Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tis MY Season...

to chill and read. I love the holidays. I'm taking a break from writing, but I'm still revising. I'll be reading cozy Christmas stories, baking cookies, and practicing bells for Christmas Eve. The house is decorated and the tree up. I'm ready for family and friends and all the celebrating that comes. I can't guarantee that I'll be timely posting on my blog over the remaining 3 weekends of the holiday season, but if I have good news (manuscripts are out on sub) I'll pop in. So, I hope you're all enjoying some down time and getting revitalized for the new year.


I'll see you when I see you....

Char

Monday, December 3, 2018

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels 
Wahoo! I FINISHED #NANOWRIMO ON TIME!

I got behind (by a LOT) with visiting my sister, Thanksgiving, and other interruptions. BUT I DID IT. I buckled down and gave up reading, TV (except for my Patriots games) and even yoga and swimming. Sacrifices had to be made. (I'm paying for it now- going back to yoga was brutal.)

So as a treat to myself, I'm wimping out on my blog and am going to celebrate with a nice Christmas read (I'm a sucker for that stuff). I'm kind of burnt from writing, although I've made a list of plot and character problems with my NaNo book. In January I will start revisions (unless I get a mega book or movie deal from my other manuscripts. Hey, a girl can dream!).

Don't expect serious blogs for the rest of the year. I have lots going on with bell practice, cookie making, wrapping presents, and enjoying the holiday. 

Now excuse me while I dance and skip around a bit; I deserve it! 

Char

Monday, November 26, 2018

Running Ahead From Behind

If you're following/doing #NaNoWriMo, you know that on November 26, (today), a writer should be at 43,342 words. Because of holiday prep, Thanksgiving, visiting family, and then a day of exhaustion (where I still had to cook and put up Christmas decorations and watch my beloved New England Patriots kill the NY Jets), I am officially

6,767 words behind schedule. 

Am I going to panic? Nope. Am I going to throw in the towel? Never! Am I going to beat myself up because I'm behind? Just not happening!

My plan of action is simple. I can either hit the keys now and try to pound out 6,767 words, but that might be a little hard since it's 6:37 pm and I did yoga, cleaned house, made dinner, fought off a migraine, and finished the Christmas decorating (I tend to go overboard, I'm sure you've seen pictures). Or, I can divide the remaining words I have left and do 2,687 words a day till November 30th to finish on time, or I can try to do as much as humanly possible on whatever day I can. 

I'm not sure which approach I'll do; maybe it'll be a combo. But whichever one I choose, I will give it my best shot. And technically, don't we get off work for holidays? That would mean I have until midnight December 1st to really finish on time. (I wish whoever created #NaNoWriMo would have taken that into consideration. What's wrong with March? It has 31 days so we'd only have to do 1,613 words a day, no major holidays, and it's in the gloomy days of winter where we're stuck inside. Poor planning, NaNo person....)

Anyway, if you're behind, don't despair. I'm not. Even if I don't get done by the 30th, I'm almost finished and that's a great start to a finished novel (we'll talk about revisions later....).

So hang in there with me. We can do this!

Photo courtesy of Pexels, Inc.

Char

Monday, November 19, 2018

Checking In- and Checking Out...

It's crazy week- got #NaNoWriMo goals to meet, practices for bell choir performance on Wednesday Interfaith Thanksgiving Eve service, Thanksgiving dishes to prep, and going to retrieve my son at the airport Wednesday night. So.... I can't spend time on other things. But-

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Hoping your day is blessed, and that you pass blessings onto others...

Char

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Just a Quickie....

I'm in the midst of #NaNoWriMo2018 and happy to say I'm not only on track, but 4 days ahead. This allows me a stress-free Thanksgiving and a weekend visit with my sister. Here are 5 things I've learned this year during the craziness of NaNoWriMo:


  1. I work faster and better if I shut myself in my office, working at a proper desk. There are too many distractions if I'm sitting on the couch (too near to the TV and people coming in & out, the fridge, etc. For me, isolation is key to productivity!
  2. When I work on a comfy couch, being so tall, I have to dip my head to see the laptop. This has given me neck and back problems. Who needs that? So, another reason to use my beautiful office.
  3. Stretch! I work about an hour, then get up and get a cup of tea, throw in a load of wash, etc. Sitting too long leads to stiff joints. 
  4. Getting up is good for the circulation, but I don't want to lose my train of thought. make a few notes at the bottom of the page saying where I was going. As I do a chore, make that tea, I keep thinking about the next chapter/block of writing. By the time I get back to my seat, I'm fairly burning to get the words on paper. Bonus: if you can, incorporate your notes into the chapter/block rather than erase and you've added a bunch of words!
  5. I had to break from writing because I needed a fact. Going onto the internet to find out what I need for this particular section of the manuscript can lead to getting lost down that rabbit hole. Key: set a timer so that you spend no more than 5-10 minutes searching. You just need that one fact, not pages of notes. If you need more detailed info, try to write around it, like a scene that comes later in the book, and research after you've hit your word count. I like to surf at night, on commercials while I relax in front of the TV. 
Now it's time to get in another 1,677 words so I stay ahead of the daily goals. 

Don't forget to update your word count!

Char

Monday, November 5, 2018

Psssst, Want A Peek?

If you know me, you know I'm a fan and follower of #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I've written most of my novels during November, adhering to the sometimes arduous practice of at least 1,667 words a day. I give presentations and hand out worksheets to help people in the quest to write their novel.

This November is no different. Although I have drafts I should be revising & polishing to send out on submission, I'm dedicating this November to keeping a promise; Sirenz 3, A New Trend. Fans of Meg and Sharisse, or maybe more of luscious Hades, asked for a third novel.

This one will be different; as I am writing this solo, the character of Meg is lost in backstory and only Hades, Sharisse, and those nosy, interfering Greek gods will entertain you. To whet your appetite, here's a snippet: (I posted a short story about Hades and Sharisse last year, which unfortunately, Blogger doesn't keep open access to. Luckily, I have copies....) This novel is based on that story. Remember, this is only the first draft...


            Two good looking guys, heavy gold chains around their necks, caps on sideways, and wearing sneakers more expensive than mine, slowly approached, palms up like they didn’t want to frighten me.
            “Hola, senorita!. What a fine-looking dog!” They kept a respectful distance which was very smart of them. They must be dog savvy- never approach a strange dog too fast. I didn’t feel afraid because I had Cerberus. Even in his diminished form, he was still intimidating.
            “Hello.” I stopped and Cerb sat next to me, his eyes watchful. He leaned against my leg.
            “Cerberus, stop leaning on me, you’re too heavy!” I didn’t even have to nudge him, he sat up, all the while keeping his focused attention on the two men.
            “It’s like he understands you,” said one with several gold teeth.
            I nodded. “Oh, he does. I can give him any command and he’ll do it,” I boasted.
            They both raised their eyebrows, like they doubted me.
            Oh ye of little faith....
            “Cerberus, go up to the man with the gold teeth and let him shake your paw.”
            Cerberus trotted over exactly as I commanded and held up his paw. The guy leaned down, gently shook it, and whispered, “Oh, Dios, I would love a dog like this!” The two looked at each other and grinned.
            The other one asked, “How much do you want for him?” He pulled out a wad of bills- all hundreds as far as I could see, and unfolded them. “Name your price.”
            I shook my head. “I’m sorry, but he’s not mine, and he wouldn’t go with you anyway. He’s very particular about people.”
            Gold teeth said, “But look, he likes me!”
            Cerb returned to my side.
            “That’s only because I told him to be a good boy and not eat anyone.” It was time to move on. Cerb still hadn’t peed.

Just a taste. After #NaNoWriMo is over, I will let one devoted fan read the story before it gets published and they can offer suggestions and criticisms. 

So, back to writing I go. You know Greek gods are not known for their patience with humans and Hades is demanding I hurry it up, the next chapter is his.

Wish me luck, stay tuned, and here's a pic of Hades to make you feel warm all over....  ;)

Hades, Lord of the Underworld...

Now back to the story!

Char

Monday, October 29, 2018

Did it Scare You? My Halloween Favorites

Most of us looooove Halloween. Costume parties, candy, spooky decorations and just fun. And,  think a lot of people like a little scare. We watch creepy movies and read frightening books.  Here are 13 of my favorite Halloween things:

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

1. Candy: While I love most candy (but NOT candy corn! yech), my abso fave is Butterfingers. A close second is Snickers. (And yet, I don't like peanut butter ice cream...)

2. Favorite scary movie (as in it scares me. every. single. time) Paranormal (And the sequels, too!). I don't do gore- and most of them look fake.

3.  Favorite tag line from a movie: "In space, no one can hear you scream...."

4.  Best scary book: anything by Dean Koontz. Those books are so scary, I can't even finish them.

5.  Scariest villain/monster: Alien. Geez, I had nightmares for years with that creature, even before the sequel where they came to Earth.

6.  My best Halloween costume: Darth Vader. I took cereal and other food boxes, painted them black, glued on pics of dials and electronics and attached them to my father's quilted insulated pants/jacket. I borrowed a mask created by an art teacher friend, and made a light saber from a flashlight with a golf club tube attached with black electrical tape. The costume was so good I won first place in a contest, and no one knew I was a girl until I took off the mask. (Had to to claim the prize- they all thought they knew who I was. They didn't.)

7.  Favorite decoration: my ceramic, lighted haunted house. It's just so cute! (There's a witch who circles overhead, cackling!)



8.  Best Halloween memory: Trick or Treating with my brother. We lived on Long Island and we would go out as soon as we could, come home to eat dinner, then go back out for more. We collected a LOT of candy.

9.  What I HATE MOST about Halloween: people who do stupid sh*t like hurt/kill black cats, destroy property, or start preaching about how this holiday is the devil's handiwork. Just STOP.

10. Best song/music: Some would argue Michael Jackson's Thriller, but for me it's either the theme song from Halloween, which has me checking in dark rooms for Michael Meyers, or the song Tubular Bells from The Exorcist. Makes me say my prayers!

11. Movie I HAVE TO WATCH every year: Hocus Pocus AND Dracula  with Frank Langella.

12. Cartoon I love the most: While a lot of you will say The Nightmare Before Christmas, I prefer It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

13. Best place to see before Halloween: Blaze in NY's Sleepy Hollow. Thousands of carved pumpkins in the best display you will ever see. Check it out here.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels
Happy Halloween!

Wishing you fun tricks and tasty treats!

Char   

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Say it Again and Again...

The time is ripe for more cliches. Thanks again to James Rogers, author of The Dictionary of Cliches (Ballantine Books). The research for this book is exhaustive. Rogers lays out the meaning, etymology, and then where it was first used (it's usually in a piece of literature).

Photo courtesy of Pexels

"Grasp at straws. Act in desperation (probably from the image of a drowning person clutching at anything that floats, even something so insubstantial as straws). [also catch at straws]. Rogers traces it back to 1748 in the novel Clarissa: "A drowning man will catch at a straw...."

Bury the hatchet. Rogers claims there is a dispute between a 14th century English usage of 'hang up the hatchet' which means to stop fighting, but 'bury' the hatchet appears to derive from Native Americans whose ceremony of burying two hatchets was a more binding peace agreement than any papers presented by the government.

Bag of bones. This saying seems to come from Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist as poor Oliver, practically starved, is told, "There, get down stairs, little bag o' bones."

A-OK. Americans can claim the creation of this phrase, which was first used by NASA spokesman James A. Powers in 1961 during the great space race. It meant the mission was going well and became a popular saying.

A no-win situation. In 1962, against the backdrop of the Cold War, this American saying is attributed to "war game activity... "there are plenty of 'no-win situations'" in war games and in real wars."

There are so many wonderful cliches! I encourage you to check out this book. (You might want to review your manuscript to see if you've used a few...)

Till next week!

Char

Monday, October 8, 2018

Just a Nice Day...

On Saturday, I sold/signed books at the Collingswood Book Festival. 

I love this festival. After attending for a number of years, in my opinion, it's the BEST.

Oh, there are other festivals like the Hudson Children's Book Festival and the Warwick Book Festival and the Princeton Book Festival, which may be bigger, but they aren't as good. Here are 5 reasons why Collingswood is better:

1- They never cancel- if it rains, the entire venue moves indoors to the middle and high schools. Unfortunately, I've been at book events that are outside- even if it rains. Even with a tent, your books get damp, you have to lug your stuff around in the rain and you get wet. Plus, foot traffic is dramatically decreased (not that I blame people for not wanting to get soaked). Most times, you might as well stay home from a festival if it rains. Collingswood still manages to bring people in.

2- They invite ALL authors. This is a rarity. Hudson, Warwick, Princeton and a number of others are by invite only. Absolutely no Indie authors are allowed, and even a lot of traditionally pubbed ones can't get in. No one seems to know what the guidelines are because if they don't want to invite you, there is no reply as to why you're not welcome. At Collingswood, people are free to choose from a huge variety of authors. If attendees don't want to buy your book, Indie or traditional, they walk on by. No one 'culls the herd' for them.

3- Organizers provide authors with concise directions, parking and general info, and are always ready to answer questions. There are volunteers who, when an author does a panel, sit at your table to prevent theft of your books and belongings. Long time organizer Sidra has put together an amazing event, and her successors are stepping right in.

4- There are more things than just books. There are kids' activities, food vendors, author panels, music and more. It's like a giant party. While not everyone is a reader, I've discovered that people who get a pretzel and stroll down Haddon Avenue sometimes stop and buy a book. Maybe it's a holiday present for a grandchild, or they're just browsing but an author did a great sales pitch and snagged a sale. Events which are strictly books don't always produce good sales for some authors because of the competition. 

5- The little guy gets a chance. Sometimes, when super famous authors breeze in to a book event, all the attention is on them. I've checked out events only to find that less well-known authors have to pay a table fee, but that famous authors (who make more money) not only don't have to pay a fee, but are sometimes paid to appear. You know who's really paying for them, right? The authors who make less. Collingswood is more egalitarian. So kudos to them! 

Here at Collingswood with the fabulous Darlene Beck Jacobson

So next year, plan to come visit. Even if you don't want to buy a book, meander down Haddon Ave and take in the sights, talk to the friendliest people. But bring your wallet, just in case you see a book you can't resist...

Char

Monday, October 1, 2018

Excessively Excessive

Our culture has a thing for excess. Whether it's super sizing our burgers, or getting a venti coffee, or spending $75 on stuff you don't really need to get free shipping. Too much of a good thing is never a good thing. Here's another illustration. I have to take medication for excess stomach acid. In order to save money, I buy the multi-pack.


Ok, good, smart move. Inside are three bottles:


In each bottle, is 14 (yes, FOURTEEN) pills:


Which means each bottle is less than one fourth filled. That's a lot of empty space (and plastic) to hold so few pills.

So, 42 pills fills my hand this much:


All 42 could fit into one bottle.

So two plastic bottles and a cardboard box were excess.

I've read some books that were as loaded with excess words- verbose dialogue, lengthy backstory, copious details. I won't reveal those books, but you've read them, or have your own list. You roll your eyes, and sigh, and either plow through (I admire you for that), or like me, you toss the book aside because you have better things to do with your time, like read a better book or write your own. And if you write, maybe... you need to look at your own word usage. A cool writer's trick is to either read your story aloud, or have someone else do it. You can also change the font, because this tricks the eye and brain into thinking they don't remember the words coming next, so it's like a new story. Repetitive words will pop out, or you can do a global search. There are programs designed to help check your work, like Online Editor, Text Analyzer, or Sentence Checker. Long sentences (if you run out of breath before you can finish the sentence, then the sentence is excessively long) should pop up too. While Pulitzer Prize winners and mega bestsellers can get away with excessiveness, we, the average writer, can't.

And since writing novels doesn't pay by the word, there's no need to be excessive.

Char


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Books You Didn't Know Were Banned

It's banned books week. Every year authors, librarians, bookseller, educators, readers, and so many others who love books and reading will discuss and debate about the unfairness and danger of banning books. They will point to Nazi and other repressive regimes as a stern warning not to go down that deceptive path.

And that's a good thing.

But let's talk about a genre of banned books that gets no notice; Indie books. As a hybrid author (both traditionally pubbed and indie publisher), I see this happening All. The. Time. No, our indie books don't make the lists- because we're ignored. Here's how we're banned:

Bookstores, both indie and Barnes & Noble, curl their lips when you mention your book is indie pubbed. Maybe read the book before you judge? There are plenty of indie books that are way better than some traditionally pubbed books. Even when I could promise that on my book launch I could sell 50+ copies (I had relatives and friends showing up), I still wasn't welcomed to hold my launch at a bookstore.

So many organizers of book festivals say that indie authors aren't welcome. I understand you don't want to be overrun with poorly written books (everyone thinks they're an author, but I've seen some celeb books that are horrendous yet some traditional publisher published them!). Why not check the books out? Ask us to submit a copy for review. Anyone should be able to tell within a few chapters if the book is acceptable. Or ask for proof of reviews from such trusted sources as Publishers Weekly, et al. Instead, indie authors are mostly banned from a majority of the book festivals, especially the big ones, which would greatly help indie author sales and publicity. (More than one indie book has sold well and been picked up by traditional publishers. Right, Amanda Hocking?)

Reviewers follow in step too. Only in the last few years has Publishers Weekly opened a section to review indie books called Booklife. Surprise! some of them got good or great reviews! Now if VOYA, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and the other major reviewers would do this, we indie authors might have a modicum chance of success.

Even Amazon, once the beacon of hope for indie publishers has recently thrown us under the bus by proposing allowing third parties selling copies of our books to place their 'Buy' button before us as the publisher. While Amazon still makes money, authors are cheated out of royalties. Amazon is doing it to traditional publishers too, so maybe they will fight back and form their own distributor, bypassing Amazon or at least making the selling field level. Indie authors have no David to fight the Amazon Goliath.

Without recognizing that we exist and allowing us a small crumb of attention, all these participants are effectively banning indie authors. It doesn't matter the reason they give, it's banning, plain and simple.
Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

Char



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

I'm taking a break (a cliche) from cliches - and sharing this review by kids of my book Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines. Sometimes you have to do what makes you feel good. And kids loving my book and getting it makes me happy. Here's the review from kids at



Give it a listen. And if you're a teacher looking for STEM/STEAM books for middle graders with a fresh approach, (with resource guides for free!) let's talk! 




Char

Monday, September 10, 2018

Cliches... Running the Course...

Continuing my perusal of all things cliche, today I have four fresh ones. As a writer, I hear a ton of cliches, but in The Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers, there are ones I haven't heard before (and I'm pretty sure a lot of you haven't either).

Grey Eminence: An influential figure in the background. Rogers writes that this saying is based on the life of Francois Leclerc du Tremblay, an adviser to Cardinal Richelieu, who advised King Louis XIII. Francois wasn't famous like the cardinal or the king, but apparently had a lot of unseen influence, akin to the cliche, "behind every successful man is a woman." Reading this my first thought went to Gandalf the Grey- grey in appearance, and a behind-the-scenes guy (at first) in the Lord of the Rings books.

High Dudgeon. I liked the sound of this. It means "a state of considerable anger, resentment or ill humor." I can picture this in a book of high fantasy with knights and swords and treachery. Rogers writes that "dudgeon" means "the hilt of a dagger" and if someone is really ticked, well, you might find him using that dagger against the person who angered them (although the Oxford English Dictionary doesn't agree.

Put the Arm On. This is a complicated way to say arrest, a 'gentler form' according to Rogers, as police officers are considered an 'arm of the law.' It was first used in 1943 by Raymond Chandler when he wrote Lady of the Lake. A second definition is to "borrow money or to ask for a loan." The phrase "putting an arm on him" appeared in the musical Pal Joey by John O'Hara.

Under the Counter. Rogers defines this as something "sold or done surreptitiously; a transaction done somewhat on the sly. The expression arose in World War II when so many storekeepers kept items under the counter for friends or good customers, since so many things were rationed or in short supply."

Photo by Erik Scheel from Pexels

So there you have four more expressions to avoid, although I'm thinking I'll be using  'grey eminence' sometime in my life. It's so old, no one really remembers it, and it was an obscure  British saying, so I think I'd be safe in using it now.

Until next week,


Char


Monday, August 27, 2018

Time to Rise and Shine!

Even when we know we shouldn't, we use cliches. They are comfortable. Familiar. Everyone knows what you mean when you use them.

But cliches are worn out. They are the tool of a lazy or unimaginative writer or speaker.
The thing is, there are soooo many cliches that it's not easy coming up with colorful alternatives. There are over 2,000. Yep. There's a whole book devoted to them, written by James Roberts, The Dictionary of Cliches. Some we all know, like 'hard as nails' or 'puppy love.' Some are so dated, that few readers today without a gray hair know them, like, 'you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear' or 'too many irons in the fire.' Some I hadn't heard of, like 'thin edge of the wedge.' ? What does that even mean? According to Roberts, it means:

     The beginning of a venture that is expected to expand; the leading edge of a program or activity. This "wedge" is the metal one, about six inches long, employed to split logs. Once you get the leading edge started, you have a good chance of splitting the wood (unless it is unseasoned or has the kind of grain that does not split readily). Anthony Trollope had the image in Doctor Thorne (1858), both as a chapter heading (The Small End of the Wedge) and as a description of a ploy by a woman against the doctor (there Trollope wrote "the little edge"). In 1884 The Graphic offered: "Cremation advocates have managed to get in the thin edge of the wedge in France."

Okay, I have little knowledge about splitting logs so I never would have guessed this.

Another one is 'go around Robin Hood's barn.' Take (often unnecessarily) a circuitous route; proceed by indirection. Robin Hood, a perhaps legendary figure, has represented since the 14th century the free spirit who robs the rich to pay the poor. He had no barn, since all his activities were outdoors, and so to go around Robin Hood's barn is a labored effort. The phrase is more recent than the legend, having first turned up in print in J. F. Kelley's Humors of Falconbridge (1854): "The way some folks have of going round 'Robin Hood's barn' to come at a thing.

Makes sense. And this is kind of fun. So every once in a while, I'll pull out the more obscure or ancient ones. (I'm wondering too, if they are so outdated no one remembers them, are they still cliches?)

Till then, we'll let sleeping dogs lie...

Photo by Christian Domingues from Pexels


Char

Monday, August 20, 2018

Time Is A Farce

In case you didn't hear, I had intestinal surgery on August 10th. My doctor said that most people felt good after a week and by six weeks, were basically back to bungee jumping normalcy. I downloaded two ebooks, packed a notebook to jot down some ideas for my next project, and added my tablet with games on it, into my hospital bag.

No, that's not me on the table; this is a stock photo courtesy of Pexels, Inc.
Not only did I not have the energy, strength, or ambition to touch any of them the three days I was in the hospital (I don't count surgery day- everyone's comatose all that day), but here it is over a week and a half later and I just answered emails, and started this post.

What happened to one week?

It's what I based my return to my routine on. Oh sure, I didn't think I could vacuum (oh, horror.) or work in my garden (oh well), and definitely not paint my office (darn). I could barely shuffle a hundred yards down the street. Nighttime was a blur of pain and sleeplessness. My stomach, boasting 4 incisions, throbbed with pain.

One week? I wanted to laugh, cry, and scream.

Writing is like that. You think ok, this book is going to be tough, but I'll power through and all will be well. Until you hit a glitch (like the complications during my surgery that delayed my healing). Maybe you went off on a tangent, don't know where, and have to start over. Or an editor, agent, or crit partner is saying there's a problem with the voice. Possibly you don't know how it ends. Whatever the issue, you feel off your game and getting back into the grind is the last thing you want to do. I hear you.

Something needs to prod you into action. For me, getting back into the pool, back to yoga, back to playing bells, back to writing/submitting/agent hunting motivated me, but it took a variety of pain and other medications to get me through that dark time. What gets you through a dark time? A Netflix binge with your cat and some Ben & Jerry's? A brisk jog in the park? Reading how many rejections Dr Suess got? Whatever you can tap into, use it. You have to be in the game in order to be a player.

I'm prepared (resigned?) to the fact that the six week window my doctor gave will prevail, rather than the week I'd planned on. I'm a fast healer, but even with my determination, time takes ts own sweet time. Just gotta hang in there.

See ya next week,

Char

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Best Writing Isn't Always a Novel...

Or a play, a poem, an ode, a short story.

Sometimes it's the directions for a surge protector.

Because I (generally) follow the rules, I read the directions on a new surge protector (the kind where the sockets swivel to accommodate bigger plugs so that they don't block two outlets).



Here's some of the brilliant writing (and I mean that sincerely!) in the directions:

We truly hope it gives you peace of mind with your electronics and provides those added outlets where you need them most (not to mention, the snazzy new shape will encourage you to prominently display it in full view of your friends, colleagues, and pets).

This guide is not a replacement Yahtzee score sheet nor is it a map of the San Diego Zoo.

Logon the ol' interweb and head to our website to register your new PowerCurve3.4. It'll initiate the rock star treatment you so richly deserve...

Surge energy joule rating: 1080 joules (a joule is a measure of how much energy a surge protector can take before it bites the dust).

Response time... <1 Nanosecond

Please follow these cautionary statements. If you don't, your PowerCurve3.4 might break, your warranty will be voice, and you will b very unhappy with yourself.

Use indoors only and do not use near water. You listening, SCUBA guy?

Do not plug things in that will exceed the electrical ratings (see "Pointy Headed Stuff").

If you're feeling all handy and want to alter or repair your PowerCurve3.4... Don't.

Read it. Know it. There will be a quiz.

Advanced surge protection.....It's there waiting to act on your behalf when evil transient voltage rears its ugly head.

Green "grounded" Light...If this light doesn't come on, no bueno, use a different outlet. 

Blue "protected" Light...This peaceful beacon tells you everything's alright. If it goes out, your PowerCurve3.4 has absorbed a surge and sacrificed itself to save your devices. Shed a tear, then replace it.

On/Off Switch- For turning your PowerCurve3.4 on and uh, off. It also acts as a reset in case you're runnin' si hair dryers and trip the internal circuit breaker. Hint: don't do that.

Super Quick Setup:
1. Plug stuff into your PowerCurve3.4 Surge Protector.
2. Plug your PowerCurve3.4 into a grounded wall outlet.
3. Standard fist pump.

I'm still laughing and enjoyed this more than the current 'bestseller' I have on my nightstand. A shout out to 360 Electrical LLC for coolness. Concise information with a humorous twist. AND they got most of the punctuation right! (Minus 1 point for using 'alright' instead of 'all right'.) Kudos, tech writers! You have a career in writing!


Char




Monday, July 30, 2018

Fate Calling....?

(It's summer, I'm writing and revising several books and I have surgery coming up so I'm doing a short blog post. Sorry, you'll have to deal with it.)

Why can't I get an agent or an editor to call?


(Save the vitriol- I'm a registered Independent, and this was a robo call.)


Char

Monday, July 23, 2018

A Classic Conundrum?

I'm reading a number of classic novels. Currently, I'm in the midst of The Mysterious Island, by Jules Verne. This edition is published by Wilder Publications. On the title page is this disclaimer:

     This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race have changed before allowing them to read this classic work.

I was too taken aback at first to think beyond "Really?"

1- This book is listed as a 'classic.' Generally, that means it was recently published.
2- This novel was written by Jules Verne. Not a common name and I find it hard to believe that anyone picking up this book would not know this was written a long while ago.
3- A quick Google check showed this book was published in 1874. Like just after the Civil War.

? I'm at a loss for words (momentarily). The above information ought to clue even someone living under a rock that values in 1874 were vastly different than today. Why does there need to be a disclaimer? Are today's readers so clueless that we have to spoon feed them everything?

I don't think so. I feel anyone reading the story would deduce that because of the historical content they would figure this out themselves.

A passage from the book:

    Such were the loud and startling words which resounded through the air, above the vast watery            desert of the Pacific, about four o'clock in the evening of the 23rd of March, 1865.

The Civil War was still raging. Everyone capable of reading this book should know what the racial and social atmospheres were during this time. (If they don't perhaps they should start with a good book on world history.)

While not banning the book, I feel this is political correctness to the nth degree. Notes on violence, sexual content, language, certain situations sometimes require a little heads up. But this book?

No.

In an era of children learning sex and violence from TV, movies, electronic games, schools, and even their friends, this is, in my opinion, ridiculous. I believe that parents should know what their children are reading in case questions come up (although in my experience schools will require students to read books that I would have objected to had I known they were going to be forced to read them. While some books disturbed my children, it was discussed in the classroom and later at home to help them put the story into context.). I don't believe that The Mysterious Island is a book that needs such a disclaimer. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, a group of men, among them an engineer, his servant and former slave an African-American, a sailor and his son, and a reporter, all prisoners in the Confederacy, escape by stealing a hot air balloon. They become entangled in a hurricane and are whisked away to an island in the Pacific. Some of the 'controversy' (and I don't feel it is, being how historical the book is, centers around the engineer Cyrus and his servant, Neb. Possibly this passage:

     In the meanwhile Captain Harding was rejoined by a servant who was devoted to him in life and        in death. This intrepid fellow was a Negro born on the engineer's estate, of a slave father and              mother, but to whom Cyrus, who was an Abolitionist from conviction and heart, had long since            given his freedom. The once slave, though free, would not leave his master. He would have died for      him. ...

And this one:

     When Neb heard that his master had been made prisoner, he left Massachusetts without hesitating       an instant, arrived before Richmond, and by dint of stratagem and shrewdness, after having                 risked  his life twenty times over, managed to penetrate into the besieged town. The pleasure of          Harding on seeing his servant, and the joy of Neb at finding his master, can scarcely be described.

I haven't had responses yet from librarians I questioned how they feel about this. Are publishers being overly sensitive? Should we put a disclaimer in every work of fiction? What classic book would pass this test? Following this vein, many books, from picture books through middle grade, past young adult and into adult might be required to have a disclaimer because someone, somewhere, might be sensitive or offended by the subject and how it's handled. (I think on the OJ Simpson book If I Did It and it makes me pause to consider if 'non-fiction' books might need a disclaimer too...)

Where does it end?

It's a complex subject complicated by not only the current political, social, and racial atmospheres, but by our personal emotions as well.



What do YOU think?

Char 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

In the Writer's Garden

Anyone who knows me or has read my social media know that I have a meditation garden, love flowers, and feel bad for weeds (which are just misplaced plants). Over the winter, a heavy snowfall  broke a tree in half (we discovered later that the inside of the tree was rotted).


It landed on the wire fence, so both had to be removed. Two weeks ago, the tree was cut down and just this past weekend, I fixed the fence. (Yes, I did.) Without that tree, more sun shines on the garden. I had worked around the shade, planting sun-loving flowers in pots or on the outside edges. Now half the garden stood in the glare of the sun.

Changes had to be made.

It reminded me of my novels. You start to build one way, but things happen- critiques, editor/agent comments, lost plot threads, etc. It requires major changes. Some plants could stay where they were, some had to be moved, and some were crushed by the tree guys. I needed to add full sun plants, move around statues and objects of interest. In my novels I've had to change endings, kill off some characters and add others, and I've had to revise/add/delete language. What results is the same garden (book) but it's different.

Here are the results:

The long view

A new addition - red grass

My black-eyed Susans blooming. They are a lustful bunch- all over the place!

Calendra - I love the pink and green

A burgundy dracenia spike

A bird house crafted by YMCA camp kids thanking me for my donation

No garden is complete without a gazing ball

I have a statue for each son - this is Alec, my animal lover

This is Thomas, my Harry Potter/avid reader fan

This is Collin, my gardening buddy (when he was younger and wanted to help)

The fixed fence (I do nice work). See my pretty blue chair?

I turned the stump into a pedestal 

The first time my lily bloomed! 

My cats love the garden too!

So that's where I've spent some time. I hope my novel looks and turns out as good as my garden. With both, I don't follow traditional rules- I don't like stuffy, formal gardens, but I don't like chaos either. Same with my books; I hate angst and stereotypical characters but I love books that touch me emotionally. 

Now to fix that novel...

Char 



Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Nice Guys/Gals Need Not Apply....

I'm working on a middle grade story. The main character, Jake, is having issues. (It's middle grade- there are always issues.)

One of the criticisms I'm hearing is that "I don't like the character enough."

Um, do you like every person you meet? I don't. And I know some people don't like me at first (and sometimes not even later, but that's a drama for another day.) While teen books are reflecting more of reality- sexual assault and gender identification, bullying, school shootings, etc., it seems every book's main character is a nice person. It's not like that in reality. Everyone knows this yet few write it.

My character has to have room to grow.

I'm not buying into the 'your character has to be likable' in order for the story to be good. Maybe I'm just a little tired of the kumbaya, sugary portrayals: a nice girl who's the cheerleader with the best boyfriend and perfect life who suddenly finds her life in a mess. Or the jock with a promising college football scholarship who's a nice guy except for that drunk driving episode. Or any other story where everyone starts out nice.

People are complicated. Characters should mirror that. There are times when you meet a person, and they come off as a jerk, or nasty, or just annoying. Maybe they have a problem or situation you don't know about. Until you learn more about them, you won't understand why they may come off as unlikable. Possibly they are simply unlikable; that doesn't make their story less compelling. If we're looking at a short time period, we could all point the finger and accuse each other of not being nice- at that time, or from that time going forward, or backward. Everyone has those moments of 'un-niceness' and I dare anyone to argue to the contrary.

Photo by Kat Jayne, courtesy of Pexels

Maybe a character or a specific person is just a jerk. There are real people like that. Look around. Maybe you're related to a person that isn't so nice. Possibly you work or live near someone you don't like, but you have to interact with them. That's real life. Middle grade and young adult books should have characters like this; if kids understand complex issues, they will understand, and accept, that not all people are sweet, nice, helpful, etc. And that doesn't make the character a villain.

Before you write off my character Jake, get to know him. By the end of the book, you'll understand why he's the way he is and that to tell his story, I couldn't make him sweet.

You might even like him.

Char

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ye Olde Manuscript

I'm working on a new book. (So what else is new?)

But this time, I'm doing it olde school.

I'm handwriting the entire book.

Why??? you scream? When a laptop is quicker, has instant SpellCheck, you can look up anything you need, and I'm only going to have to type the whole thing anyway?????

Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but hear (read) me out. First and foremost, I want to be thoughtful when I write this book. As my pencil (yep, really old school!) glides across the page in cursive script (and my script is really curlicue curly), I weigh each word. The process slows down to where I think about a word and consider if another would fit better. If so, I erase the inferior word and use the better one. On a laptop, I would be tapping furiously and just keep going, figuring I'd change the word when I started revising. But handwriting (which is becoming a lost skill and art), makes me order my thoughts, it forces me to almost read it aloud in my head. On a laptop, writing is as fast as my fingers can type, and sometimes that's faster than my brain thinks. There will still be many revisions required; I noticed when I picked up the project one day that I'd used the same word in two consecutive sentences. There are empty spaces where information about the time period or the setting needs to be inserted. Laptops make it too easy to become distracted on the www. For now, it's about the writing. Later it will be about correcting/adding information.

Second, I like to write poolside.

Okay, this is actually in the pool and I'm not actually writing, but you get the drift. Laptops + water + a pool bar = disaster. If my pages may get a little soggy from a splash, I leave them in the sun and they're good to go. (Another reason not to use pen, it will smear or dissolve.)

Third, I can write at the beach without fear of surf, sand, or sun blowing up my laptop, or it getting stolen. I can write in the car (until I get carsick) without worrying I'll run out of power. I can write anywhere.

Another reason to write this out longhand is it's giving me the feels, the tone of the manuscript. It's a story about an immortal being and currently, he's in the early 1900's, but he's been around since the late 1700's, and this is how they wrote manuscripts back then. The longer process helps me to think about language appropriate for the times and places; rougher, less elegant speech of a common farmer, and then the elegant, refined speech of a gentleman. When there are chapters that require a lot of dialogue, writing longhand helps me work it out as I go, so that, I believe, it sounds more realistic.


And look at how pretty these journals are! I can't remember when I bought them, but they've been sitting in my bookcase. Like most authors, we see a gorgeous journal and we must have it. We plan on writing in them, but most of the time, we don't because they're too pretty. As I declutter and think about downsizing and simplifying my life, I'm using things that I've 'saved' for one reason or another. I'm writing this book in the journals. I'm signing bills with that sparkly pen. I'm wearing perfume to the grocery store.

I don't think it will take that much longer to write the story (talking about just the basic draft) because when I use my laptop, I go back and see an error and want to fix it, and then spend more time revising and changing than I do adding more words. (That's breaking the cardinal rule of NaNoWriMo: write it down FIRST, revise LATER.) Handwriting forces me to go forward or I'd be erasing pages, and that is not happening. Sure, I might have more revisions when I'm done, but I think I can catch a lot as I type the story into in my laptop.

It's an interesting experiment, but somehow it gives me a serenity while writing that I don't get when I use the laptop. I can't rush the writing or the writing gets too sloppy making it almost unreadable, or I get cramps in my hand. Slow and easy, thoughtful and deliberate. That's the theme of this experience.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes-

Char

Monday, June 4, 2018

Word Games

Language fascinates me. (Hence, why I write.) I like to play around with, and yes, intentionally misuse words. But there's good precedence. Just think about the word 'mouser.' I'm guessing that someone had a cat, and that cat caught a lot of mice. Instead of saying that, they said she was a 'mouser.' Kind of like saying a person is a writer in place of 'that person writes.' A noun becomes a verb.

When I'm talking about my cats roaming through the decorative grasses in my back yard, I tell my sons the cats are 'jungling;'

Photo courtesy of Pexels, Mali Maeder

They are not prowling through a real jungle, but acting like they are. When my cats snuggle into the blanket, they are 'nesting,' not building a nest. (See how fun this is?)

But I'm not the only one who does this. Who first used the words:

texting

gaming

linking (as in chain-link smoking)

fragging (as in killing/wounding someone with a fragmentation device, i.e. grenade)

actualizing (to make actual or real)

Do you turn words on end, make a noun into a verb? Use them in unexpected ways? Try it, it's fun.

Char 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

On the Flip Side-

It's been a tough week. In my church, we lost a long time member and friend. Another church friend lost her sister. Yet another's father was seriously sick. And then I landed in the hospital. A long scary story later, I'm getting better, but my stepdad is having knee replacement surgery and I'll be giving emotional and driving support to my mom. I'm stretched a little thin so this is my blog post for two weeks, unless I find time, energy, and motivation to post sooner.

Be good to yourself  because you mean a lot to others. And you deserve to be taken care of.


Photo by Ian Turnell from Pexels


See ya soon-

Char 


Thursday, May 3, 2018

Just Ignore the Science... Really!

I was chatting with my middle son, an engineering/math major, and he told me that it would be impossible for squirrels like my character Jack in the Evolution Revolution series to learn to use simple machines. When I mentioned Koko, the gorilla that learned sign language, he pointed out that Koko could answer she was 'fine' when asked 'How are you?' but did not ask the same question in return. For her, there was only that moment. Because of that sense of only here and now, she could not 'imagine' any action and its consequences. It would not be possible, my son argued, for Jack, even though he's learned about rolling and sees a rock impeding a wheel from moving, to apply this knowledge to stop bulldozers from coming into his wood. My argument was that squirrels share what they learn with other squirrels, thus 'disproving' (in my mind) that animals only think in the here and now, because teaching others to defeat a food puzzle (i.e. bird feeder), results in future gain.


Photo courtesy of Chris Carter, Pexels


I have some scientific basis for my argument. In a study published in Current Zoology, Professor Thomas Hills, a co-author, asserts that animals which can simulate future actions "must be able to distinguish between their imagined actions and those that are actually experienced." (In my case, it's Jack blocking the wheels on the construction machines because he already did so on a wheelchair, or me watching videos of squirrels solve puzzles and then teach other squirrels.) The authors say their data supports the concept that animals which can 'simulate environments and conceive the future must have some form of self-awareness," and this means projecting themselves into the future in a situation.

My son disagrees.

We will have to agree to disagree. It may not happen now or even in the near future, but I believe animal intellect is slowly increasing, evolving. But that's not science, that's imagination.

Sometimes though, you have to ignore the science. So many books, TV shows, and films would not exist if we simply followed the science. American astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson posted on social media that he was watching the sci fi movie, Armageddon even though it's got rotten science. (Apparently we can't blow a giant meteor in half with a nuclear bomb, and even if it were possible, the fragments hitting the earth would be life-ending events on their own.) There are numerous incidents which are impossible, at least with current knowledge, in many movies, TV shows, and novels. Staying within what we actually know would limit our imagination, and maybe not inspire future generations to achieve what was dreamed/proposed in creative works. (Cell phones first appeared in the original Star Trek.)

So, ignore the science - (but not all; some things are irrefutable like the laws of physics, and you don't want to be obviously ignorant about basic science or the audience won't believe your story.) Creativity and imagination sets us apart from all other animals...

At least for now.

Char 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Pull Up a Chair, And Sit A While...

We all have a favorite chair. Maybe it's the big recliner you and the dogs can pile into on a cold night. Maybe it's the barstool at a local pub, surrounded by friends. My favorite is a lounger on a beach, under an umbrella, waves licking at my toes and a good book in my hand.

Least favorites would have to be the hard plastic one in the principal's office (whether parent or child), the dentist's pleather pit of misery, or the front seat of a VW bug (who is that short, anyway??).

This was my office chair:


As you can see it's suede, has a nice leather trim and nicely padded cushion. I added the wheels and shortened the legs because it's not really an office chair, but a dining one. It looked nice with my desk, and the height was just right.

Then I got a new desk.

The chair didn't work anymore.

It was too short, and reaching my arms up caused pain in my shoulders whenever I spent more than an hour in it working on my laptop.

So I started working on the couch. Too close to the TV, the cat, a comfy blanket.... And my productivity went down. Plus, I started getting neck pain from looking down at my laptop.

Time for a new chair. Before I bought one because it was a good deal, or because it was readily available to take home or before it looked good, I had to make sure it fit my needs. I measured the height of my desk, the height of space underneath where my long legs had to fit, and the width of the opening. Some chairs, those big executive ones, while they look really poofy and comfortable, were too wide and wouldn't fit under the desk, or even close enough to it (makes me wonder how anyone got any work done). Some had arm rests so long that prevented me from pulling the chair close enough. My arms would have been very tired after an hour of working. And really, does anyone use those rests? Some were too flat- I needed more back support if I was going to write longer than a blog post. I measured and sat in every chair in Staples. Finally I found a winner:


Yep, not much to look at, and there are no poofy cushions, but it fits all my specs, and unbelievably, is one of the most comfortable working chairs I've ever sat in. Short arms so I can be close to the desk. Adjustable height to fit my legs underneath. Adjustable back support. Quiet wheels. Mesh that has give and breathes.

     "The hard part of writing at all is sitting your ass down in a chair and writing..."
                                                       Jerry Pournelle, sci fi writer, essayist, journalist.

Sitting a lot is what writers do. We writers have a universal code- BIC which means Butt in Chair. It means working. Anyone serious about writing will do a LOT of sitting. Whether it's a Starbucks, the library, or your home, you've got to be comfortable so you're focused on putting down words, not fidgeting in your seat trying to relieve muscle pain.

Let me leave you with this thought:

     "It is the Chair in honor of all those who, however competently, embrace the impossible. Sit in
      that chair someday."                                               Robert Fulghum, author, Unitarian minister
   
 And yes, I'm sitting in my chair. We both have work to do.

Char

Monday, April 16, 2018

The task of querying agents is not only onerous, but it's almost soul-destroying; where else does a person set themselves up for multiple rejections- or just being ignored? Every artist, whether writer, illustrator, songwriter, singer, etc. faces this. It's hard keeping that stiff upper lip.

Just this past week though, I had the nicest rejection- (yes, you read that - rejection). Not only did the head of this literary agency write back to tell me no thank you and good luck (getting that much of response is rare. Nowadays it's "If you don't hear back from us, that's a no." Yeah, like we couldn't guess that), but she offered her thoughts. First she told me what she liked: the concept and the series potential. Then she told me what she didn't like: it moves too fast into the main premise, not giving her enough time to identify with my character, and that affected the voice. While it always hurts when either agents or editors say they don't like the 'voice' of the character, at least it gives me something to look at, to consider where I might make changes. The problem of moving too fast into the concept was the result of another professional telling me to 'get right into it.' Clearly these two have vastly different opinions. I'm going to go with the second opinion, and ease into the storyline. The concept of having that opening BANG! and the story starts, I believe, is wearing out. Readers, and industry professionals, seem to want more information about the character before we see their struggle. They kind of want to be friends first. While I have the issue of the voice to think over, I don't see a radical change. The character is a 14-year-old boy and their voice is generally different from girls (I have 3 boys so I know their mindset. Generally they are not drama queens or angsty, and not being either one myself, I can't write that voice. People like that usually annoy me anyway.).

So instead of licking my wounds over yet another rejection, I'm going to look at it that this senior agent saw the potential and that with some work (which I've already started), there's a future for this series.

In that spirit, I sent a personal thank you to the agent. It makes me wonder how often authors respond to her (or others) with a thank you for the sharing of their time and expertise. If an agent (or an editor) takes the time to do that for you, SEND a THANK YOU!

Now I'm off to read my character the riot act and get him in line-

Photo courtesy of Pexels/Pixaby


Keep writing and believing!

Char

Monday, April 9, 2018

Fly Me to the Moon- No, Make That the Sun!

My dad worked in the space program during the Apollo missions. His love of science and exploration was passed down to me; I love thinking about new worlds and exploring the cosmos. One of my favorite images to focus on during meditation is floating through space, gazing at stars and galaxies and planets. And if I couldn't be an astronaut (that whole math thing), then I could pretend to be one. It's one reason I write sci fi and wrote articles on space.

And it's why I'm traveling to the sun with the Parker Solar Probe.



If you read the above 'ticket,' my name will be on a memory card on the Parker Solar Probe as it journeys to our sun, collects data and gets closer to a star than mankind has ever been. Yes, the probe will burn up once it gets too close- along with my name, but in spirit I've traveled the universe farther than I dreamed.

Here's the link if you want to check it out: http://parkersolarprobe.jhuapl.edu

Besides it being so cool to have my name on there, it reminds me of my dad (he collected a number of memorabilia like Lunar Module tech manuals, pictures, design papers, etc. while he worked at Grumman during the Lunar Module construction which I have donated to the Smithsonian. The chances of me learning how to pilot a Lunar Module are less than zero, so those important papers belong in safekeeping.)

And, by connecting with and following NASA, I find out all kinds of interesting things, like how much satellite/rocket garbage is orbiting our Earth, what are the new pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, where the next possible killer asteroid is, and if there are worlds close enough for humanity to someday seek refuge when our planet is dying. Good stuff for sci fi novels!

Here are some cool links if you're of a sci fi bent:

https://www.nasa.gov (missions, news, pictures and contests from NASA)

https://www.seti.org (search for extra-terrestrial intelligence)

http://hubblesite.org (pics and info from/about the Hubble Space Telescope)

http://chandra.harvard.edu (Info from the Chandra Observatory)

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html (info about the space station)

https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/signup.cfm  (tells you when the space station is flying overhead in your area!)

Spotting the space station going overhead is my next project (NJ always seems to be cloudy or the station is going over at some ungodly hour, but I will track it down!).

Space is limitless....


Char