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.

ElliottNall
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.

Your creepy picture is my treasure

Awhile back I was cleaning out stuff and came across an old picture. It was large, probably equivalent to a 16×20, in a wooden oval frame. The picture was old, I mean old, and had begun to crack. There was no glass protecting it. I couldn’t tell if it was on canvas or paper. The picture was of two people, a man and a woman. The setting looked like it was perhaps an early form of a portrait studio.

I was mesmerized by this picture. I had no idea who these people were. Or better yet, how it turned up in my possession. I showed it to my sister and kids and they all had the same reaction. Scrunched up noses while whispering “creepy.”

GrandparentsHall
The picture of the picture

Obviously they didn’t see what I saw in this picture. They saw two creepy people we didn’t know in an old creepy picture. I saw a story.

Who were they? Were they husband and wife? Brother and sister? Lovers? How did they earn their living? Was he a man of God? A drinker? Maybe both? Was she warm and loving or cold and distant? Did she pine for a secret love? Did they have children? Were they born here or cross the sea on a ship? The possibilities were endless. They were no longer two creepy people. They had a story.

I kept that picture and swore I’d hang it one day near my writing desk. Still not knowing who these two people were. Then the darnedest thing happened.

Christmas Eve, I was going through one of several totes of old photos I have, picking out pictures of my mother’s side of the family. I was going to my cousin’s house for a get-together later in the day and thought it would be fun to look at some of the old photos.  Then what to my wandering eyes should appear?  A picture of the picture! And written on the back, in my paternal grandmother’s handwriting, were the words “Grandpa and Grandma Hall.” The man and woman in that picture were no longer just two random people, they were my dad’s great-grandparents, and my great-great grandparents.

Although finding the picture of the old creepy picture solved a family puzzle (who were these people and what am I doing with the picture?), it kind of put the story to rest. I couldn’t make up a backstory for my two random people anymore. They had their own story. I am interested, though, in discovering what that story was.

Casey’s Big Adventure

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Casey and Ireland, off to see Santa

We don’t get out much. Well, let me rephrase that. Nina’s family doesn’t get out much. With one-year old twins plus a two-year old, not to mention the other two under ten, transporting (3 car seats and a booster needed) can be an issue. There’s also the need for the double stroller and an additional person (at least) with stout arms to carry Ivy (the 2-year old). Moving a platoon of soldiers may be easier.

Don’t get me wrong. The twins have been to the grocery store, the doctor’s office, grandparents’ houses, Nana’s, Uncle Garey and Aunt Ellen’s house, the park, and…(insert drumroll)…the mall. Not only the mall, but they’ve been to the mall to see Santa!

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Landon, Ava, and Ivy’s picture with Santa. If you look close, you can see Santa to the right, with some random kid on his lap.

Yeah, well, that didn’t go over so well. No pictures allowed. Unless you bought the nifty package. And for two dollars more, you can get two 5x7s! Either the hefty price tag that went along with the picture package or the pain in the patootie of getting the twins out of the stroller was enough to make daddy (Allen) say no thanks. So Landon, Ava, and Ivy sat on Santa’s knee and told him what they wanted. Ivy looked like a cat about to be dunked in water. Ava read her wishes from a list. Landon was too cool to act like he enjoyed it. And the twins watched from a few feet away. Their first visit to Santa and they were sentenced to the stroller. Judging from the look on Ireland’s face, that was fine with her. Only child I’ve ever seen that can arch an eyebrow.

So after we visit with Santa, we decide to brave the masses and actually walk around the mall. Wasn’t really crowded (it’s not a very big mall) so it was a nice experience seeing the babies’ excitement over seeing new things. Like a drink machine. While the caravan was stopped to window shop, from his stroller seat, Casey was checking out a drink machine the stroller was parked beside. I mean he was checking it out. Like it was the strangest thing he had ever seen! He even put his tiny little hand up to it and gently touched it. Then touched it again. Then slowly moved in to lick it and Allen jerked the stroller away. Allen’s a germ-a-phob and Casey has developed this habit of licking stuff. I think in his one-year old mind he’s trying to “give kisses” but hasn’t mastered the physical motions yet. He’s got a couple years to master that skill. If they ever let him out of the house.

 

I blame the Writers Police Academy

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I totally missed a new blog post last week because I was recooping from the WPA. A week later, I’m still recooping. It is one more intense conference/workshop/seminar – whatever the heck you want to call it. But I learned a lot. A lot lot. Like Gypsy may need some work.

While at the WPA, I pitched Gypsy and Wink of an Eye to Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency. They really liked it and requested the whole manuscript. They loved Gypsy’s voice. Said it was some ‘good stuff’. Right after she pointed out a few passive verbs — on the first page! In the first paragraph! I don’t use passive verbs. I know better! But sure as I’m sitting here, I used them. I apologized all over the place like a mother begging forgiveness for their over active kid who just spilled grape juice on your white carpet. She smiled (she’s really nice) and said not to worry, sometimes it takes someone else’s eyes to see these things. I still wanted to die.

So now I’m in a pickle. Do I send it as is, knowing it may need a blood-letting edit/revision? Or do I spend some quality time re-writing, again. Let him go? Or hold him back? They really liked the story. Do I go ahead and send it as is while it’s still fresh in their minds — with of course, an apology for the passive verbs on the first page. Or not mention those pesky verbs at all. After all, they were the ones who pointed them out so they kind of already know about ’em. Ahhh!

I heard a story years ago that is fitting to this situation. Many years ago, guards at a famous art museum arrived at work one day to find an elderly man, naked, defacing an original Picasso. They took the old man downstairs to the office and wrapped him in a blanket. Turns out the old man was Picasso. They asked him why he was defacing his painting. He said, “It wasn’t finished.”

How many times do we pull them back before finally letting go?

  

It’s my story so bug off!

Yeah. And let me know when you get that crap published. There’s an art form to giving a good critique and one for receiving a good critique. I’ve been giving and receiving critiques in a formal atmosphere for 18 years. I feel somewhat qualified in offering advice in the give and take process.

Some authors are a little more sensitive than others.
And granddaughter Ivy didn’t think much of  her faerie costume, either. 

Let’s start with the receiving end. If you’ve ever had your work critiqued, good for you! It means you take your work seriously enough to want to make it the best it can be. Remember that first critique? Oh the nerves! Sweaty palms. Racing heart. Will they like it? Will they laugh when they’re supposed to? Cry at the right places? Been there, done that. Even with a few novels under my belt and some short story success, I can tell you the nerves are always there. Whether it’s your first critique or your hundredth. Some things never change. These few pointers can be used for whatever number critique you’re on.

  • Be appreciative. Even if you don’t agree 100% with what they offer. Someone took time away from their own writing, reading, or life, to try and help make your work shine.
  • Consider the source and act accordingly. Is the person giving the critique published? In what genre? Are they trying to turn your YA mystery into a highbrow literary masterpiece? If they haven’t published or have zero critiques to their credit, they may hesitate to give a bone-picking critique. Don’t think they love your work because they didn’t bleed over it. They probably just don’t know what to say yet. 
  • If you belong to a critique group where several people are critiquing your work, majority rules. If five out of six people say you need to change your protagonist’s name, you may need to change his/her name. If only one person suggests it, consider their reasoning then either change it or don’t. It’s your story.
  • Sometimes critiques hurt. Get over it. Yes, we know you’ve spent the last three years of your life struggling over this piece of…work. And we are sorry about that. Bottom line is, it’s your story. If you have faith in it, go for it. But after you stop crying, take another look at the critique. Yeah, we know, It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong.
  • You call it nit-picking when I say a certain flower doesn’t bloom in March in the NC mountains. I call it making your story believable. If that particular flower’s that dang important to your story, make your story a fantasy. Anything’s possible in those.

Now how about giving a critique? Everyone has their own style. I, for instance, over critique. In fiction, we call it beating the reader over the head with information. Not only will I circle a word that doesn’t work, I’ll give you ten reasons why and a list of possible other word choices and a list of why they would work. Blame it on the OCD.

It’s all good in the end. 
  • When giving a critique, consider the level of ability of the author. Is this the first piece they’ve ever written? Or is it the eighteenth novel in a twenty-five book series (in this case the author may be bored with the series!) If they’re newbies, do they even know what POV is? Do they know what author intrusion means? Do they know what RUE means (resist the urge to explain). It doesn’t do any good to point out a POV shift when the newbie doesn’t even know what it is. Yeah, sometimes you have to hold their little hand.
  • Know what the author is hoping to gain from the critique. Are they wanting a line edit (grammar, spelling, etc) or are they looking for a ‘big picture’ critique, or are they looking for the complete package?
  • Even if the story is in a genre you’re not familiar with, you can still critique it. Every story must have the basic elements regardless of genre. Dialogue, pace, characterization, mechanics (grammar, paragraph lengths, scene breaks, etc). These things transcend genres so even if you’ve never read a sci-fi story in your life, you should still be able to critique the basics.
  • Be helpful; not hurtful. There was a time you didn’t know what a POV shift was, either.
  • Never, ever steal an idea. But, critiquing someone else’s work does help you see your own errors. It makes your own writing stronger. 
  • Resist the urge to re-write. It’s their story, not yours. Don’t you have something of your own you need to be working on? 

Yeah, I struggle with that last one. It’s the OCD.