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Comment on Common Sense

 

CelebrationSo this 4th of July I was thinking.

My thoughts have a tendency to wander, go around, deviate and many times end up in strange places, far from the original thought. Kind of like that sentence I just wrote.

 

Normally this blog is about my writing experiences, but today, I’m going to deviate. My original thought was about freedom of course. Freedom of governing ourselves given to us by the founding father. Freedom of choice in every day matters such as buying and choosing products. From there my thought was distracted by the news that TSA has asked for a 100% increase on what they get paid to do their job and it will be passed on to the consumer. Of course from there I began to think about why large companies fail.

Ever notice how a company starts? All shiny and new, with brand new ideas? Kind of like a new story. Then the company starts to grow, like the plot of a book. Everyone is sure it will maintain it’s growth and become great, like getting into a good read. Then, it collapses. What happened? The customer and reader become disenfranchised.

It’s simple. It is always about the money/greed.  When it becomes driven by profit, you lose service. You would think it would be just about producing a great product. Nope. I have a great product, a BlackBerry. The product continues to please me, the service does not. Now I’m considering finding another phone that when I come across a problem like why does the phone keep shutting off, I can call a technician who can tell me I need a new battery, rather than having to be Sherlock Holmes to figure it all out.

Companies lose sight of what the original plan was. To provide a product that meets the demand of the customer and service to continue to keep the customer’s loyalty. When self-service was invented it was simply a capitalistic way of the company making more money. You thought you were getting a good deal when you had to put together that shelf unit you because you saved money yet in  reality the company was saving itself in labor costs. Self-service serves only the company as they cut service to you and save on the bottom line.

Eventually, the company has to keep raising the prices to overcome falling sales. Cutting services to keep up income loses the loyalty of their customers and even more sales. Eventually, they go out of business. Why? Because another new and shiny company has figured this out and brings in a product that is better and cheaper and it starts all over again.

Look around and you will discover what products have actually lasted the test of time. If you find one, you will note they produce not only a quality product but it is backed by service and is still reasonably priced. Period.

I don’t fly anymore. Between the nickel and diming for services that were once complimentary, I also have to put up with TSA agents that treat me and everyone else guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like having my simple travel plans be suspect to a darker more sinister plan. I simply want to get on a mode of transportation, enjoy the trip and arrive safely. Instead I find hidden fees, extremely complicated rules on what I can carry on. There is nothing enjoyable about a flight crammed into a tin can with no comfort unless I pay for it.  This doesn’t even include the utterly time consuming, personal-space-invading procedure of getting on the plane.

It now is a mode of transportation that has become over-priced, service-lacking, and anger inducing. Instead, I have discovered train travel. Simple. Train travel is wonderful, you can move about, and their dining is great. Service is old fashioned and welcomed.Of course if you are trying to get anywhere in a hurry, it has it’s drawbacks.

How does this pertain to writing a book? Same thing. Plots must be shiny and new. Service must be provided by giving a good story. Don’t produce one-size-fits-all stories and then increase the price as the trilogy goes on. No cliff hanging endings to force the customer to buy the next book.

As an independent author, we are a business unto ourselves. Let’s observe the mistakes the big companies make and remember what we offer as independents. Be hungry and competitive and never forget, service drives the product.

So in my convoluted way of thinking, I guess this did end up being about writing experiences. I hope you all have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!

 

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How to Write a Hysterical, Oops, Historical Romance

Norse Hearts 3Thirty-eight years ago, for ten cents, I picked up my first Historical Romance at a garage sale. To this day “The Wolf and the Dove,” by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, remains my favorite. This started my addiction to romance stories. I quickly found some to be better than others and the dream of  writing my own was shuffled to the back burner as I started raising a family.

The one part of history that fascinated me was the Vikings. So little was known about them, but they made a huge impact on the world that is still seen to this day. Through the years I gathered notes on scraps of paper, watched every documentary, checked out books at the library, visited the Smithsonian when they had a traveling exhibit, and bought research books. Thirty-eight years later, I finally decided to make my dream come true.

And that’s where it got interesting. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable, but even though I had some facts in my head, I didn’t have them all. Writing my first two books had been easy. They were based on the here and now and information was readily at hand. Starting from the first page of Norse Hearts, I had to step back into time. In the 700’s town names were not the same. Language and customs were not the same. Walmart didn’t exist of course, and everything had to be made by hand. Words we use now, were not used then. To get someone from one continent to the other, was daunting and took weeks. How would I fill in the time during the journey?

Depending on the time period you choose to write about determines, of course, how much research will go into it. I was delighted to find they had a website on “How to Curse in Norse.” I found that they used more animal parts then and less curse words, much to my husband’s delight. Since it was a man dominated time period, I leaned on his manly expertise on the art of cussing, fighting and insulting.

Every story is like a well prepared meal. The courses must compliment each other, the spices must be just right. So how much of the Old Norse language do you use? How many of the strange personal names of the period can you put in before you lose the reader? How much detail do you describe about food, clothing, ships, customs and routines? How about their religious beliefs and practices?

Since I never do things that are easy, of course, I picked a time and period of history that not much is known about. So what were the wedding ceremonies like? How much fiction can I invent before it is unbelievable or not historically accurate? Even the historians disagree, so what happens when I have a reader who believes I have not done my research because they hold a different view of the facts?

Last but not least, I discovered the irritating problem of trying to write a scene, being in the moment, then suddenly realizing I would have to go back to my ocean of notes and references to find one small detail such as does Norway have skunks? Or what type of tree would they be burning in their firepit?

Though I had a lot more freedom as to plot, and my imagination went wild with the possibilities, I was not prepared for the mountain of time research would continue to play during my writing process. My husband was a dear during this time. For instance, it is one thing to see a sword fight in my mind, another to try and describe it. I know the neighbors definitely wondered about us as we picked up kitchen spatulas to simulate the moves during a sword fight so I could get a feel of how to describe it.

During one of my rants at my inability to find a tidbit of fact that I had just had the day before, my husband unwisely noted that I should not get so hysterical over such a small piece of information and the joke in the family began. I became quite cranky over the inquiries about how my “hysterical romance” was progressing!

Overall, it was a great challenge and I’m grateful I waited until this time of my life to try my hand at writing this form of romance. It is not for the faint hearted, easily discouraged, or impatient writer. It has stretched my organizational skills to the limit, but was one of the most exhilarating writing experiences I’ve ever had. Writing historically gave me a chance to develop characters who were not as confined by laws, society and religion as we have now. Because I used Vikings, I was able to create people who were not afraid to live, express their feelings or be colorful and headstrong.

Maybe it’s just that I’m now in a permanent state of hysteria, but  either way, my editor has her work cut out for her!

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Indie Authors Network – Author Interview

Why write Fantasy? How about Science Fiction? Autor Michael Taylor shares his reasons.

http://www.indieauthornetwork.com/4/post/2014/03/author-interview-michael-taylor.html

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Anniversaries

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I had planned on posting about my new writing project, but there’s plenty of time for that. Instead, something else caught my attention. Today when I opened my account, WordPress happily reminded me it’s been three years since I started my blog.

Really? It’s been three years? Doesn’t seem that long ago since I looked at the overwhelming programming here and wondered what I was doing. It seems such a short time ago, I was wanting to be a writer. Dreaming of writing a book.

Anniversaries are a good thing. They remind us of where we have been. How far we’ve gotten in our journeys in life. Sometimes they are a painful reminder of losses and failure, but for the most part, the anniversaries in my life make me happy.

This particular anniversary reminds me I pursued a dream and made it happen. I may not have made it as big as I would have liked, but I accomplished the simple act of creating, writing, editing and getting produced not only one book, but two. And during the journey I learned how to post and be in countless social accounts, learned to blog, learned out to market and format, found a whole world of internet friends, and reconnected with long lost friends!

While I may not be in the best seller market, I’m totally amazed I’ve made it this far. It seems like years ago I first wanted to write a book and despaired that it would ever happen. Now, here I am. The satisfaction from just accomplishing my goal is a reward in itself. My hat is off to all who have succeeded in making their goals as well. Now it’s time to go and celebrate!

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A Writer is Like a Flower

BuzzingAre you feeling unnoticed, unloved and down now that you’ve written that book? Does it feel like it’s lost in the vortex of Amazon? Today I ran across this on Facebook by the Buddha Bootcamp and it kind of fit a writer’s life. It opened my eyes……..

A flower doesn’t stop being beautiful just because somebody walks by without noticing it, nor does it cease to be fragrant if its scent is taken for granted. The flower just continues to be its glorious self: elegant, graceful, and magnificent.Our Mother Nature has provided us with these immeasurably valuable teachers that blossom despite their short lifespan, stars that continue to shine even if we fail to stare at them, and trees that don’t take it personally if we never bow down in gratitude for the oxygen they provide.

We also have an incredible and unlimited capacity to love, but the question is: can we do it like a flower? Without needing to be admired, adored, or even noticed? Can we open our hearts completely to give, forgive, celebrate, and joyfully live our lives without hesitation or need for reciprocity?

It seems like sometimes we go beyond taking things personally and are noticeably deflated when unappreciated. In-fact, devastated, we wilt in sorrow and then attempt to guard ourselves by withholding, using all sorts of protections and defenses. We get hurt (even angry), if our boss fails to recognize an astonishing feat, if a lover pulls their hand away, or when a friend forgets our birthday. Can you imagine a flower copping an attitude for not being praised, or the moon dimming its glow because we’re too self-absorbed to notice it more often?

Each chapter in Buddhist Boot Camp invites you to make an effort to shine no matter what, to love unconditionally, and to be a kind and gentle soul (even when nobody is watching).

And, if you’re so inclined, hug the next tree you see and say, “Thank you!”

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Peacock Writers Extraordinaire

50982232I first met some of the author’s of this great group of writers when I got to know Paula Shene, Carol Wills and Gwen Steel through a book site called BookRix.

I was impressed from the beginning by their giving hearts and willingness to support other independent writers.

I’ve purchased all of their collaborations up to this point. I have read to many a grandchild from the collections of the finely crafted children’s stories. Find out more about this group of big hearted authors.

THE PEACOCK WRITERS

We are a small group of writers who have banded together with one purpose in mind – to collate children’s stories & poems to donate to children’s charities.

Thanks to our wonderful team led by Paula Shene & Gwen D’Young & our contributing authors, we manage to publish two books each year. No two series are the same as each have their own common theme. Each one is available to but as Kindle edition, plain text or illustrated version.

I truly believe the following books will make a lovely present for children this Christmas:

A Whimsical Holiday http://www.amazon.com/Whimsical-Holiday-Children-Childrens-ebook/dp/B006MQ1A0K

Snowflakes on My Lashes http://www.amazon.com/Snowflakes-My-Lashes-Peacock-Presents/dp/1492749443

For a full list of our contributing authors & to learn more about our charity group, please click the following link:http://thepeacockwriters.weebly.com/

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Meet Chryse Wymer, Editor

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I met Chryse Wymer on a site called “BookRix.”  What caught my attention was a comment she left about grammar. I enjoyed her feisty outspokenness and I realized she was right about the grammar issues being discussedBeing grammar challenged, I found myself seeking her advice.  Slowly I began to know the person behind the comments.  I fondly call her the “Yoda of Grammar.” I’m so excited to host her blog here today.

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Thank you, Robynn Gabel, for allowing me to guest post on what I know to be of particular interest to you: commas. For those of you keeping track, this is part three of my comma series. If you are interested in reading part one, visit A.B Shepherd’s blog at: http://www.abshepherd.net/, and part two can be read on John Abramowitz’s blog at: http://onthebird.blogspot.com/

This month, I’ll be hopping along from blog to blog to share my knowledge on the nuts and bolts of great writing. I am a copy editor, proofreader, and author—published both traditionally and independently. I’m also raffling off Amazon gift cards to get you started on your editing bookshelves. You can contact me at chrysewymer@yahoo.com, or, for more information, visit: http://ocdeditor.weebly.com/ So here goes:

COMMAS – PART THREE

I want to reiterate that the basic function of a comma is to separate.

The fifth function of a comma is to separate adjectives that each qualify a noun in the same way < Next to a few odds and ends, she found a small[,] red leather-bound book.> There are a couple of tricks to help decide if a comma is necessary: one is whether or not you can use and between the adjectives. If you can, you need a comma. My preferred method is the switcheroo. If you can switch the adjectives out, then you need a comma, e.g.: Next to a few odds and ends, she found a red[,] small leather-bound book.

The sixth function of a comma is separate a direct quotation from its attribution <“Blue. I like the color blue,” she said.>

The seventh function of a comma is to separate a participial phrase, a verbless phrase (group of verbless words that make sense but do not form a complete sentence), or a vocative (direct address)—e.g.: “Having had coffee[,] she made her son breakfast.”/ “Anna, you’re so rotten!”

The eighth function of a comma is marking the end of a salutation in an informal letter <Dear Ms. Gabel,> <Dear Chryse,> and the close <Yours sincerely,>

Finally, the comma separates parts of a physical address <258 Monkey Butt Drive, Macon, WV> or a date <October 21, 2013>

Stay tuned as I continue my grammar and style tour 30 Days of Linguistic Love with . . . semicolons, one of the most-often misused punctuation marks. Visit me tomorrow on Dionne Lister’s blog at http://dionnelisterwriter.com/ to find out more about semicolons.

 

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Pet Peeves of an Avid Reader

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Before I took classes, online webinars, writing conferences and other educational pursuits to become an author, I was and still remain an avid reader. The world of Indie writers has been a delightful journey of new and interesting material and with the ability to speed read; I devour daily the written word.

Of course, I would like to selfishly believe this makes me a connoisseur of fine writing. In reality, I’m just an average person who has a few pet peeves about how stories are written.

For instance, never name your primary characters with similar names, like Jack and Jace, or Miranda and Miriam, or Jonathan and John.  It is bad enough if two characters have names that start with the same letter, but when the second letter or the first three are similar, even a slow reader is going to get confused. It interrupts the flow of reading. I have to go back to figure out who is speaking or interacting in the scene, especially if both characters are in the scene together.

For example:

*** “We need to be at the pick-up point by nine,” Jace said.

Jack’s tawny hair swayed as he whipped around to face Jace. “Why did we move up the time?”

Jace shrugged his shoulder. “I don’t know.” Jack’s eyes narrowed, suspicion lurking in the blue depths.***

Confused? Try a whole chapter like that! Another pet peeve is when an author inserts a seemingly innocuous moment or item. As a mystery reader, I’ve learned to look for clues as to what will be important later on in the story. The following is an example of that.

***** Her hands shook as she continued to dig through the moldy cloth. Her fingers hit something cold, small and square. As she pulled it out the burnished gleam of gold caught her eye. The little box was plain, no ornaments or carvings to mar its smooth surface.  Her finger traced over the tiny lock keeping its secrets secure.  Impatient to find the key, she turned back to the ancient cloth covering the contents of the old wood chest. Clawing at it she discovered gold coins, a golden goblet and a few twinkling gems.******

So is it just me or would you go crazy wondering what was in the box? If this was at the very beginning of the story and yet, we never hear about that gold box again, wouldn’t you continue to wonder why it was mentioned? I would keep waiting for it to reappear and make some sense as to why it was even in the story.

It’s like settling down for a long movie. You have wrapped yourself in your favorite blanket with popcorn and soda pop  within reach. You are deeply involved in the story unfolding before you and then you have to go to the bathroom.  Do you put the movie on pause now, or wait until the intense scene is over while your bladder pleads for mercy? It interrupts your enjoyment, your interest and the storyline as you dash for the bathroom. For a second you have to come back to the real world.

It is irritating to be reading a scene you are so engrossed in, only to be jarred into the present by bad grammar, incorrect punctuation, dialogue that is off, a scene that ends too abruptly, or my most unfavorite, a cliff hanger ending with no resolution.  As if the author tired of writing and decided to let you decide how it would end.  Or how about an ending where suddenly you are in the height of action and it ends, leaving a myriad of loose ends begging to be explained or resolved.

I love stories that are like a fine dessert. Where the ingredients are blended so well together it is like heaven on my palate. This makes me eager to order that dessert again and again. Like waiting for a favorite author’s work to be released so I can enjoy another great story.. It is artwork at its best when it all comes together and I can leave this earthly plane for a while to exist in another world.

So when you dezign your word desert please think of you’re rea;ders. It well help you in your search for that aphid reeder.

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The Real Writer’s Block

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Staring out the window, you contemplate your next scene and come up blank. Frustrated, you are stumped at what comes next. . A moment lost as the story line goes cold can put a writer into panic. This is called a ‘writer’s block’. 

There are many fixes like taking a walk, a hot shower, listening to your favorite music or just taking a break for a few days. The list of cures is endless.  But the most insidious writer’s block is sometimes not even recognized by a writer.  

Recently someone asked me to read their work.  They were concerned about their grammar. I found the story to be quite different as it was written laced with prose. Unfortunately some of the words used were not in proper context. After some quick emails back and forth, it finally boiled down to the author still only being concerned with grammar. They thought their ‘prose’ style was unique and the reader would figure out what they meant by using words out of context.

I understand. I do. It takes a lot of work to create art. We are proud of our creations, but the worse block is not being able to see where the weaknesses are, even when pointed out to us. The refusal to edit is a death knell for our work.

Read any author’s autobiography and you will find again and again the editing process was the hardest part, but necessary for all writers. We are blind when it comes to our own work. The block we put up, using the excuse it is ‘our art’ and should not be changed, puts us in the dark. Readers are educated. Usually they have read oceans of words and demand a smooth flow, proper usage of the English language, a developed story plot, and understandable dialogue.

I’m not saying that you cannot be artistic, but be realistic. If you are just starting out and haven’t developed your ‘brand’ yet, it is better to be safe. Every established author will tell you that their first work is not as polished as what follows.

Listen to your friends, family and readers. If you are not selling, if more than one person has told you something needs to be changed, consider it. Get an editor. I can’t say this enough. Get an editor!

Don’t be blinded by the worst ‘writer’s block’ of all. An over-inflated sense of how great your writing is.