abstracts? Computer languages, now ancient and no longer used? Coding Manuals? Textbook collaborations?

No? Then no wonder you don't know me as an author because that's what I wrote and published. Nonfiction is very specifically geared to a set audience and not the general population. Added to this almost all of my previous work are now out of print. Most were before computers came into play with search engines. I also did not write them under this name which makes finding me nearly impossible. No, I'm not being coy about not using my other publishing name. I do not want my publisher name to be tied to my indie author blog.

Still I am a multi-published author. I do know the ropes of publishing, contracts, deadlines, royalties, and agents. As far as being an indie published author, I'm still learning as I go. There are some things that I know to be true, while others are a trial and error situation.

I hope this answers your question.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Writing After a Stroke

I think we are finally out of the woods for the time being. Until the next time. My husband's congestive heart failure and pneumonia are now a thing of the past and I'm not in constant vigilance mode. This morning he took his oxygen off and walked to the bathroom without getting deathly pale or severely out of breath. He even took the trash outside and came in only mildly out of breath. His color has gone from ashen gray to a ruddy, pale pink again. I'm so thankful for all the prayers.

I've been going around and round for the past few months and not accomplishing anything towards the forward progress of Don't Get Your Panties in a Wad. It is frustrating writing after a stroke. Sure, I can blog, but writing a book is different.

The muse just aren't with me when my focus is scattered in too many different directions. I used to call myself a master juggler. Not any more. It's tough tossing one ball in the air and catching it.

Could part of my problem be fear? Possibly. With two agents chomping at the bit trying to sign me up for this book and talk about an auction, the old fear of have I still got it comes into play. I've been analyzing everything as to why I've stopped writing this book. Maybe Alex's Insecure writer's group would help, but that's not the only reason.

As I mentioned Wednesday, I had the opportunity to speak with a teenager doing her volunteer time in therapy before going to college for a PT license about writing and publishing. Did you know they have to log 100 hours volunteer in a PT/OT center before they can be accepted into school? I didn't until my stroke.

Anyhow getting back to this young girl, when she found out that I was a previously published author she lit up with excitement. She was writing a novel herself. Then we started talking about writing after a stroke. She couldn't understand what the difficulties were. Of course not. It's all about your point of view and experiences. There is no way a 17 year old girl is on an even playing field with me having grandchildren her age and recovering from a stroke.

So I broke it down for her.
  • In writing you plot out your stories. It takes sequencing and linear thinking. Both of which were impaired with my stroke. Although I'm working at it, there is still a deficit.
  • In writing you need command of the language you are writing in. I lost all fluency in languages except English, my third language. Spelling went out the window as did all but simple grammar. When before your stroke you were fluent in eight languages and you are left with one, it can be quite disheartening. Not to mention you are not even fluent in the language you are now speaking. This is evident by all the red and green squiggly line in what you are typing. It gets really irritating when you think you used to write 50-100K words in three months without either.
  • In writing you need to be able to focus and not be scatter brained. Now with my "Dyslexic/ADD" any interruption is the death of whatever you had in your mind. That's me now since the stroke. 
So what's my problem now? I hit 37K words before this writing stoppage. It should be easier now that I've partially recovered what I lost, right?

Wrong. I managed to write so many words because I really did not have many demands on my time. Now, I'm driving, gardening, cooking and my husband's care issues has escalated. Marry that with the low energy levels that plague me, it spells disaster. My muse and desire to write hides under the bed whimpering like a dog during a thunder storm. When I ask my neurologist when can I expect my energy level to return to somewhat normal, I get the depends  and every stroke is different answer. At first she said after a year, but I'm there now with no return of my energy. If you don't know something, just say you don't know.

I still need a nap or two to get through the day depending on what's going on. Then I'm in bed sleeping by ten even with the naps. We're not talking about my old twenty minute power naps either. I'm talking a hour at least possibly three. Now admittedly, I am no longer leaving the therapy department with the vague sense of nausea and falling in bed on arrival home anymore, but on therapy days I'm done for anything more strenuous. I do my gardening, chicken and rabbit care before therapy because I won't have the energy afterwards..

In the old days, I used to build myself up to get more energy. Do one more set of ten or twenty in exercises, but a stroke is weird. The build up just doesn't work. Granted I'm better than I was a month after the stroke but less than 25% of my norm which isn't good. I watch my grands play nonstop and wonder the age old thought of if I could only bottle it, I'd be a millionaire. It's not like pain is draining my energy because the Botox injections knocked most of that out. 5-Hour Energy drink be damned. It doesn't work in this case. All it does is give me heart palpitations from too much caffeine.

So when will I finish this book? I dunno. I'm biding my time because eventually it's got to get better.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Fun ~ Delirium: The Debt Collector 1

Yesterday I was blitzed by DL Hammon's Blog Blitz. I want to thank everyone who stopped by and left a comment. As far as this blog goes, I really like to keep things upbeat here and on my pastor's blog. I find that having a positive attitude goes a long way in dealing with the bad stuff that happens in life. As most of my long term followers know the past two weeks have been bad for me with keeping my husband alive and other issues. Yesterday boosted me up. Again thank y'all (in my best southern twang) and DL it was perfect timing!

Today I'm reviewing a e-book because I've spent far too many hours in doctor offices this week. My denim across the body bag I purchased while shopping has been put to good use. It was one of the books I downloaded from on it's free day. These downloads now account for 75 books. I even get a daily update on what's free now although I really shouldn't even look at it because the books in my TBR pile is closer to two hundred.

Delirum: Debt Collector 1
by Susan Kaye Quinn
Genre- Science fiction
The Blurb
What's your life worth on the open market?
A debt collector can tell you precisely.

Lirium plays the part of the grim reaper well, with his dark trenchcoat, jackboots, and the black marks on his soul that every debt collector carries. He's just in it for his cut, the ten percent of the life energy he collects before he transfers it on to the high potentials, the people who will make the world a better place with their brains, their work, and their lives. That hit of life energy, a bottle of vodka, and a visit from one of Madam Anastazja's sex workers keep him alive, stable, and mostly sane... until he collects again. But when his recovery ritual is disrupted by a sex worker who isn't what she seems, he has to choose between doing an illegal hit for a girl whose story has more holes than his soul or facing the bottle alone--a dark pit he's not sure he'll be able to climb out of again.

My Impressions
After reading this book, I realized I don't like serials. At 48 pages and 12,000, it is a quick read. Perfect for the doctor's office, but abrupt in the ending. Author has a firm grasp of characterization, plotting, and grammar. World building is always a challenge for most authors, but Quinn does it well with familiar touches that the reader can relate to. 

Will I read the next one?
Probably not. Reason- While the author has the mechanics of writing down pat and colorful scenes, there just isn't enough substance for me. I like novels that can stand alone even in sequels. It reminds me of a television show, "Tune in next week. Same bat time. Same bat channel," or a comic book. To me that's not reading a novel or even a novella. I would have honestly felt gypped at the $.99 price tag if I hadn't gotten it for free. Now if you are a reader of comic books or a fan of serials by all means download it. It's just not my cup of tea.

It's still free for Kindle at Amazon.

Whatever you do make it fun!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Blitz

Oh my goodness! I am being blitzed! I'm part of the Blog Blitz campaign run by none other than DL Hammon. Don, I didn't get the email to Blitz myself. Shame shame.

The joys and headaches of blog hops is 1) there's usually too many people involved to keep track of everyone, and 2) you get forgetful on which one runs when. I am guilty as charged. Yesterday I posted my blog for the Indelibles Indie Life when it should be next Wednesday. All I can say is I lost too many brain cells with my stroke and my schedule went from Abby Normal to Hectic Hanna the past couple weeks, but hey, I'm still blogging.

When I get too frustrated to work on my Work In Progress I blog. It all cognitive practice for me and Lord, do I love to talk. That's the one thing I really miss with my stroke is the ability to form words verbally. But it's just as well because although I only type, one-handed at a new pace of 42 WPM instead of 120 WPM my brain has a chance to work at a slower pace too.

Last test  my IQ=150
On an interesting note, my cardiologist suggested to me that I get a Mensa tutor. I've been a member for more than three decades, but now I'm severely impaired. Yes, I had a very high IQ. Now, not so much. It's not that I don't know what I know, but I have lost the ability to process, recall the information, and communicate it other words my brain short circuits or a brain fart. To say this is frustrating is a huge understatement. I'm still on the fence about this.

But challenges are something we all face. If we didn't have mountains to charge up where would we be? Everyone needs challenges in their lives. If we didn't, how would we know how far we've come in retrospect. I've charged up many a hill in my lifetime. Some I reached the pinnacle and others I couldn't, but that didn't stop me from trying. The learning opportunities and the conquest are the goal.

That's why I call my stroke a bump in the road of life. In some respects it is the most challenging I've ever had to face, but then in retrospect so was walking again after being in a helicopter crash, bouts with cancer, raising two disabled children (1 physically & 1 mentally challenged), and a host of other things that have happened in my life. They are all molehills now in looking back compared to any new mountain I face.

Happy Blitz Day to me. For all of you just finding usual blog schedule is Monday Mailbox where I answer emails and snail mail from readers and writers, Wednesday Writerly Way where I talk about writing and publishing both from the traditionally published and indie view points, Friday Fun where I chat about fun stuff like reviews of books, movies, tv and other fun stuff like family, on Sunday it's Stroke Survivor and it's all about dealing with strokes. Occasionally, like today I'll chat about anything and everything. I hope you'll follow me, comment, and revisit. Any way, welcome to the Murphey Saga.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday Writerly Way ~Changes in Publishing

It all started with me wanting to learn about the publishing industry. I'd been an author for a dozen years or more, but was taking someone's word for what was a good agent. Admittedly, he knew all the ins and outs of the industry. I really didn't have to worry my pretty little head about it. All I had to do was pick a subject, research it, break it down into workable data, and write. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Why rock the boat?

Back in those gone-by days an author wrote and somebody else was delegated with all the other stuff. Like editing, that's what my editor was for to fine tune and correct the grammar mistakes. Times changed and to be a continued success, I had to learn. Not that learning is any problem for me, but change is always disruptive, but accepted grudgingly.

The most pleasant change was putting my manual typewriter in it's case never to be opened again. Except in a major extended power outage. I took to computer word processor like a duck to water. It was so much easier to correct mistakes and change text around without having to use write-out or correction tape. No more carbon paper for duplicates or triplicates. It was an invention from the gods. Thank you Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

But anyhow back to learning more about the business of publishing. Vanity presses or self-publishing was for those who couldn't cut it in the real publishing world. Nobody had a strong following with those authors. The publishers had the inside track of promotion and advertising your book. They knew how to reach people who read. They knew how to get books into catalogs for book buyers in stores, especially those that were in almost every town. They knew how to get reviews of your book. They knew the cover designers. They knew everything. They were the gatekeepers for what people read. They knew best or did they?
With mergers and acquisitions the big publisher were absorbing the competition. You can't really call it a monopoly because there are six big publisher. More like  making the big pond only available to big fish. If you were famous and wanted to write your biography, they throw out huge advances, but the small time author, Jill Nobody, had a hard time breaking into the market. Even authors with a publishing history had a hard time.
 getting their books published.

A small interuption for a story...
I spoke to an idealistic teenager last week during therapy. When she found out I was a published author she was in awe. She told me she was writing a book too. She had envisioned a life of becoming a best-selling author, the fame, the book signings, the television interviews and traveling. I asked her what was the premise behind the book, and genre, and she couldn't tell me. In fact she gave me a "huh?" look. After a few more well pointed questions, I determined it was a contemporary romance novel.

She asked about how to get it published and I asked her if it was finished. No. I asked her about projected word count, another "huh?" look. I asked about her writing history. None, no surprise there. I hated to bust her bubble, but I told her the realities of the industry. How hard it was to find an agent. How difficult if might be to sell the book to a publisher. I dropped the bomb of the 91-99% rejection rate. But I ended on a happy note and told her if that's what is in her heart to do, just do it being aware of the possibility of failure.

Back to publishing changes, I'm just too scatter brained today. Enter the internet. It provided a basis for authors to get their name out there. Blogs and websites became a had-to-have among authors even traditionally published ones. Social networking enabled readers to get to know you, the author, with only minimal face-to-face time. The advent of e-readers caught the publishing industry as a whole unaware. You could reach out to the world from your home. Sites sprang up everywhere for this or that part of publishing. You could get your book reviewed. You could have it professional typeset/formatted. You could find a cover for your book. More and more authors opted to publish on their own.

Yes, it all came at a price. But when you look at 70+% royalties in your pocket versus 12-17% even with the payout, indie (independent) publishing seems more lucrative. It still left me with 60% in my pocket so far in sales I've made. The stigma of self-publishing became less of a thumb-your-nose at the proposition. The shelf life alone makes it worth a try... three months versus eternity.

Have I given up on traditional publishing totally? Now why would I want to do that? I like the have my cake and eat it too side of the street. Until my agents and publishers say I can't and are willing to do all that I do for my indie books, I continue on being a hybrid author. Now I know they will eventually wake up and put it into new contracts, maybe in ten or twenty years, but until then more power and profits to me.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

An Update ~ :)

Well we just left our cardiologist's office and had great news! My husband has definitely turned the corner towards recovery. Yes, those are happy tears.

His cardiologist (mine is in the same practice) did mention a pacemaker and my hubby is still undecided. He is leaning toward not getting one and it is his decision. The doctor wrote prescriptions for Lasix and a potassium supplement. He will probably be on them for the rest of his life.

For now, I'm just happy that we dodged another fatal bullet. Thanks for all the well wishes and prayers.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Mailbox ~ The Past Revisits Me- Introverts and Writer Events

It's that time to visit Tilda the Mailbox and answer your questions.
I remember you from the Southeastern Writers Conference a few years back. You have a way of standing out in a crowd. How do you do that? I'm a wallflower at these things. Why do you draw attention to yourself? In fact you do that in every writers conferences you attend. The same questions apply. You aren't disruptive but memorable. I'm in awe. Are you always like that? CR

My response...

Yes, I make it a habit to be noticed at writers conference and public events, but I am your basic introvert and hate crowds. I remember you too. You followed after me wherever I went but never joined the conversation, but remained the wallflower with your eyes cast down at the floor. Now matter how I tried to draw you out and talk, you muttered responses and refused to offer more. It's a shame really.

It takes tremendous effort on my part to go to these events. I really have to psych myself up for them and they leave me totally exhausted afterwards. I have a few goals for attending any writers conference or public event.
  •  Hey, I'm here.
  • I'm a writer just like you.
  • To learn what I do not know.
  • Teach from experience. 
  • I paid for it, why not have fun.
The "Hey, I'm here" when you write a book and want to publish or have published one, you have to learn how to gain attention to/for yourself and your work. Otherwise you, won't be noticed or read. Remember one person tells ten people and so forth. I hear the buzz... "I met so and so at X. You won't believe the antics or stories surrounding her books." It gets repeated exponentially.I am remembered by those who have never met me so when they shop for books there's the recommendation.

Joan M Mas @ flickr
At writer conferences, "I'm a writer just like you" comes into play. All writers are friends you haven't met yet. They all have stories to tell because we are the storytellers. We have a common interest, desire, and love to see their books on the shelves. The hard work of finding common interest among strangers is taken out of the equation. Why not build upon it?

I was struggling with The Sacrificial Lamb. It was way too short by almost 10K words when I finished the third editing pass and was at a loss on how to expand it. I contacted a friend. Yes, I'd met here at a writers conference. Actually I'd contacted several. But these friends came up with a workable solution. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Yes, it meant a subplot weaved into the story, but I made my goal word count.

I'm going to combine "to learn what I do not know" and "teach from experience." These people at writer conferences and author forums may have forty or fifty books published or still working on their first rough draft. You can learn from the ones in the first category and teach the second. I may have fifty thousand (an exaggeration) ways to fix any problem that doesn't mean I can't have one more in my arsenal.

Even when I am the teacher, I'm constantly learning new things. My way is not the only way. There are so many variations and possibilities to make a better widget. In this case writing and publishing.

Now I tend to be frugally minded and keep my eye on the bottom line. It's the accountant in me. It is also the introvert side of me. But at public events, including writer conferences, why not have fun? You paid for it and sometimes it's a big expense. If you look on these things as a chore than maybe an author life is not something you should be pursuing.

When you have a list of needs outweighing your wants, something playing the double duty role is advantageous. I tend to look at writer events as a working vacation. Writing and promotion is what I have to do to be successful. Having fun is an option but doable. Pick one person at a writers conference like CR did. More than likely that person knows another and they know others. Become an interactive part of that group. Be crazy, but not in a destructive way and have fun.
I haven't met a writer yet that doesn't like to talk about their writing, their WIP, and their published works. That what I did at my first writers conference too many years ago. Most of us are introverts too. But get us started on our passion and soon you have a self-feeding bonfire. Who isn't drawn to or doesn't have fun at a bonfire? Drawn like a moth to a flame, and it is kindled by you and one other person.

Be the flame because moths will get their wings singed and die. Standing back hurts rather than help you become memorable. Take a chance and speak up even if it's to agree with what has been said and why. These are the impressions other will carry with them of you.

Why is all of this important?
Because you need to build a readership. You need to build a platform to one day be considered by an agent or publisher. Even if you plan to go it on your own, you need a readership base or you won't sell any books or very few.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Come On and Raise Your Hand

Okay all you strokies, a question or three for you. I picked up the term strokies from Amy's site and it has kind of stuck a chord in me.

1) How many of you are at least six months out from your stroke?
I am raising my hand. Raise yours if this applies to you.

2) How many of you are still doing your OT/PT/Speech therapy routines?
I am raising my hand and waving it wildly, but I am also seeing a few hands faltering and lowering out there.  Is it yours? Shame on you. 
3) Are you fully recovered or just at a state of acceptance that this is how you will be from now on?
I'm not raising my hand to this one because I am not fully recovered and not accepting where I am, and neither should you.

I hear all you naysayers out there, "If you were five, ten, twenty years out from your stroke like I am you'd give up too." Nope, I don't think so. Here's why...

  • The brain is constantly learning. Learning doesn't stop until you die. They've got this
    fancy word for it called neuro-plasticity. People will get smarter or stupider as time goes on and that takes brain power. To me death is the absence of learning. I am a forever student in this life.
  • I'm too stubborn to give up. Yep that's right. There has never been a more mule headed person born than me and sometimes to my own detriment.
  • I'm generous to a fault. I'd rather do without than anyone else. It's a point of view. It's not that I'm not worthy because I am, but more someone else's needs are greater than mine. There is always someone else who has it worse off than you and I am thankful it's not me. Is that wrong? Does that sound condescending? Maybe. I may gripe about my family because they are such a big part of my life and the turmoil they cause, but I let them cause it. There are others in this world who have family but they are not close and there are others who have no family at all. I am thankful. If I can't do then I can't do, and I can't accept that. It's that simple to me really.
  • While I still have some paralysis and feeling loss from my stroke, I actually got off pretty light compared to some others. I didn't regain the use of my pre-stroke body, but I'm still able to care for myself and my husband with very little help from the outside world. That being said, I'm still not as self sufficient as I want to be. There are still a lot of things that I wish I could do again. I also believe it won't happen tomorrow and I may have to work years to achieve it.
  • Anything you want is worth working for. In your job didn't you not have to go to
    college and learn a skill set? Okay some of you didn't go to to college but you still had to learn what was required for your job, didn't you? Didn't it take you years to learn that skill set? Therapy is the same way. It is repeating a set of skills over and over again. It doesn't matter if you fail the first time or the hundredth time. You are working towards a goal. To be whatever and be the best whatever you could be. Doesn't the same principles apply here? Each exercise you do and keep doing strengthens the pathways to repeat that action, and with time, it becomes as solid as the original ones. Yes it could take years before my light fluttering grip becomes strong enough to hold anything or do something productive with it, but it's a start. We all have to start somewhere and set an ultimate goal of what you want to accomplish.
  • I am now talking about year goals instead of month or week goals. That's a change.
    For me, my goals for this year are to strengthen my ankle so it doesn't stay inverted and gain control of my fluttering grip so it won't take my entire body to do it.  
 If it doesn't happen in 2013, then it becomes a goal for 2014 or 2024. Goal deadlines are flexible where  therapy exercises and recovery are concerned. The important thing to consider is looking how far you've come in the year. Surely in the year you tried to accomplish a goal, other things were accomplished. Revel in that. Celebrated your achievements no matter how small. They are a step in the right direction.

Now if you are totally satisfied in being how you are for the rest of your life, there's no hope for ya. This year is already halfway over but still on my list to achieve and goal setting, but I'm still reaching for the stars but with my feet firmly planted on the ground. I'm still intent on reaching my goals. How about you? Isn't there one thing you would like to do better? Just one?

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday Fun~ Childhood Revisited - Mud Pies

Today I'll be revisiting my childhood and making mud pies with my youngest granddaughter, Skylar. Well not really but close.

Last year with my grandkids we started a vermiculture bin. A vermiculture bins, what's that? A highfaluting name meaning worm farming. It was taking too long for nature to take its course with household scraps...almost 6-12 months to get that black gold that does my plants so good in the garden.

It was easy to start with one ten gallon plastic tote, a larger cat litter box, and a drill. My older grandchildren drilled small holes all over the bottom of the bin with several rows at the top rim. Fun with grandma with power tools!

Inside my younger grandchildren layered shredded paper. Doesn't everyone have stacks of old newspapers, checks, and other important or sensitive mail that they need to shred periodically? Even junk mail? I know my mailbox is filled daily with the stuff. We hosed it down and "accidentally" hosed each other in the process. <g>Then they took hand fulls semi composted stuff from my bin about five inches thick. Finally we added some Red Wiggler worms and put the lid on it.

Next, we placed it on the cat litter tray. Oh, I forgot to mention that we drilled two 1/2" holes into one corner of the cat litter tray for draining the worm tea, and I put four wooden building block (from the kid's toy box to hold the ten gallon tub up. We plugged up the bigger holes with old corks. The corks were leftovers from a craft project we'd completed during Spring break. All for about $10 for a plastic tub, a cat litter box, and a pound of fresh worms. It was all placed on a double row of cinder blocks to get it off the ground.

There is more uses for shredded paper in my book, Are You a Survivalist or a Prepper? I'm always looking at things and trying to figure out how to make something else with it. There that's my plug for today. <g> We later moved on to making heater/cooking plugs. It's in the book.

As I told my grands this was a way to fertilize the garden with building up the soil and young plants for yummy vegetables and fruits. Is there anything better than raiding grandma's strawberry patch for fresh strawberries in her old cracked wheel barrow, grabbing an orange, or picking figs off the tree? Not to my grands. It also provided us with plenty of worms to fish with later in the summer and summers to come. They love fishing.

Now it's three months since I last emptied the bottom tub...I have two working tubs as a result of another grandma fun day before my stroke. I've dumped my organic trash into the tub every week, even more goodies with corn shucks and pea pods after the chicken and rabbits finish with them. I do chop them fine so the worms can digest them faster and they love, love, love my husband's used coffee grounds. But it was now time to empty my black gold again. So Skylar was tagged for a one-on-one time with the grandparents. I do a one-one and group projects with all of them.

Since my garden is rotation planting, just before one vegetable is harvested another patch is started that way I have a continuous harvest until the first frost. We all eat fresh for as long as we can.

We dug the worm bin out by the handful, picking worms out as we went. Most of them had worked their way up to the upper container by now for fresh food. All that was left was rich, warm compost. Worm castings (worm poop) was left of all the scraps I had thrown in there. We got the hose and sprayed the picked through "dirt making a muddy mess. Of course we couldn't resist spraying each other. Grandpa even got involved spraying the "dirt" and us with the Super Soaker water gun. When it's reaching the upper 90's  in temperature when you are working/playing everything counts when keeping cool.
Yeah this one is a new one.

Next, I mix in Vermiculite or Perlite into the compost to make it really light and fluffy.  We filled trays leftover from plant purchases for my small annual flower bed, oh too many years ago. Making sure to to make it all squishy on the top to press the extra water out. The cast off water is recycled into my raised bed since its already diluted compost or worm tea. Fun and fertilizing at the same time. Wohoo!

I keep a stack of gardening trays in my shed to be reused year after year. Also assorted sized pots. I reuse things until they can be used anymore before I trash it. Yes it all goes into a landfill, but not until it is no longer in a usable state. I've delayed the inevitable by years. Anyhow back to mud pies, or should I say cakes that will be my seed starters.

There are big advantages for using younger grandchildren for this because they have small hands.  Once all the extra water is drained off,  because grandpa went a little crazy from his chair with the Super Soaker and garden hose, she takes a plastic knife and cuts little cakes into the tray.They are about 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 inch squares. Grandma will later wiggly the knife down each cut for wider spacing. Skylar presses her index finger about up to her first knuckle into each square making holes for planting seeds. Next she'll plant the seeds and cover them up.

Grandpa will go nuts again with the hose trying to wash all the "dirt" off us and we are done until next time in two or three weeks. Did I mention that it's mandatory for all kids to bring their swimsuits and an extra change of clothes on grandparents day? No, well it is. Yes, I could go out and buy a Jiffy seed starting tray...but where's the fun in that?

On a sadder is the twenty-fifth anniversary of my mother's death. I miss you Momma.

But I'll end on a happy note...yesterday was, my #3 daughter's, Keri, birthday. Happy birthday baby!

Have fun with everything you do.