Wednesday, July 29, 2015

8 Ways to Strengthen Your Writer Posture

Every writer needs a strong posture.
I recently watched a TED talks video, Amy Cuddy's "Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are." As a teacher, I understand the dynamics of body language. I read my students' body language all the time and modify my approach to match or alter their attitudes so the class runs smoothly and achieves my intended goals for learning.

Watching this video brought to mind that this approach to body language relates to writers and how we do what we do.

The obvious connection is how our characters respond to given situations. The postures we describe our characters holding tells a lot to our readers about how the character is feeling about the situation. Do they expect to win or lose? Are they going to fight or run? Do they like the people they are with? Which ones more than others? How is the day going so far?

When that described posture is combined with narrative evaluation or internal dialogue, we end up with contrast, support, and definition.

Every writer makes use of body language.

But what about the writer as writer? How does a writer adjust his/her posture for power and confidence, raise testosterone and lower cortisol in the other aspects of being a writer?

I have read numerous descriptions of writers as shy, quiet, non-social, and insecure people. We present big, but in actuality lack confidence in being writers. I don't know if that is true since fifty years back the typical writer was often viewed as a heavy drinking, loud, drug taking, know it all. Were they faking it?  Were they, to paraphrase Cuddy, faking it until they became it? Everybody is "coming out," so perhaps authors are too, and maybe we really are totally insecure. I know I am a shy person who has a teaching persona my students often describe as demanding. Being a demanding person would not work for me as a writer. And I am not interested in following the drinking, loud, drug taking, know-it-all approach to ensure my "writing persona" is strong. So how can we use Cuddy's ideas to present a strong writer posture in our writing endeavors?

Here are 8 ways to use Cuddy's ideas to strengthen our writing posture.

  1. Before you start writing, take that power pose — hands on your hips, feet shoulder-width apart and chin just a bit above parallel with the ground (called the Wonder Woman for a reason.) You should hear the theme: "Wonder Writer, Wonder Writer" playing in the background. Do this before you sit down to write that post, chapter, poem, etc. 
  2. Unless, of course, you are trying to write a downcast character and you are one of those writers that act out your characters as you write — so a low confidence pose would be good to start with: shoulders curled in, arms down and held close to the body clutching the torso or neck protectively — gather a sense of what that feels like and then power up and sit down.
  3. Going for an interview: written, audio, video, in person — first stand up, raise your hands in the air and shout (or whisper very loud) "I'm being interviewed" like it is an Emmy award you're receiving. Now go show them your stuff.
  4. How about that important phone call: Power pose it. By the way, according to Cuddy you have to hold this pose for two minutes. Now pick up the phone and make the call.
  5. About to upload your formatted eBook:  Walk around larger than life, take a stand in the middle of the room, power pose. Now go upload that baby. It's ready to face the world.
  6. Putting together a proposal to an agent? Feeling daunted by the task? Time to power pose. You got this. Now write that proposal.
  7. About to edit your fully drafted novel? Definitely time for a power pose. This is the second most common time for low confidence in the writer. (For me, number 4 is the number one low confidence time.) You've put in all this work and now you're saying it is done and ready for clean up. 
  8. Did somebody just say, "I hear that you write"? Get big, take up space — chest out, arms a little away from the body, chin up a bit or go for the power pose. Remember that's hands on hips, feet apart, chin up. "Damn straight, I'm a writer." Yeah, that's asking a bit much for me, too. But it would give me a rush of confidence, enough to say. "Yes, yes, I am."
It's been nice having this little chat. Consider following me, tweeting this post, checking by again. I do occasionally .... can you give me a couple minutes....  Okay, I'm ready now. So you enjoyed this post. Follow me, Tweet my post, come by each week and you'll find something valuable in my  writings to take away with you. I challenge you to check out my earlier posts. Yeah, power posture.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pre-order: Two new Students of Jump books ready for pre-order

I've never done a pre-order on my books before, but with two ready to roll out very soon, it seemed like a good idea. So as of yesterday, I have two books set up as pre-orders at Smashwords which will soon distribute them to Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble and other eBook sites in the next few days.

It is kind of exciting and daunting at the same time. I am making a promise to have them ready by the date specified. And that adds a level of stress that is different from simply deciding to publish by summer 2015.

A Jump in Time Makes Three is a box set of books 1 thru 3 of the Students of Jump series. It is in final edit. It will be available for pre-order until August 20, 2015. I am also setting it at a nice low early bird price of $4.99. It will move up to its set price of $7.99 after the publish date.

Check out my books page (tab at the top) for a short synopsis for each book.

That's the Trouble with Time is the fourth book in the series Students of Jump. My beta readers have been invaluable. I spent the last two months doing clean up and adding more than 35,000 words to the book leaving it a whopping 109,000 words, my longest book to date. It is priced at $3.99. It will publish August 31, 2015.

Blurb: When a student of jump taking his first solo time traveling assignment meets up with a determined renegade fighting the world government for freedom from oppression, he finds losing his jump unit is just one problem he has to fix, quickly followed by how he can protect his heart from being the next thing he loses, especially when she keeps throwing it back at him.

Cameo appearances by Lumin, Mick, Emily, Misty, and Quixote.

In the mean time during the month of July, all three books currently in the series are enrolled in the Summer/Winter sale at The first book In Times Passed is 100% off while books 2 & 3 are 50% off.
In Times Passed: An accidental inventor of time travel takes his desire for anonymity back 200 years where his struggle to live as an average Joe demands he accept the expectations present at his birth and use them to recreate society and put into motion what he jumped into the past to avoid. Uses Summer/Winter sale coupon to purchase for FREE.


No-time like the Present: The abandoned daughter of a time traveler takes her skill of testing prototypes to their breaking point and applies it to a time jumper sent to check on her. Convincing him he must take her forward in time to demand answers from her father is easier than she expected, but finding herself instrumental in revealing what could bring her father peace and forgiveness will test her determination to refuse him a place in her life.
Use Summer/Winter sale coupon to purchase at 50% off.


Next Time We Meet: Recently trained to travel in time and set to take a honeymoon in the past, an anachronistic building contractor and his quick-witted wife find the leisure life lacks challenge, so they take on locating a missing and notably annoying physitech, placing them in the crosshairs of the kidnapping entity as they jump through time chasing clues both reliable and false. Use Summer/Winter sale coupon to purchase at 50% off.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

75+ Ways to Make Things Tough on a Character

No story goes along smoothly for the main character. In fact, how they respond to adversity is how we get attached to the people in the novels we love. If they don't struggle to get what they need, we won't want to read to the end. There are innumerable ways for conflict to occur in a story.  I've listed the 75 I've come across in my or another author's writing.

1. Everything has been working fine, until now.
2. The best friend is disloyal/undermining/lying
3. They aren't his parents
4. The power goes out
5. The car beaks down
6. What she thought she knew is wrong
7. Injury
8. Attack
9. Not everyone made it to the agreed upon site
10. What was safe once is no longer safe
11. Supplies are lost or stolen
12. Weather change
13. Ambush
14. The character's arrival is expected
15. The character's arrival is unexpected
16. Sibling jealousy
17. Paralyzing fear
18. The parameters are changed
19. She refuses to go
20. Misplaced information
21. Locked door/cabinet/safe
22. Locked out of the city/house/business
23. Sabotage
24. Time is running out
25. He gets lost
26. Incorrect assumption
27. Malfunction
28. Loss of food supplies
29. Dangerous terrain
30. It is believed impossible
31. House burns down
32. Loss of parents/family
33. Loss of faith
34. Poison/illness/plague
35. Arriving late/early
36. Flight/bus/train cancelled
37. The store is closed
38. Misplaced keys/ticket/passport/spell/identification
39. Difficult terrain
40. Battery runs out
41. Old injury/illness flairs
42. Toothache/pink eye/infection
43. Curiosity
44. An immovable object
45. Prejudice
46. Mugged
47. Lost luggage
48. Missing vital ingredient/material
49. Lacks a skill/knowledge
50. A telegram/email/missive/letter
51. Inheritance
52. Loss of fortune
53. Ostracized/disowned/ignored
54. Waking up to a major change
55. Loss of memory
56. A misunderstanding
57. Death of a loved one
58. A major decision
59. Uncertainty
60. Phobias
61. A tool/skill/talent/gift has special powers, but the character can't figure out how to work it
62. War
63. The craft is spinning out of control
64. The world is coming to an end
65. The phone/communication device goes dead
66. Someone has released the dogs/lion/critters with unfriendly intent
67. Things just don't look/smell/feel/sound right
68. The other character would not normally say that
69. An unfamiliar vehicle has parked outside and the people in it appear to be watching the house/business
70. S/he won't/doesn't answer the phone
71. Heart-broken
72. Lack of confidence
73. Impatience
74. Tied up/trapped
75. supernatural/unnatural change of self/enemy/friend/general population (i.e., Zombies)
UPDATE to list provided by Marcy Peska.
76.  curses and other magical obstacles 
77. trolls under bridges
78. gastric distress from eating too many sugar-free candies
79. small and uncooperative children
80. hobbits too interested in mushrooms and second breakfast
81. abrupt changes in mental status/consciousness
82. being unable to act effectively due to being grounded or having to go to work. [?] 
83.  Oh...and having a small bladder which requires frequent bathroom breaks. [?]

If you are a writer or a reader, you are aware of many conflicts that characters have faced. What  conflicts have your favorite characters faced? What other conflicts can you add to this list.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Who decides what goes? New Horizons got me thinking.

The New Horizon spacecraft is carrying Clyde Tombaugh's ashes. He is the astronomer who discovered Pluto. Reading this fact in an article, made me stop and think a bit about who decides what is added as extra payload for such a scientific endeavor and how is the decision made? And what would Tombaugh have thought about it or his family?

Did a panel of people sit and discuss this, throwing out possibilities, conjecturing the symbolic meaning behind what was placed. Or did they only just enter the room when one person said, "Hey,  what do you say we get a tube of Clyde Tombaugh's ashes. He did discover Pluto. Shouldn't he get to take the ride?" And they all nodded. And did they agree because it meant one more thing could be ticked off the list, because it made sense, or because it felt so right there wasn't any better choice?

Everybody has had those moments. Somebody says something and everybody's internal processor says, "That's the answer. There are no others."

We've also have had those moments when we just say, "That will work. We'll go with that, now on to the more difficult business of...."

And we also experience those times when a bunch of people are in a room and have to come up with one decision that all agree with, and we know that's never going to happen, so we start throwing out ideas. Some stick, some are just plain stupid and some sit there slowing gaining traction or like a snowball, keep rolling and picking up momentum and size until there isn't really any chance for any other option.

Or was there another option and the two sides dooked it out for days until someone gave in or most were convinced and that was enough?

And how much trouble was it to get those ashes?

If it was my family that was asked, there would be four avenues to getting those ashes as each one of us kids have a portion of our father's remains. Still it would be tough to even get one flake from us as we are all pretty attached to him and this is all we have left of his physical being. However, of the four, the one most likely to give up a vile of our Dad is me. I would like the idea of him heading off into space. And I can hear him yet. "That's just the shell." Still it was a darn important shell to us. But our dad was full of surprises. Heading off into space certainly is no less amazing then some of the other things he was thought to have done.

He played a role in the Saturn rocket, but what exactly, I can't say. He was as much mystery as surprise. In any case, he didn't go, Tombaugh did. And if Tombaugh was asked about whether or not he wanted to take the ride, I rather believe anyone who went looking for planetary bodies and found Pluto probably would have said, "Hell, yes." My Dad would have said, "Do what you like with my ashes; I won't be needing them."


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Retirement: it will happen to you ready or not

Ready for retirement?
I'd like to talk about retirement. I'd like to retire too, but since that's not coming anytime soon (unless my books start really rolling off the digital shelves--feel welcome to participate in precipitating my early retirement), I'll just talk about it.

First, you must consider as early as possible that you will retire one day and that you want a place to live, a partner to share it with, good health and money coming in. 

My mother was recently placed in elder care, and she had little liquid funds and only a house with investment value. We are scrambling to support her care. She is in excellent health though deteriorating mentally. But living with funds available is the issue. 

Second how can you prepare for retirement?  Investments are good. (Can't help you with choices on that.) We have employee retirement that we are vested in, and a supplemental retirement plan we send to monthly. We purchased land at a nice but not popular lake, and we started building a house on it last summer. We are doing everything except pouring the concrete for the foundation, but we did handle troweling the concrete into place and smoothing it, relatively anyway. 

We just about have the house at the dry-in stage: windows in, roof on, last of the siding going up as I type. Time frame for completion?  Was two years, but my husband recently, nonchalantly, stated a day ago that five years wasn't an unreasonable likelihood. 

Point here. Be ready to face the obvious thing you forgot to note. In our case, that was our daughter's college tuition. It impacted our savings potential significantly. Both our retirement-related loans (land, building) are on less than ten year runs. Still, we do have that house we are currently living in that has value we can make use of for tying loose monetary ends later. 

How far away is our retirement? Ten years. So we'll make our deadline fine. But we wouldn't have if we hadn't started early. 

As for the other requirements? I've been married nearly 35 years and my fellow continues to be good company. Health for both of us is good, and we make the effort to maintain it. Continued employment appears strong as well. 

I feel better now that we've had this chat. How are you pre-managing your retirement? Are you planning ahead or buying lottery tickets? Do you have a will or are you indestructible? Smoke and eat fast food or are you taking your vitamins, prescriptions, exercising regularly and vigorously and seeing you doctor once a year?

Retirement, it's getting here whether you are watching for it or not. I'll take tremendous sales figures on my books any day, but in the mean time, I'm going to do a few supporting actions for a modest retirement just in case the New York Times list does not come knocking. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

My books are at Smashwords and in the Summer/Winter sale

Follow this link to my Students of Jump series.  Smashwords is having a sale for the month of July!

Book 1 of the series is FREE. 
An accidental inventor of time travel takes his desire for anonymity back 200 years where his struggle to live as an average Joe demands he accept the expectations present at his birth and use them to recreate society and put into motion what he jumped into the past to avoid.

The other two books are 50% off.