Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Shooting Quivers and Individual Piglets

by H. Linn Murphy

It really snags me when I'm reading along in a perfectly good book and I come BANG up against a glaring fallacy or misused word or continuity error.

The other day I was reading a book and the main character shot things with her quiver. Any self-respecting archer or person who has read much about archery will know that a quiver is the case which holds arrows, not the arrow itself. Another place the author called the hilt of the sword the helm. A helm is a helmet and worn on the head. Those are very small mistakes, but they take the reader out of your story. The reader can't forget that mistake. Once a friend of my daughter wrote a story with her in which she was describing a medieval feast. Her words: And they all had individual piglets. My family has never forgotten those words and it's been well over a decade since they were written. I doubt that's how she wished to be remembered, but she'll never live that down.

One of our family hobbies is to try and spot continuity errors in movies. But while you're looking for errors, you aren't participating in the story. In effect, you've put yourself out of the scope of the piece.

Get yourself a really good dictionary. For those words you don't quite feel you know for sure, look them up. Also there are some excellent thesaurus programs which will allow you to use words in new ways and to check the ones you're using. They aren't always just for finding new words.

Even a work of fiction needs its research, especially if it deals with a time, place, or situation unknown to you the writer. I'm writing a book right now about a girl who studies honey badgers in Africa. I've never been to Africa, nor have I ever seen a honey badger up close. So the research I'll need to do will be extensive. Already I've spent some time researching honey badgers and Johns Hopkins University where my main character works prior to getting her grant. I'll need to research camps in Africa and about the area where we'll put this camp. I want to know everything about my subject I can so I don't come off looking ignorant.

The other thing I do besides exhaustive research, is to run through the book several times. I do maybe nine full book checks before the manuscript goes to Beta readers. I want to catch ever single misspelled word, misused word, extra space, and every chance to tighten up. I want to put a book out that I'd be proud to have my name on. It's called learning the craft. We owe our readers a well-crafted book. We owe them our best work and the benefit of as much education as we can cram into ourselves.

We also need Beta readers. We need people with fresh eyes who will spot the things we're too close to notice, as if we're looking through the wrong end of the binoculars. They'll catch those fallacies or plot holes. And we need to listen to them and let them a point. Your Beta reader is the mouth of the reader.

Listen to your editor. They may make some unpopular decisions on things to cut or change, but they generally have your book at heart. Make sure you find an editor who will work with you, but you also have to work with your editor. I keep a slag heap for things I have to cut that I think might be useful elsewhere. That makes cutting things not quite so painful. I also always remember that I have the original manuscript...:o)

Write on! And keep your quiver on your back.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Marketing Your Books

by Lucinda Whitney 

 Back in June I attended a one-day Indie Publishing conference and one of classes I took was taught by Abel Keogh, who has extensive experience with marketing on his day job.

His class was called "The 5 Best Ways to Market Your Book":
#5— Know your audience well. It seems kind of obvious, but you can't market if you don't know who the audience is. By reading reviews (both positive and negative), blog comments, etc, you can get a firmer grasp on this.

#4— Target your media blasts. This goes hand in hand with the previous one. Once you know your audience, you can target your efforts more efficaciously. For instance, if you plan a blog tour, arrange it with blogs that cater to the same genre as your book.

#3— Blogging, which can be either frustrating or effective. Some simple ways to make it work better for you is by having entertaining and informative content; by NOT making it about your books (your readers will get tired of the same subject all the time); by making your blog a place where readers want to go (refer to #4 and #5); by writing to your target audience, and by blogging regularly (and even on the same day).

#2— Email Newsletters. Don't send the newsletter unless you have something worthy to say (like announcements about a new book coming out). When sending announcements and other news, share them on the newsletter first, and then on other platforms.

#1— Write a new book. And why is the best way to market your book writing another one? Because word of mouth is the best marketing tool. With each new book published, your readership will increase, and so will the word of mouth referrals.

And there you have it. Five simple ways that help market your new book, but simple always works better. Thanks, Abel, for the tips.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Alzheimer's Blessings

by Cindy R. Williams

My Mother-In-Law moved in on June 28, my husband's birthday. She has Alzheimer's. I lost my father to Alzheimer's so feel like I'm somewhat prepared to take on this challenge. I say somewhat because each person reacts differently and you figure it out as you go.

When my husband asked if she could live with us, my answer was "YES!  Of course! She is your mother and we don't turn our backs on our mothers." He got tears in his eyes and told me his other siblings didn't feel the same way and wouldn't take her for various reasons. I admit I was a bit stunned. Mothers are the greatest. Who wouldn't want their sweet mothers with them after all the many years of incredible sacrifices.

It has now been about 3 weeks. Sure there has been a learning curve for all of us. Sure I have been ordered to leave "her home" a few times. Sure I have been asked the same question 50 times in an hour. Sure my schedule has been topsy-turvey and I have many exhausted days, since it is much like tending a little child 24/7.

But . . . guess what I also have.  I have a deep and abiding love for my MIL. Her giggles warm my heart. I feel peace that I am doing what my Heavenly Father wants me to do. I feel I have a glimpse into Heaven and now finally understand the meaning of charity. Our family is united in serving this elect woman and in doing so, we have blessings pouring out on all of us.

The adage, you love who you serve is ever so true.

Life is good!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Eight is Enough?

By Susan Knight

When I was two-and-a-half years old, I lay on the living room floor of my grandparents’ house, where I lived the first three years of my life. My mother and father were leaving, but my mom paused, one foot out the door, looked at me and said, “We’re going to the hospital to get our baby. Do you want a brother or a sister?”

I remember thinking for a split second and said, “Brother!” This memory is still vivid.

Like magic, they brought home my baby brother in their shiny, blue Mercury. My mother held him in the front seat, of course.

The next time, three years later, from our new home a block away from my grandparents, my mom and dad left for the hospital again. I shouted, “Bring me home a sister this time.” Apparently, they didn’t hear me as they sped away in our new, white, Ford Country Squire station wagon.

Fourteen months later, I reminded them I wanted a sister this time, but to no avail. At six-years-old, I began to think the magic was gone, or never existed. Nevertheless, this brother's birth necessitated a move to an even larger home, a whole two miles from my grandparents' house that time.

About two years later, I sensed this almost-yearly phenomena was going to happen again. In a Catholic family, you just expected another baby every year or so. I can still see my mom in her pink maternity outfit she handily sewed.

At age eight (which I testify is the age of reason), I realized every time my family was going to have a baby, my mother got fat. I inquisitively asked her why, and she told me the baby was in there. Nonplussed, I went on to ask how the baby came out. My overly-modest mother told me, “Through my belly button.” After more why’s and how’s, my flustered mother just left it at that. (Because I never got answers to all my questions as a child, I grew up to be a newspaper reporter. . .just sayin’)

Eight years and three brothers later, on July 16, 1962, I bounded down the stairs on a lazy, summer morning to see my grandmother giving my brothers breakfast. I knew why she was there.

“A boy or a girl?” I asked, then held my breath, not wanting to get excited.

“A girl,” she answered without looking up. “Now sit down and have some breakfast.”

Unable to contain myself, I leaped into the living room and began my happy dance. I whooped and hollered and I’m pretty sure I did a cartwheel, too. I finally had my baby sister. How could Granny be so apathetic? This was the most auspicious day of my life thus far. No big sister was happier than I was that day, over fifty years ago now.

Another white Country Squire, two more brothers, then another little sister rounded out the Eight is Enough scenario of my family, but I’ll never forget the day my first baby sister was born.
Kathy was baby number five. Do I look happy?
Kathy was born the same time as Pebbles Flintstone and, to follow suit, had this fountain hairdo for years

Eight is Enough, right?

We adored each other. Still do. 


While Cooking Sunday Dinner

by Andilyn Jenkins

I'm sharing this short narrative to illustrate two writing tips.

1. Sometimes, the meat comes after I cut the first three quarters of what I've written. And, while the other three-quarters were, of course, brilliant, they were unnecessary. So, don't be afraid to cut your hard work if it means highlighting the best stuff.

2. Allow your writing to go somewhere unexpected. I began this piece because I wanted to write about the contentment in my home on Sunday while our family made dinner together. And while the other three pages have a lot of fun imagery and dialogue, this moment outside that I almost didn't write about turned out to be where I was able to scratch out that feeling.

I'm sure many of you have sacrificed more than three pages to the "pre-writing" gods. Tell me about it in the comments below or just let me know what you think. (smiles:)

While Cooking Sunday Dinner

Outside, the wind shakes the orange trees’ branches and they shimmy uncomfortably like busty old women. And before I hear the pinking on the roof, I see the grey spots appear on the cement patio. “It’s raining!” Aaron announces to the house as he heads for the backdoor and slides it open. I pick up Evan from his Bumbo and sit him in my arms, facing out. 

                                                                                                                   I found this picture here.

The monsoon weighs down the Arizona heat, so when Aaron opens the door, the air swims powerfully over my face and through my nose. It wraps itself intimately around me, folding warm blankets fresh from the dryer but still damp from the wash around my index fingers, ears, calves, knee caps, neck, hair roots. I step barefoot onto the warm concrete and walk just far enough to get dusted with the starter rain drops. Then I inhale the dirty rain. I have loved the smell of rain wherever I have lived, but in Arizona, my home town, it smells like baptism. The dust, dirt, and oil washes the streets, bubbles in the gutters, and floods dry, grassy retention basins.

Evan feels the raindrops tap his arms, feet, and face and blinks into the sky, making sense of the heavens. With a furrowed brow, he reaches one hand out and tries to capture a drop in his squishy fist.

I blink the rain from my eyelashes and look out, making sense of the earth. Sunshine in Arizona bleaches my perspective. But overcast days unveil the desert’s colors: green leaves, magenta bricks, white trunks, orange, brown, red, blue, silver, grey, rust, yellow. The swimming pool reflects what it sees like a pair of sunglasses and turns deep grey as the water rustles and plops, churned by wind and raindrops.

Tasks wait inside—dishes, cooking, playing. But here, mother and son get polka-dotted by the rain. While I drink in smells, colors, and sounds, Evan concentrates on the sky and plays catch with angels pitching him raindrops.

(Feel free to check out some of my other narratives and poems over at Andilyn Thinks.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Facebook....good or bad...or simply there?

by Terri Wagner

About a month ago, my 81-year-old dad decided he wanted in on Facebook. I sat down with him and signed him up, assuring him that it was indeed free. Then we set up his profile. He wanted only certain information listed. I explained the process of finding, requesting, and confirming a friend. I showed him how to hide things he did not like, and how to follow email FB mentions. I was excited. I hoped he would reach out and find the men he flew with during his years in the Air Force, get back in touch with old friends, and enjoy the funny quips and quotes. We both love labs and goldens (the dogs) so I set him up to get the cute posts.

Then life got busy, and I forgot. Every now and again, he would ask about something, and I would explain it.

Then one day he says I want out of it. Take me off. I get too many posts about things I don't care about. How do I delete myself off here?

After I got over my, well, call it disappointment, I had to google how you do that. Turns out you have to wait 14 days. I hope it then deletes him permanently or he'll be nuts!

I was curious and talked to him about it. The things I like about it, annoyed him. I mean if a family member posts every two hours about driving down the road, etc., I just skip over that part. He did not want to know that much information.

The dog posts bothered him because it reminded him of the ones we've had that have passed on. I enjoy the posts, and think of Chewie, Belle, Bo, and Cassie with great fondness. Maybe it's knowing I will see them again that comforts me.

He did not like all the ads. He couldn't really tell the difference between an ad or a post. Mostly, he was not really interested the posts. I think he must have thought it was supposed to be serious, or maybe about something serious.

He loves all the other aspects of the Internet, and thoroughly enjoys surfing the 'net. He got me to wondering why do I like FB? Why can I just slid by what doesn't interest me? The ads rarely stump me. And don't bother me. I like FB. It's a place to keep in touch, although admittedly, I post very little. I don't really follow all the latest privacy issues or likes that determine well something I don't know about. I just see it as a place to have a bit of fun, laugh a little, and once in a while, post something.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sally and Her Hip Replacement . . . Quitting Won't Kill You.

By Christy Monson
Sally has been a two-pack-a-day smoker all her life. She quit to be baptized, but life and stress got in the way and she relapsed.

When she found out she needed a hip replacement, she was sure she could stop smoking while she was in the hospital. To prepare for it, she cut down on the number of cigarettes she smoked each day. She called me one day and told me she had found a secret way to end her habit. She needed a little nicotine after every meal so she was going to have only two puffs of a cigarette after dinner. 

That way it would take her four days to smoke one cigarette. She struggled with her plan for several days, and in the end it didn't work. She couldn't have just two puffs of her cigarette.

"I's trying," she said.

We bought her some Nicorette gun several weeks before surgery and she cut down, but it was hard. She had a few cigarettes now and then while she chewed the gum. 

The doctor told her she had to quit before her surgery so she stopped smoking. But every time we saw her she was chewing the gum so intensely she could hardly carry on a conversation. 

"I's trying," she kept saying.

Before and right after her surgery, she proudly told everyone she had quit smoking. The first week home from the hospital she was in pain and too drugged out to think about cigarettes. But the second week her younger sister Pookie came into her house smoking. Sally couldn't help herself, she had to have a cigarette.

She was hooked again. I felt like shaking Pookie and banning her from the house, but I didn't.
When we saw Sally that day, I took her face in my hands and looked her in the eyes. "You have to quit smoking."

"Yes, Ma'am. I's trying."
"No trying," I said. "You have to do it."
She sighed. "Yes, Ma'am."

Sally made a new rule for Pookie. She had to finish her cigarette outside before she came in the house. When their older sister (Ms. Truck Driver who has been cigarette-free for years) found out Sally was smoking again she told her to stop:

1.         Quitting won't kill you.
2.         The cravings won't last forever.

Bless Ms. Truck Driver! Sally and I say those two statements every day.
Sally's on prescription patches right now. Hope she can make it this time. It's a real struggle. But each time she quits it's a little easier. 

She is trying.

Maybe this will be the victory lap.