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Kicking the one-night stand to the curb

Every writer has a process. For some, the idea comes first and once the idea is fleshed out on paper into a story, they give it a title. In the meantime, they refer to their work as their WIP- or work in progress. For others, the title is there from the beginning, either generated before the first word is ever written or shortly after.

I’ve always been a title first writer, sometimes, building an entire novel around the title. When the title is there from the beginning, I know the direction the story is going, the tone I want to convey, and the purpose of every word. Without the title, I tend to flounder. The story isn’t real to me yet. It’s like a high school writing assignment – something you have to do but will drag your feet doing it.

Several months ago, I started my current project. Note the keywords several months and current project! I knew the story beginning to end, and even the middle but writing it was a chore. The story and I fought against one another. It wanted to just lay there and die and I would come along every now and then and perform a quick bout of CPR to instill new breath. I’d tell myself ‘tomorrow night – I’ll finish this chapter’. When tomorrow night came, there was a fascinating discussion on Twitter or some heavy-duty drama going on on facebook. Did I feel guilty? Not really. I wasn’t invested in the outcome. My current work – or WIP – was like a one-night stand rather than a good marriage. I didn’t even know it’s name!

Well, yesterday, I was playing around with some design programs I have and trying my hand at cover design. Again, note the fact I was more or less just killing time, not writing. And then something magical happened. I started looking for pictures to manipulate in the various photo editing programs and there it was. As soon as I saw the picture, the title hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. I joyfully kicked the WIP to the curb and happily committed to Nobody’s Baby.

It feels real now.

What do you think of the cover? It will probably change a little but I do like the concept. And yes, that’s my granddaughter Ivy high-stepping through a grassy field.

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Are video games ruining our kids?

The question seems to comes up every time a kid inflicts violence upon another kid. Experts say children are becoming de-sensitized to violence and often don’t understand the consequences of their actions. I’m no expert so all I have to offer is my own experience.

My nine-year old grandson, Landon, is a gamer. Through and through. Call of Duty, Black Ops, Halo…you name it and he plays it. And he plays it well. Very well. So well in fact, adults don’t like playing against him. A while back, one of his dad’s friends said, “I can’t believe I got beat by a seven-year old.” Yeah, he’s that good. Landon

His Uncle Garey doesn’t shy away from the competition, though. He’s been known to call Landon’s mom or dad and ask if Landon can play. Imagine!

But does grandma worry her oldest grandson is turning into a gaming geek? Not that there’s anything wrong with that but, sure, I worried. Note the past tense.

You see, Landon is a well rounded kid. He loves playing outside with his cousins, loves sleeping in a tent by a campfire, loves basketball and baseball. He’s been playing baseball since he was three. Yes, three. He used to arrive at his games in a car seat. He works hard in school and makes good grades and will kick it up a notch to bring a so-so grade up. His mother is his favorite person in the whole wide world; he adores his dad. He loves his siblings and feels a big brother responsibility toward them. I’ve seen the worry on his face when he can’t find Ava in the car-rider line at school. I’ve seen him take time to comfort Ivy or cousin Aiden when they’re upset.  I’ve seen him tote Casey or Ireland upstairs or downstairs to help mom or me. Yes, I’ve even seen him change a diaper.

He’s gentle and kind and has a wicked sense of humor. He has some of the best one-liners you’ll ever hear. And yeah, he has a high kill rate.

He wants to be a Navy Seal when he grows up. Not because he would “get to kill things” but because of the honor of helping others.

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Landon swinging with little brother Casey

Play on, Landon. Play on.

 

I don’t want to be divorced anymore; I want to be single

I love the sit-com Whitney. Missed episodes are on my DVR list. It’s not a big ratings grabber, but I think it’s funny. There was an episode a while back where the main character, Whitney (expertly played by Whitney Cummings), and her boyfriend Alex decide to adopt a shelter dog. If anyone has adopted a shelter dog lately, you know the application process. In classic Whitney form, Whitney gets into an argument with the receptionist at the shelter over the “marital status” check box. See, she and Alex are living together – not technically married – and there is no check box for that. Family status form (Marital Status form)

Whether it’s medical, financial, or any other type of institution that requires such forms, they’re basically the same. A check box followed by: Single, Married, Divorced, and Widowed.

With yesterday being the grand poopah of all things romance, it brought to memory a situation I had similar to Whitney’s. I was filling out a form somewhere for something and balked at the marital status options. I’ve been divorced 27 years. Haven’t remarried and I’m not a widow. I’m single. I’m not in a relationship so that shouldn’t confuse the check box inspector. I’m single. I told the lady, “after twenty-seven years of being divorced, I’d like to be single again.”

Didn’t fly. Her response was along the line of “once divorced, always divorced”. I argued that no, I was once married, now I’m not, therefor I’m single. She looked at me like I had grown a second head.

I caved and begrudgingly checked the “divorced” box. What about the poor person who may have lost their first spouse then divorced their second? Technically, they’re widowed, divorced, and single. Ha! Take that, check box inspector. Next time I fill out a form, I’m going to answer: Eyes – 2; Sex – on occasion, and so on. I mean, unless it’s something I really need like emergency medical care, then I’ll probably cave again and continue to check “divorced”.Divorce

I interrupted a shoot out

Yep, ran right out in the middle of it. Stopped it cold. The blazing guns were silenced. There was peace in the valley once more. Maybe not peace, but a whole lot of confusion anyway.

Israel

Now that’s some blond hair! Me and my Israel (aka Darby Hinton)

Many many moons ago, when I was a sprite of about six, one of the most popular shows on television was The Daniel Boone Show. Darby Hinton, a kid with hair as white as mine, played Daniel Boone’s son, Israel. A six-year old back in the 60’s wasn’t quite as media-savvy as kids are these days so to my six-year old mind, Darby Hinton and Israel Boone were one in the same. I had no idea who Darby Hinton was but my heart sure belonged to Israel Boone.

The summer of ’66, my family vacationed in the NC mountains. There were several theme parks around the mountains back then. We’re not talking Disneyworld or anything of that magnitude, but a train and a chairlift were enough to impress most kids back then. I’m not even sure which park we went to – maybe Maggie Valley? But anyway, the big deal was that Israel (and some kid named Darby Hinton) was going to be at this park. My poor parents. I started with the “are we there yet?” routine before we backed out of the driveway.

We’re talking a Justin Beiber’ish crush here.

The park was set up to resemble an old west town and little did I know, a bonafide  shoot out was part of the “show”.  We’re instructed to stand behind the watering troughs and hitching posts (for our safety) and then it happened. The first shot rang out! And then a second and then several more followed and then guys dressed in black came running out of the old bank, six-shooters blazing! And then…Israel came from somewhere and started shooting at the bad guys! He was ducking and rolling behind an old wagon then an old whiskey barrel while the bad guys were returning fire. I was horrified! These bad men were shooting at MY Israel! So I did what any six-year old in love would do – I screamed out “Israel, Israel!” and bolted from behind our cover and ran out into the middle of the show, determined to save my hero. My parents were never ones to cause a scene so I’m pretty certain they were mortified.

Israel was a good sport about it and posed for several pictures with his biggest fan. He even rode the roller coaster with me. I don’t know why everyone kept calling him Darby.

 

Exploding diapers and other s…stuff

Between my son’s kids and my daughter’s kids, we have four currently in diapers. We are   diaper experts.  Or at least I thought we were. Didn’t know they could explode.

Recently, one-year old Casey went to bed early, and got up up late. My daughter is one of the best mother’s I know. There was a time (maybe with the first kid, possibly with the second) that she would have gently woken the sleeping baby to change its diaper. Doubtful with the third. And Casey, is the fourth kid and has a younger sister by twenty minutes so you wake a sleeping kid in their house now and you face Nina’s wrath.

So Casey wakes up all smiling and happy but he has this massively wet diaper. I go to change him and the diaper like explodes! Little tiny, gooey, beads of what ever it is that makes up diapers, go everywhere. You couldn’t wipe them up, they multiplied! Like rabbits. It was a complete, horribly, gunky mess. Of course Casey was oblivious to the surrounding chaos and was quite happy entertaining himself with a game of patty-cake solitaire. He could  care less about what was going on behind the scene.

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Two-year old Elliott Nall, son of Aaron and Jenny Nall, likes to get comfortable and read his favorite book.

Sort of like a reader who just wants to read a good book. Do most readers really care if it took you a year to write it, a year to get it published, another year to hit the bookshelves? I doubt it. Yes, there are the real fans who eagerly await your next title and they might be interested in the ‘behind the scene’ stuff. But for many, I suspect, they just want to read a good book.

Everyone in the business says now is a great time to be a writer. We’ve never before had as many options to get our work out there in the readers’ hands, whether it be a physical book or on an e-reader. The popularity of e-readers has proven we no longer have to bow at the feet of the big publishers to have our work read. But however good that is, it’s also created a bit of a problem. For me at least, and I suspect I’m not alone.

There are currently eight new blog posts from other writers in my in-box I haven’t yet read. I want to read them and will get around to it and hopefully they aren’t time sensitive.

But it makes me wonder how many blog posts or tweets are going straight to the delete folder rather than being read? Because, I, like almost every writer I know, subscribe to other writer’s blogs. We follow other writers on Twitter. We “like” their Author Facebook pages. We’re friends on Facebook, Goodreads, and all the other social networking sites because we want to support them. But aren’t we sort of preaching to the choir?

It kind of hit me in the face the other day when I kept seeing the same “how to” article tweeted and shared over and over again. As writers, our main goal is to reach readers. Not necessarily other writers.

Like Casey’s diaper, I think social media has become over-saturated with writers telling other writers how to write. Do my readers really care why I write in first person rather than third? Or why action verbs work much better than passive verbs? Or how to write effective dialog?  Or how I can increase my Twitter followers by following three easy steps?confusing-street-sign1

Maybe it’s time to take a step back and give thought to who we’re really writing all these posts for. There are a number of big names in the writing world that I do follow because they offer very sound advice. But I get a wee bit frustrated by seeing their post re-tweeted a thousand times.

Just my opinion. I could be wrong. Feel free to re-tweet. Maybe it’ll start trending. In more ways than one.

Things my mother taught me

My mom would have been 87 years old tomorrow. She died twelve days before my father on March 8, 1998. Telling daddy, who was in a hospital bed on a different floor, that she had died was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It was the second time in my life I can remember seeing my daddy cry.

I’m finding that as I get older, my memories of her come in random flashes, like snapshots with voice-overs. Sometimes, I cry. Most of the time, I smile. mom1_0002

Some of the things she taught me (in no particular order):

Marigolds are all purpose flowers. She loved them. Planted them every year. And I hate them. Ok, maybe not hate, but I do have a strong dislike for them. Don’t know why other than I remember having to pinch the dried dead heads off of the hundreds she would plant each year. When someone suggests I plant marigolds in my non-existent garden, I smile.

No one leaves the house on Saturday mornings until the house is clean. Maybe that’s why on Saturday mornings I now aimlessly wander around my little house rebelling against the “rules.” Mom’s not here to tell me to turn that darn radio (or record player) down. Can’t clean without the radio blaring.

She taught me how to make gravy, Hungarian goulash, and how to ice a layer cake.

She taught me good things come from having a routine. Thursday nights were grocery shopping nights. Bestway on Vandalia Road. My favorite place in the whole world to be on a Thursday night. If I was good in the store, I’d get the new issue of Tiger Beat magazine. And cereal for supper. Life was good.

She taught me humility by taking me (after my insistence) to the dermatologist where we (my mother and me and my three pimples) sat in the waiting room with others who were horribly scarred from acne.

She taught me sometimes it’s ok to hide from door-to-door sales people.

She taught me that no matter how old your children are, they’re still your babies. When I  was pregnant with Garey, I suffered from toxemia and eclampsia. He was delivered by emergency c-section. My condition was so severe, the doctor came out to the waiting room prior to surgery and asked if they “had to make a decision, whose life should they save?” Although married and about to deliver my firstborn, my mother told him, “that’s my baby on that table.” Both my kids will be in their thirties this year. And yes, they’re still my babies.

And later on, through the years, as my mother became my best friend she shared a secret of what men want. Their mother in the kitchen, a lady in the living room, and a whore in the bedroom. Seems simple enough.mom1_0001

Happy birthday, Mom.

 

 

 

Swinging both ways

I’m a coffee drinker. I like my morning jolt to be the plain ol’ regular stuff, nothing fancy.  But during the day, or in the evening, I like a cup every now and then of mocha flavored, or hazelnut flavored, or french vanilla. And I love different types of creamers!

But hence the problem. I, like most everyone I know, am on a tight budget where having three or four (or even just two) flavors of coffee in the cupboard isn’t going to happen. Having a fridge full of various creamers isn’t going to happen either. Think of the money one could waste if they bought a particular flavor but found it wasn’t much to their liking. So until fairly recently, one had to settle for the tried and true, the traditional, the coffee of your mom and dad.

Then along came this little machine. It brewed one cup at a time through a little thing called a pod. Pods come in all kinds of flavors. You can brew yourself a steaming cup of mocha flavored coffee then turn right around and brew a cup of decaf for your nervous neighbor. The choices are endless!keurig-k-cup-carousel1

But the machine itself is pricey. And so is a box of the pods. So you have to weigh the options and find which one is best for you. It could be you’ll find you can go either way. Maybe having only two flavors, or maybe only one, isn’t such a bad thing on this day. You don’t want to make the decisions. Just do it the way it’s always been done and be done with it. Tomorrow, you can wrangle with which flavor you want. You get to choose the cover, er…pod.

Wow. Writers, like coffee drinkers, have never had so many choices and opportunities. Traditional or self publishing? Print or ebook? Or both to all?

In Rachelle Gardner’s new ebook, How Do I Decide? Self Publishing vs.Traditional Publishing (A Field Guide for Authors), the Books & Such literary agent lays out the differences (and similarities) between the two. The ebook is a must read for any writer wrestling with the publishing options that a few years ago, weren’t available. Rachellecover

The good news is at least now, we authors have a choice. Both are equally respectable; both require hard work and dedication. Both also require knowledge of craft, marketing, and yes, social media. There’s no right or wrong answer – only a choice. As an author, you must decide what works best for you. Rachelle’s book will help you do that.

Check out Rachelle Gardner’s ebook How Do I Decide? at Amazon.com and start making those decisions. The choice is yours!

 

Some things can’t be forced

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Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. More interesting than a fire hydrant to some.

Spent a couple days at the Outer Banks with the kids and grandkids. Discovered a couple things.

You can take kids to see and experience the wonder of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, but you can’t make them appreciate it. Not until they truly understand the history. Which is impossible for two one year olds and a two year old. And a five year old and a nine year old. They all truly enjoyed running and chasing one another in the open field beside the magnificent structure, though.

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Ireland’s fire hydrant

 

 

And Ireland was simply impressed with the nearby fire hydrant. Kind of like “I don’t know what this is but it’s the coolest thing EVER!” impressed.

She was also quite impressed with the traffic/safety cone at the NC Aquarium. All the sharks to see! All the starfish to touch! And she waddles right to the safety cone. While Casey played with a stick. And Aiden and Ivy were all about this moving block toy like they have in pediatricians’ offices. “Aiden, Ivy – come look at the big sharks!”

“No, mamma,” They say in unison. Aiden shakes his head while Ivy’s pushing blocks.

To be continued…

Pardon my ADD

My mind wanders. A lot. I used to take Ginko Biloba and it did seem to help the concentration level. When I could remember to take it.

So how can I spend many mind-numbing hours designing this website where the concentration level was intense, and struggle with an opening paragraph for the next book?

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Casey concentrating hard on getting what he wants

It’s driving me crazy!

I know the story (and it’s good!). I know many scenes already by heart. I’ve thought of writing them out of sequence so at least I’d be writing something fiction related. But my OCD won’t let me write out of sequence.

The ADD won’t let me stay focused on writing one word then the next then the next then the next, and before you know it, we have a paragraph! I’ve deleted more opening paragraphs lately than I’ve written.

But alas…there may be hope. My twin grandbabies are polar opposites. Ireland is incredibly intense with a concentration level beyond what’s normal for a one-year old. Hate to say it but could be leaning a little toward the OCD side of the family. You can actually see the so-called wheels turning in her little head as she’s studying something. Her brother, Casey, on the other hand is Betty-bar-the-door-I’m-coming-through. He’s all over the place. So the star shape doesn’t fit into the round hole on his little dump trunk shape-sorter – he makes it fit. A push here, a shove there, an “oh look, I can just open the top and throw it in there” and it works for him. However, the other night my daughter Nina snapped a picture of him trying to get a cookie out of his snack cup. She said he’d “been at it for awhile”. Oh music to my ears! And suddenly my one-year old grandson with the concentration level of a gnat became my inspiration. You have to want something bad enough to be able to focus all your energy into it. He wanted that cookie. And he was willing to sit still and work at it until he finally got it out.

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Casey – a creative mind at work

My hero. Even if he does have a way of looking at things a little differently. Like using a table for a chair.

Giving up the dream

It’s time. I’ve “played” at it too long. With all this “new year, new beginnings” crap, I figured it was the right time. I just don’t have it in me anymore.

I’m giving up the dream.

I vowed, pledged, resolved this week to let it go and be done with it. To stop obsessing about what others will think. So I failed. It wasn’t the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

But I didn’t really fail…I just discovered something abut myself I had no idea existed. I don’t like to be cold. And how am I going to climb Mt. Everest if the mere thought of shivering makes me, well, shiver?

For as long I can remember I’ve been fascinated by all things cold. March of the Penguins is one of my favorite movies. And let’s not forget Fargo. I’m mesmerized at seeing someone’s breath float up around them like smoke from a chimney. 40 below…my blood’s pumping. 60 below…I’m giddy. The vast whiteness of ice and snow can, well, take my breath away. ENLARGE_01SS_Thermometer_Cold

Then I became interested in climbing…mountains. A good hike, on a level trail, is about all I can muster but I like to think I’m in training for the biggie. The grand dame herself…Everest.

When the interest first overtook me, I read everything I could get my hands on about that mountain. I watched the short-lived show on the Discovery channel, which led to more reading and the discovery some bad things happen on that mountain.  I read everything I could about Nepal and Tibet and base zones and base camps. I even have a book on training to climb the mega mountain. I’d have to lose three people worth of body fat and quit smoking (Which I did. The smoking, not the body fat) and learn to breath better through my nose. And there’s that whole altitude adjustment thing. And my sister offered no encouragement  by saying cruel things like “You’re scared to death of heights. How are you going to climb Mt. Everest being scared of heights?” She obviously didn’t understand the dream. Or my fear. It wasn’t that I was scared of the actual height, or even scared of possibly falling. It was the landing after the fall that scared me.

Didn’t matter. I was going to climb Everest. Or at least hang out at Base Camp #1 for a few days.  I even had a picture of the mountain pinned to my board at my desk with Franklin Coveyish words of encouragement about following your dream and reaching for the stars.4d622f39049bdEverest

Then this past week I suffered through the flu. Tuesday or maybe it was Wednesday, (I was delirious, lost track of the days and years) night, I was hit with that dreaded flu symptom…violent chills. The kind where all the socks and sweatshirts in the world aren’t going to cure. The kind where you know if you could just get out of bed and turn the heat up a notch and grab another blanket, you’ll be fine, but you can’t muster the courage to climb out from under the mound of blankets you’re already under because you’re soooooo coooooooold!

Yeah. I discovered I don’t really like being cold. Not that cold anyway. So I’m giving up the dream of climbing Everest. Or hanging out at Base Camp #1. I thought I’d be sad, giving up a dream and all. I’m not. I’m nice and warm.

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