Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #31 2012

You are standing on a corner and a car drives past.  What kind/color of car?  Is it going too fast or too slow?   What's the destination?  Who is driving and what's his/her story?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Photos, memories, mothers and time - never enough

Over the last few months, I have been noticing my step mother has been suffering from short-term memory loss.  She will, in fact, ask me the same questions several times over the course of a ten minute phone call.  She writes lists of things she has to get done and then forgets where the list is or even that she already wrote it.  She does not remember if she paid her taxes this year.  This loving woman has been my mother since I was a little girl, so my attachment to her is strong and deep. 

Just months ago we were talking about books, her customers, being a mother, and what activities she has planned.  These days she cries during most of my calls, she is frightened of driving at night, tells me repeatedly that she loves me and is fearful I will take offense at something she says or does and stop loving her.

I call her multiple times a week since we live several states apart, and I can seldom visit her. 

She asked me quite recently to create a photo album of my daughter since her birth to the present.  At first I thought of this as a task that would be quite time consuming especially since I have sent her pictures over the years, and she could build such an album herself.  But in the last few months, she has admitted to having problems remembering things.  I am beginning to think that what she was asking for was something to keep her from forgetting her granddaughter. 

So now I am busy building that life album for her.  I hope it is enough to help her hold onto a granddaughter she loves.  The journey ahead looks particularly uncertain, my time with her off kilter and short.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Advice: Back up your computer

There are some things you should just do:  floss your teeth (at least the ones you want to keep, according to a dentist I used to know), cleanse your face of all makeup before you go to bed (thanks, mom), mean it when you say your sorry (self explanatory), exercise at least three times a week (just to stay in a holding pattern), be yourself (do you really want to be loved for something you are not?) and BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER.

I have two computers: one is my working computer that contains all my lesson plans and teaching stuff.  The other is my home computer which has my writing life.  Both are absolutely essential to me.  Sure I have hard copies of everything, but I don't want to have to retype it all.  So I use a little external hard drive to back up my main hard drive.  Of course, it is only hooked up when I am backing things up.  There are numerous such devices available.  Mine is a WD Passport with bunches of gigabites on it, and it's tiny.

I routinely back up my two systems so I needed it to be easy to manage.  It's pretty simple to work the function of running the back up, and it can be set up two ways: auto and manual.  For some reason my laptop doesn't like it when the Passport is set to automatically access the drive.  So I removed the auto backup software and do it manually, which is just like using a thumb drive.  Open it up, and drag and drop the whole drive into it.  My home computer manages the auto access well. So I handle things differently, letting the software determine what has changed and needs to be backed up.  Either way, I get my work safely saved to a second drive, and I have less to fear about losing my hard work.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #30 2012

Today you will describe something in detail.  Pick something on your desk or think back on a favorite toy, your first car, the dinner your ordered at a favorite restaurant or the worst pizza you had at a bowling alley in some hokey town you passed through late one night.  Get deep into describing it.  Work it over and over, removing, adding, choosing precise wording.  Don't stop until you have covered everything.  Then determine the focus and cut to the most profound of your imagery.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Paper holder taking up space on the desktop?

Since I scribble my notes on anything at hand, I tend to have a variety of paper sizes and weights to work with when I am transferring my notes to my computer.  Those papers without much stiffness just drape over when I prop them up.  My standard desk paper holder also takes up too much room, and I have had to add a clip to the side because the fan keeps making the paper wiggle and fly about.  And it takes up just as much room when not in use as when in use.

Then my mother-in-law gave me a Page-up dingus.  It looks like a little more than half an egg, that has a flat side, sitting on the flat side, and takes the same amount of room as an egg sitting on the flat side.  There is a curved cut in the top where you set the paper.  Since my phone, mouse, glasses, camera, notebook, etc. also take up room on my desk, this tiny thing is perfect.

You might think the fan would have the same effect, but you would be wrong. The curve creates a stiffness that keeps the paper in place. 

I am in no way affiliated with the creators, makers, or sellers of this thing. I just like it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

End of the Month of July Sale at Smashwords

The last days to purchase my book at Smashwords are here.  

Anybody who knows me knows I hate this stuff.  But if I didn't mention again that my books are on sale at Smashwords (half price, making each just .99) and one can download them in any of the popular formats for ereaders and computer eBook readers, I will be berating myself in a few days.

I can just hear it now, "Really, you couldn't plug your books just once more.  It is not like you have been creating traffic jambs on the internet with your broadcasting efforts to sell your book.  One time really?"

It wouldn't be pleasant. So, one more time: I have two books, In Times Passed, a time travel novel that can stand alone from the series it begins, and Gardens in the Cracks & Other Stories, an anthology of short science fiction stories.  See my books page on this blog or follow the links for details.

Really one dollar.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What do I want in the books that I read & write

I am at the beginning of redrafting my second book in my Students of Jump series.  In the process, I started thinking about what it is I like about the books I like to read.  Knowing that will help me make sure my book has those qualities.  So what is it that holds my attention when I read a science fiction novel?

1. depth of humanity:  I like my characters to show their fears, joys, fellowship to other characters
2.  activity:  I don't mind a lull especially after a heavy action or emotional scene, but I don't want the lulls to last too long, and they must have purpose.
3.  well-developed characters that I can sympathize with even if I don't like them.  I understand why they are doing what they are doing.
4. humor:  life always has moments of humor, and I want any stories I read to have it, too.  Silly moments, puns, laugh instead of cry, etc.
5.  emotional involvement: some catharsis for at least the main character
6. connection to other characters:  relationships that show the main character has family, friends, co-workers, enemies, pets.  I don't like when they exist in isolation.  Everybody has backstory and forward reconnections to others
7.  I want to see (hear, smell, touch, taste) the environment, things, actions described.
8.  Sense of local: where are they, where are they going?
9.  the fiction of science: space travel, technology in every day life, the stuff that is related to but not of this contemporary time.
10. I like to get lost in the story: (I don't mean the author dropped me off a cliff, and I have no notion of where the story is going and has gone).  I want time to go by that I didn't notice because the story caught me up and carried me away.

After looking at my list, it is clear I have set myself up for a challenge.  I had better get onto it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #29 2012

For this writing prompt, make up a holiday. 
  1. Example:  Happy Hoop Skirt Day.  
  2. Now decide how it would be celebrated.  Clearly every girl would be wearing hoops under their skirts, and perhaps a few fellows would as well.  Maybe there is a special drink with tiny rings floating in it that rise and fall.  And there are ring toss challenge games all around town with a winner named at the end of the day.
  3. Now that you have all that figured out, add a few characters and write how the holiday went for them.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award

This week I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Nic at Bookmark Reviews.  Since Nic is one of my favorite followers (and someone I follow as well), I am taking it as quite a complement.

According to the rules, I have a few things to include here. 

7 facts about myself:
  1. I read science fiction, especially novels written with character-driven plot lines
  2. Both my parents have passed away, and I miss them
  3. I am crazy about technology and am looking forward to the day I can have a flying car that will drive me where I want to go and a electronic maid to keep my house clean.
  4. I love to kayak and waterski
  5. I do not drink coffee, soda or alcohol (maybe a glass of wide once a year)
  6. I have a BA in English (writing and discourse emphases) and a Master’s in Teacher Education
  7. I used to live in Oregon and still wish I did

The blogs I am nominating for this award
Chompasaurus Reviews
Coffee Cups and Musings Moments
Guerrilla Warfare for Writers
Molly Greene Writer
Pretentious Title
The Art and Craft of Writing Creatively
Paperback Princess
Storytellers Unplugged
Stories About Books
One Good Thing
Mythic Scribes

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Spell-friendly dictionary

Every writer, whether he or she is a writer of fiction or non-fiction, journalist or reviewer, must spell correctly.  As a teacher I am routinely asked by my students how to spell a word they want to use in their writing.  I always point at the dictionary.  I do understand the issue of getting a big book of words and sifting through it for the correct spelling and that they find this tedious, especially when they know I can spell the word for them much quicker.

This is why I thoroughly recommend every writer, from student to pseudo-professional to professional consider having a Webster's Instant Word Guide or The Word Book III from Houghton Mifflin.  They do not contain definitions but are directed at spelling alone.  The majority of people who want to spell a word are not confused about its meaning.  So a speller's word book, such as the two listed above, is ideal.  And they are small, roughly 4" x 5 1/2".

They are compact, to the point, easy to navigate, and they supply one crucial component: If there could be a chance of confusion with another word, both are supplied with an extremely short definition (usually one word) next to the confused alternative, so the writer can make an informed decision about which is the correct one to use and spell appropriately.

Just to add useful to convenient and the critical low "overwhelming" factor, both these books also offer conversion tables for weights and measures, spelling rules, punctuation and abbreviations sections.

I actually have both of these books.  One I keep at school on my desk and the other at home.  I introduce my new students to them every year.  And though it is never a majority, many of them do inform me at some point in the year that they have purchased one.

Last word on this:  spelling is crucial in any public writing forum.  This is a non-tedious, easy-to-use fix for the problem.  It is even quicker than an iPhone dictionary ap and does the one thing wordprocessing program dictionaries don't do: provide you with the option of the "other word."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #28 2012

 Point of view should make use of a number of characterization features.  So in this prompt, imagine a creature, intelligent or otherwise.  Write what this creature sees, but include characterization.
  • One way to supply character through point of view is to include how the creature feels about what he sees.  This does not mean that you should write that he is looking forward to eating that rabbit.  Describe the rabbit in terms of potential lunch: scrawny; plump; practical ways to avoid getting too much of that soft, white fur in his mouth; and the smell of just dead meat.  
  • Also think of word choice; you may even make a few up that would seem appropriate to your creature.  His word for snack or lunch might be "the mid-day gnarle."  
  • Other characterization would include what is important to him. A predator would not make note of the color of the sky unless it denotes a particular time of day or season or weather important to him.
  • Consider giving him a specific quality: speed, visual acuity or discernment (he might be able to see in infrared, for example), silent movement.  
  • Consider a flaw: he drools copious amounts or suffers from the shakes or an injured hip.
Write about a paragraph.  I look forward to seeing it, so post it in the comment box.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Setting up my writing for the next day

Notes to write by
I am now working on my second book in the Students of Jump series, No-Time Like the Present.  Though I am editing, I have found that there is much yet to be developed in the story line, so I find myself in create mode far more often then clearing up errors.   My last edit first lost me 150 words than gained me another 400.

So I am leaving notes for the next day at the end of my day's work.  Every writer has his or her own way of keeping the writing going.  For me, I try to follow a few simple practices.  I stop when I still have more to say, I leave a note in all caps reminding me where my characters are headed or what complication or connections need to be made in the next set of writing, and frequently, I'll leave a piece of dialogue that I think will help get my muse back on track.  Here's what I left yesterday for example.

    “Misty, have pity on an old time traveler.”  He turned over on his stomach, visibly comforted by the change in position.
    “Old, you haven’t even been born yet.”
    He crushed a pillow and shoved it under his head.  “Sure feels like I have.”
    Misty grabbed a hand that gripped the pillow beneath his head.  “Let’s go; we’ll just walk about town.”  Pulling Quixote off the couch, she coaxed him out the door. 


Basically, I tell myself in my notes and show it in my book.   Of course, I never follow it precisely.  I always tend to deviate as the story and characters will change the course of my plans though they always ultimately get to the goal. So what do you do to ready yourself for the next day's writing?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #27 2012

write behind the door
Sit somewhere unusual, i.e., under a table, behind a chair, in the part of your yard no one ever goes.  Get comfortable and make sure you have something to write on: paper, iPad, laptop, paper napkin, and something to write with, pencil, pen, fingers.  Close your eyes, clear your mind, then write whatever slips in.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My books are on sale at Smashwords all of July

     Smashwords is having its Annual Summer/Winter sale on ebooks for July. I have included my two books in the sale. 
     Both are available with Smashwords coupon SSW50 at 50% off.  The great thing about Smashwords' ebooks is that all books are downloadable in all the popular formats: Kindle, Sony, Nook, Kobo, etc.

In Times Passed (Book 1)
In Times Passed (Book 1)

Brent Garrett managed to manipulate a normal nerg box (energy replacement unit the size of a phone booth) and wound up with a time machine. He has not applied himself to any worthwhile project, though as a member of Meredith Complex he is expected to. So a leap into the past seemed just the recipe for getting away from unfulfilled expectations. But things are not what he expected. They never are.

Gardens in the Cracks & Other Stories
Gardens in the Cracks & Other Stories

An anthology of science fiction: 5 shorts stories and a novella. "Gardens in the Cracks" - Marga must come to terms with getting what she wishes. "Scrapper" - If you look deep enough, you can find a garden. "Riashu" - What is worth fighting for? "A Good Argument" - Man vs flying car. "Son Inspired" - A family business, a difference of opinion and plenty of time for things to fester.