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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Non-deep Thoughts

- I went to San Francisco. I found someone's heart. Now what?...

- Protons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic.

- All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy.

- If the world were a logical place, men would ride horses sidesaddle.

- What is a "free" gift? Aren't all gifts free?

- They told me I was gullible ... And I believed them.

- Teach a child to be polite and courteous in the home and, when he grows up, he'll never be able to merge his car onto a freeway.

- Two can live as cheaply as one, for half as long.

- Is there another word for synonym?

- Where do forest rangers go to "get away from it all"?

- The speed of time is one second per second.

- Is it possible to be totally partial?

- What's another word for thesaurus?

- Is Marx's tomb a communist plot?

- If swimming is so good for your figure, how do you explain whales?

- Show me a man with both feet firmly on the ground, and I'll show you a man who can't get his pants off.

-It's not an optical illusion. It just looks like one.

- Is it my imagination, or do buffalo wings taste like chicken?

- Experience is the thing you have left when everything else is gone.

- What if there were no hypothetical questions?

- One nice thing about egotists: They don't talk about other people.

- When the only tool you own is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.

- A flashlight is a case for holding dead batteries.

- What was the greatest thing before sliced bread?

- My weight is perfect for my height -- which varies.

- I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.

- The cost of living hasn't affected its popularity.

- How can there be self-help "groups"?

- I planted some bird seed. A bird came up. Now I don't know what to feed it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Writing the Perfect Book

It's not going to be perfect. So what do you do?

You just keep writing.

Just grind it out. The next day re-read what you wrote. It may sound better than you thought it would. If not, you'll probably have some idea on how to make it better. But don't worry about it being perfect. For one thing, you can rewrite and polish later. For another, nothing is perfect, so don't expect to write the perfect book.

What you can do is write the best book that you can write. It will be your idea. Your voice. Your story.

That wonderful book that you had in your mind before you ever sat down and actually started writing is never going to be perfect.

But don't give up. Just keep writing.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

Why not both? I've heard and read a lot of discussion about people not saying Merry Christmas any more. Well, I still hear Merry Christmas, quite often, in fact. But I do also hear Happy Holidays too.

I celebrate Christmas. So I say Merry Christmas--to those I know who also celebrate Christmas. Otherwise, I say Happy Holidays. I feel that's inclusive. There are several holidays in December, and of course there is New's Day in January. So Happy Holidays can cover a lot of ground, especially if you are saying it to someone early in the month who you probably won't see again for another month or so.

Store clerks are probably instructed to say Happy Holidays, because they don't usually know what holidays their customers might celebrate. And, of course, the customers might not know what, if any, holidays the store workers celebrate. So again, Happy Holidays covers it all.

Since already I'm seeing ads for Christmas on TV and in newspapers and magazines, and Christmas music will be taking over some of the radio stations either just before or just after Thanksgiving, depending on the station, I think there's plenty of Christmas in the air.

And of course decorations will be showing up in stores, churches, homes and in many businesses. The businesses may have more generic decorations, such as snow scenes, since, again, not everyone working at or coming into the business will necessarily be celebrating Christmas. But there will be Santas and Christmas villages and angels and Nativity scenes in many places.

So, it's early, but let me wish you Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays--whichever works for you!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Freud had it wrong.

His question should have been "What do CATS want?"

Really, has anyone every figured out the inner workings of a cat's mind? Anyone who has a cat knows that cats are intelligent. Look at how they get us to do their bidding!

It's their methods, though, that often prompt us to ask what the cat really wants. If a cat has gotten his or her way once by doing a series of activities before the cat's person finally figures out that the cat, say, wants to go out, then ever after the cat will go through the same series. Nevermind that it might start with a meow by the food dish, followed by ignoring the food, walking in a circle, meowing a again, and then, maybe, heading for the door to the outside. If it worked once, the cat figures that's how it's done!

And how many of us have give food to our apparantly starving cats, only to have them turn up their noses at it? It took me years before I finally figured out that I should not stand there waiting to see if the cat was going to eat. I now walk away into another room, and soon the cat starts chowing down. She must want her privacy when she eats. At least, that's how I read the situation. Who really knows?

Most of the time when my cat curls up on my lap it is because she wants to snuggle, be petted and sleep (or that's the way it appears). But sometimes I think it's just to keep tabs on me and be prepared, when I get up, to indicate another want or need, be it food or to go outside (the primary cat issues, at least in my home).

So, let others worry about what women want. Those of us with cats will better spend our time trying to figure out what cats want!

Monday, October 14, 2013

In the Beginning

An author has to grab the reader's attention.

A writer has only a few pages to hook a reader. It doesn't matter if the rest of book is fascinating, page-turning reading if a reader can't get past the first two or three pages. If those beginning pages are weak, the readers will probably abandon the book. (Editors too, if your book is in the submission phase.) With TV, internet, cell phones, etc., there is too much competition for a young reader's time.

The writer has to reveal something to the reader. It could be a problem, a conflict or an attitude. It could be the emotional state of the main character.

Another approach is to present a question. Why does Nicole hate her father? What did Jason see his best friend do? What was that student doing hiding in the custodian's closet?

No matter what approach a writer takes, the result needs to be a beginning that hooks the reader.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Please prove you are not a robot."

You know you're a person, but several times a week you have to prove it.

You get those "requests" where you have to prove you are a human in order to post a message. You run into them almost every day. It's bad enough to have to prove that funny, intelligent, good-looking, flesh-and-blood you has to show that you are not a machine. But when the proof requires you to try to read blurry numbers that seem to be attached to houses that have a shady past or letters that are so wavy and squeezed together that they might as well be a pre-schooler's scribbles, it can be almost impossible. How many times have you "failed" and had to try again? And again? And again? How many times have you decided that what you wanted to say was not worth the effort of proving you are you?

Yes, spamming can be a problem. But surely there must be a better way of eliminating it than having to try to interpret indecipherable numbers and letters!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Handwritten Letters

Although I email a lot (along with other electronic communication) and phone occasionally, I do still write letters to some of my friends and family. My handwriting is terrible, but I do the best I can. Why? Because I think handwritten letters are special.

I've saved many letters over the years, and when I look at them again they bring the letter-writer right back into my mind, even those who have passed on. When I see my mother's handwriting, I can hear her voice. When I read a friend's letter, I can picture as she was back at the time when she wrote it.

When I was growing up, it was a thrill to get a letter in the mail addressed to me. I still feel that way. I love actual cards, be they birthday, Christmas or whatever, much better than ecards. I can put a real, paper card on the mantle and enjoy it every time I look in that direction. While emails can be saved (and I do save certain ones), it is not the same. They are hidden away. And most people delete their emails as soon as they have read them.

Handwritten letters and cards often contain family and friendship history. Years later letters can be discovered by future generations that will tell them something about the past. But no one is going to look through ancient emails, even if by some chance years from now they could still be read by future computers and electronic devices.

I have letters from my mother dating back to when I first moved away from home. I have letters from my husband written to me before we were married. I even have a letter from an author of a series of favorite books that I read when I was growing up.

My grandmother saved her correspondence, and there is a "letter" from me written when I was very young, before I could actually write. It looks like a row of ocean waves. But I was trying!

Of course, there are stashes of Valentine's and Mother's Day cards that I gave my mother when I was growing up and that my daughter gave to me.

Emails and such are fun, but handwritten cards and letters are pure gold.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Familiar Question--How do you write a whole book?

Answer: Persistence!

Questions and comments I get about writing often revolve around actually finishing a book. A lot of people start writing books, but then never finish them.

I can understand. It's always fun when I have new idea and the adrenaline is flowing. Getting those first few words out is exciting! But. Then what?

Well, then a writer has to make sure the plot has viable beginning, middle and end. Characters must be created and fully developed. Setting has to be described and incorporated into the story. And on and on.

So, how does a writer get to the point of writing "The End?" By going "on and on." By writing one word, one sentence, one paragraph and then moving on to the next.

Don't worry about that first word, sentence or paragraph being perfect. Not right away. Of course, writers need to revise and polish their work. But expecting perfection from the start--or waiting for the "muse" to dictate the perfect story--isn't going to work.

Finishing a book is not easy, but it's not impossible. One word, then another, then the next. Sentence after sentence. Paragraph after paragraph. Chapter after chapter. Pretty soon you'll have written a whole book.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Flashbacks

Flashbacks can give us information and provide insights into situations and characters.

Stories are usually not told entirely in chronological order. Most have at least one flashback, if not more. The flashback can take a story back and provide information that also moves a story forward.

For example, if we find out that a teen had been abused in some way by a parent, teacher or other adult, it can explain his current emotions, actions and motives.

Flashbacks do have to be handled carefully, however. A reader can get so caught up in the past that he/she does not want to return to the present. Or, a reader can get impatient with a flashback and wonder when it will end so that the story can move on. They must written so that they are seamless and enhance the story rather than slow it down.

Reread any flashbacks in your stories and see if you get too involved or too impatient. If you do, so will your readers.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

There's More to Life than Housework

In my life, anyway.

The lived-in look is good enough for me. As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing wrong with reasonably clean and tidy. After all, even if a house is cleaned until it is immaculate, how long does that last, anyway? Not very long.

I tune out when I hear people talking about how to get the dirt out from under their refrigerators. I mean, wait until you move! Who is going to see it? And are there really people who move all their furniture every week to vacuum behind something that requires two people and a jack to move it?

I remember the mother of one of my friends who followed us around the house whenever I was over there, and she would polish the doorknobs milli-seconds after I touched them. She had three perfect birch logs in the fireplace, never burned of course, because that would cause the fireplace to have (gasp!) ashes strewn on the bottom. And I'll bet she dusted those logs too.

Of course, we could never sit on my friend's bed, because that would wrinkle the bedspread. Needless to say, I didn't go over to her house very often.

I clean enough so that no one's going to call the health department. I tidy up enough so that I can find something the next time I look for it. But scrub my toilet with a toothbrush? Wash the kitchen floor every day? Pull out every book in the bookcase when I dust. Uh, no.

There's more to life than a sterile, immaculate house!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Do you want to be a writer?

Or do you just like the idea of being a writer?

I read an article in a magazine once about how people often liked the idea of doing something much more than actually doing it. One example was people dreaming of giving up city life and moving to a farm. While there are a tiny number of people who actually do that, most folks don't really want to give up their city life and invest themselves in the truly hard work of farm life. The idea of it is much more fun.

I felt the same way about a home-made Christmas. I loved the idea of making my own cards, gifts, wrapping paper, dozens of kinds of cookies and candies, Christmas-tree decorations, etc. But I realized it was the idea I liked. I didn't really want to actually do all those things. I could simply appreciate the people who did.

Would-be writers are often in love with the idea of writing. They like to talk about writing and think about writing and read about writing. They may even go to a conference or two. But when it comes to sitting down and actually writing, well, it turns out they really prefer the idea of being a writer. It's so much easier, and fun, to daydream about developing a plot, creating characters, and describing settings than to put those ideas down on paper or computer.

"I'm too busy," they often will say. "If only I didn't have to work/parent/study, why I would write a book." As if it is so easy-peasy that all it takes is just a bit more free time. Well, no harm in daydreaming and liking the idea of something. We all do it. But if you really want to be a writer, there's only one way to accomplish that dream--sit down and start writing and keep going until you finish a manuscript. And don't wait, start today!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Humor--We Need It!

"When humor goes, there goes civilization."--Erma Bombeck “The secret to humor is surprise.”–Aristotle “Humor is truth.”–Victor Borges “[Mark Twain] understood that the source of laughter was not joy but sorrow.”–Ken Burns “Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.”–James Thurber "A joke is a very serious thing."--Winston Churchill "Humor is mankind's greatest blessing."--Mark Twain "A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It is jolted by every pebble on the road." "A sense of humor is a major defense against minor troubles."--Mignon McLaughlin

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Found! Favorite Lost Movie

For years I tried to figure out the name of a movie I saw on TV (it was an old movie even then), when I was a kid, about a sailor whose horse died and then he finds a horse on a Pacific island in WWII. I thought the leading man was Robert Walker and searched all his movies to no avail. Then one day I was browsing through my copy of Leonard Maltin's movie book to check something-or-other and my eyes landed on the title "Gallant Bess." I read the description and that was the movie! Starring Marshall Thompson, not Robert Walker! I even found a used copy on the interet, so I got to watch it again! In color! (who knew?) With scenes that had been edited out for Saturday-afternoon TV showings! :) What fun to relive that childhood memory of a favorite movie.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Traveling ;)

I have been in many places, but I have never been in Cahoots. Apparently, you can not go alone. You have to be in Cahoots with someone. I have also never been in Cognito. I hear no one recognizes you there. I have, however, been in Sane. They do not have an airport; you have to be driven there. I have made several trips there, thanks to my children, friends, family and work. I would like to go to Conclusions, but you have to jump, and I'm not too much on physical activity anymore. I have also been in Doubt. That is a sad place to go, and I try not to visit there too often. I've been in Flexible, but only when it was very important to stand firm. Sometimes I am in Capable, and I go there more often as I'm getting older. One of my favorite places to be is in Suspense! It really gets the adrenalin flowing and pumps up the old heart! At my age I need all the stimuli I can get!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Novel Research

Authors of non-fiction have to do a lot of research, but authors of novels have to make sure they get their facts straight too. My books (so far) have all been contemporary, so I haven't had to do the kind of research authors of historical novels do. But that doesn't mean I don't do any research. I once read an entire book about minor league baseball, even though the subject was a very minor point in The Perfect Guy--but I wanted to get everything right! I researched Scandinavian food for Hey, Nobody's Perfect, because the characters attend a Scandinavian Fair. I guess I did a good job, because someone wanted "my" recipe for Blueberry Kakar! (I don't have one. :) ) So the next time you read a book, realize that you may be reading the results from research about topics in that story, no matter how minor they might be to the plot.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I am the Tortoise

Well, okay, I am not that particular tortoise, but I fit the mold. I'm the kind of person who likes to do one thing at a time. I'm not a multitasker. I don't juggle several balls at one time. I don't burn the candle at both ends. And I don't write particularly quickly. I write about one book a year. Now, I have had more than one book published in the space of one year. But that's because sometimes manuscripts "stack up." Maybe because one has sat with a publisher for a year or more, or maybe it's because I've set one aside so I can look at it with fresh eyes. Or maybe one is being reissued. But I write at the speed of one-a-year. There are hares I admire, who just seem to have several things going at once and who finish everything, and on time. There are, however, some hares like the one in the story, who burn themselves out before the race is over. Everybody's different. Like the tortoise, I finish the race, and I "win" by accomplishing my goal of finishing the manuscript.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Knowing When to Let Go (of Your Manuscript)

Writing can be like raising kids. There's always that struggle with wanting to get a story out there and to hold on and polish it some more. It's sort of like raising kids—you want them to grow up and take on the world, but you want to keep guiding and advising "just a little longer!" You remind your kids to wear a seatbelt and drive carefully. You warn them to be careful about people they visit on the internet. You advise them to start saving money early in their careers. You think there's always one more thing you need to teach them before they leave the nest. You want to be the perfect parent! The same thing happens with your writing. You proofread your manuscript—and as you do you start to wonder. Should I use a different verb here, a different adjective there? Should I make this minor character more prominent or cut back the number of appearances of that minor character? Is the villain evil enough—or too evil? Maybe he should have a redeeming quality or two? Maybe the hero/heroine is too perfect and needs more flaws. Or maybe fewer flaws. Should you cut that comma? Should you add a comma there? You certainly want to go through you manuscript and make sure that it's the best you can make it. But you can't wait until you think it is perfect to send it out, because you'll never think it's perfect. And it won't be perfect. Nothing is. Even after a book has been edited and copyedited by long-time professionals, someone, somewhere will find something wrong with it. That does not mean the story isn't good or even great! It just means that it isn't perfect. So proofread your manuscript. Make the necessary changes. But don't fiddle with it forever. Get it out there. Let it go!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Is that Spring on the horizon?

Mother Nature seems to be tempting those of us in Oregon. The past few days have been tantalizingly-close-to-spring weather. One day we had a high in the 60s. Other days, though not as warm, blue sky and sunshine have dominated. Then, a few drops of rain. A chilly breeze. Oh, it's not quite as nice as the other days. Guess Spring will have to wait. But ... what's this? A robin? Crocuses, daffodils and periwinkle in bloom? Forsythia trying hard to blossom, just not quite there yet? It is March in Oregon, so before the official First Day of Spring who knows what the weather will do. March winds or gentle spring breezes? Sunny skies or pouring rain? Soothing warmth or goosebumps? Probably all of the above for at least another two or three weeks. :D But the day will come when it is really, finally Spring. The only question is, just when? Edited 3/4 to add: It was only 29 degrees this morning!!!!!!!!! :O

Friday, February 1, 2013

Sneak Preview of New Cover

Here's the cover for my soon-to-be released YA novel! Can Rebecca turn her new stepbrother into her new love? When Rebecca's mother marries Pres's father, Rebecca is sure that living in the same house with the guy of her dreams will have its perks and it will be just a matter of time before Pres sees her as more than a kid sister. Even though her best friend, Celeste, warns her to face reality, Rebecca doesn't listen. She thinks Pres is the perfect guy for her. But Celeste's brother, Josh, has been friends with Pres for years, and Celeste thinks she knows what she's talking about. Rebecca's not so sure about her relationship with her new stepfather. She knows he can't replace her real dad, but she thinks she can break through his cool surface by helping him with the school play. But things don't go as planned, and as friendships start to change, Rebecca faces surprising truths about herself and her friends. Will she find happiness in her new family and find The Perfect Guy? Available soon from Books We Love,Ltd. I'll post again when it comes out. :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Happily Ever After or Positive Endings

Most of my books have what would be called the Happily Ever After ending, where girl and guy walk hand and hand into the sunset (not necessarily forever, since they're teens, but at least for the near future!). But a couple of my books do not have the traditional HEA ending. They are still postive endings, however. Or upbeat, or whatever you might want to call them. I even think (though I did not write) that in one book one of the couples will be together HEA eventually--after exploring other relationships. I don't write sad endings (at least, not yet) and I don't leave things completely hanging, such as the ending to the Sopranos series. That one really leaves what happens next to the imagination! In Gone With the Wind (Spoiler Alert for anyone who may not have read the book or seen the movie), Rhett leaves Scarlett and her next move is to decide to go to Tara to figure out how to get him back. This leaves the reader with imagining what might happen. I've read that Vivien Leigh and Olivia DeHavilland (from the movie) decided that Scarlett goes to a dinner party in Charleston 6 weeks later and wins him back. I like that theory! Funny thing, though, is that sometimes both HEA and and positive endings can be criticized. One reviewer thought one book was so HEA that it was unbelievable, while others thought that same ending was perfect. Also, that ending was a total surprise to some readers, while others figured who would end up with whom early on and rooted for the heroine to hurry up and make the right choice. :) So Happily Ever After or Positive, there's a reason an author had made the choice, and that is because the author thought it was the right ending for that particular story.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Squirrels versus Squirrels, and assorted other critters

There are gray squirrels and brown squirrels in my backyard, so there is a lot of competition for the sunflower seed hearts I put out on the deck rails each day. The grays are larger and often chase away the browns, but the browns are quick and manage to dash around enough to stake their claims to the food. I used to put just a couple of piles of seeds out, but lately have had as many as six "feeding stations." It seems the more piles of seed I put out, the more squirrels come to eat them! Then there are the jays and assorted smaller birds who flit in and out to get their share. There is a feeder with what is called "finch food" (assorted bird seed) and that gets a lot of action, but everyone seems to love the sunflower seed hearts the most! My cat loves to station herself at the sliding door that leads to the deck and peer out at all the action. I'm sure she feels that is safer than dealing with 5 or 6 squirrels all at once! I keep a water dish on the deck rail too, and it is fun to watch the squirrels and birds drink from it. They use the water dish year round, even when there is plenty of rainwater. Of course, I have to chop the ice out every now and then, but not too often, as it rarely gets that cold here. Still, I can't let the poor birds peck at ice when what they want is a drink of water. If anyone can scare away the squirrels, it is the occasional crow or five, who sometimes fly in to sample the menu. It is amazing to see them up close and realize just how big they really are. All in all, the various critters manage to get along well enough so that they all get a good portion of the available food. Nature at its best. ;)