Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day - Grateful for our Servicemen and Women

Today's going to be short and sweet.

The above is a photograph of Mom at work.  She served in the Coast Guard, from August 1943 to December 1945.  According to her discharge papers, she reached the rank of Radioman 3rd Class, and was authorized to handle classified documents.

Many years later, I worked in a hardware store that actually had a switchboard much like this one - and I had never even seen this photograph until within this last year.  How cool is that?

I also like to think, as a writer, my job - to find ways to communicate with others - is much like hers.

My mother, and her sister servicewomen who have served our country in one way or another - all 2.5 million of them - as well as "Rosie the Riveter, and countless other women who discovered they could in fact do "a man's job," quite well, are in large part responsible for the women's movement.  If it were not for them and their courage, I doubt that I and other women would have the opportunities we do.

Though there are still too many ways in which freedom and equality have not yet reached women worldwide, we have come a long way, baby.

While we need to honor and be grateful to all who have served our country - male and female, black, white, Hispanic, Native American, Asian (and/or any other variation or combination) I will be thinking of and especially grateful to the women who have served, on this Memorial Day.

Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery
Please include a visit whenever your are in the Washington D.C. area
There are wonderful interactive displays and exhibits inside.
Thank you, Mom, Aunt Ruth, and all those who have served, and continue to serve, the United States of America.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Interview with Kim Townsel: On Student Tips, Teacher Tips
And the Answer to the Baggy Pants Question (2 of 2)

This continues an interview with non-fiction author Kim Townsel.  For Part 1, click here.

You said School Skills 101 was based on active research in the classroom, and that College Skills 101 was based on that, plus your own “what did I wish I knew when I started school” experiences?
It’s also drawn from my experiences teaching at the college level. I’ve had a lot of first generation students - the first ones in their family to attend college, so their families can’t prepare them for the experience. It’s about the areas they most struggle with.

You advise them on a variety of subjects, from buying books, to taking online classes, to how to get along with roommates. What else is a good tip for college students?
If they are really struggling to understand the material, to research and get tested for learning disabilities. They may not be “dumb,” but have to learn ways to compensate for a learning disability, and they may be able to qualify for special tutoring and financial aid.

You write this book in a way that is very accessible and not at all preachy. I love the example you gave about the difference between fewer and less (something I struggle with, myself.)

Fewer relates to a certain number. Three classes is fewer than four classes. Less relates to total quantity that is harder to assign a number to. I have less respect for him than I did at the beginning of the course. The easiest way to remember it is this saying: Drink fewer beers to get less drunk.

Secondary Teaching 101 has 250 tips based on your own experiences...?
Plus tips gathered in chats with successful teachers from around the world.

How do you teach kids to learn how to learn? One of the things I came up with that’s had excellent results is a Read & Research exam. The students get to use their textbook, so they feel like they’re getting one over on the system, but the questions are designed to make them learn how to research and dig in the text for context. They have the opportunity to succeed and score well on a test, which some of them have never had before, the material still ‘sticks’ with them weeks later, and best of all, they learn how to read for context, a skill they need not just in school, but in life.

You also encourage periodically changing the seating arrangements?
Yes, because it’s been proven that students who sit closest to the teacher tend to get the better grades. All students should have that opportunity.

But isn’t that a pain, what with trying to remember names, especially if you have a lot of classes?
Not if you use a seating chart with post-its which there are specific tips on how to do.

As a teacher, what can do you encourage attendance, good behavior, and punctuality, week after week after week?
I instituted an Attendance Reward Lottery. At the end of every week, students who have had no tardies, absences, or discipline problems get their name written on a card and dropped in a jar. I would then draw one (or more) cards and the winner gets a privilege or small prize.

I like this much better than the “perfect attendance” awards, because you miss one day for your grandfather’s funeral, and you’re done; plus that encourages parents to send their kids to school when they’re sick and infect the other students.
Exactly. By making this a weekly event, every student has a fresh chance with a fresh week, and incentive to do better.

I could go on for hours about just the Secondary Teaching book, but what about Teen 101? How did that come about?
I asked my students to write down the questions that they had, coming into high school, that they wished someone had answered, and then later, we drew them all out and discussed the answers. By having it be anonymous (though some students wrote their names down anyway) I got some very interesting questions. Later I decided this would make a good book - for students, for parents, for writers - for anybody who wants to know what kids really think.

The questions and answers were not all about sex, by the way, though there is a section on sex ed myths addressed by a former Sex Ed instructor.

So why do boys wear their pants down?

Okay this one is about a sex - a little.

When guys enter puberty, their penis starts making erections. Whenever they think about something sexy, they get an erection. Unfortunately for guys, some studies report that guys think a sexy thought hundreds of times a day! And when a guy first goes through puberty, his penis is so excited about its new skill, that it likes to practice all the matter where he is. So, while most guys will tell you that the sagging pants look is cool and stylish, the truth is that it also helps hide those spontaneous erections. It’s why guys like to wear their shirt tails out and/or wear big baggy shirts.

This book also addresses the questions: “Why do girls have to scream? Why do some guys never let you touch their hair? Why do girls who have nothing to show try to show their bodies? Why don’t guys ever call girls?” and many more.

You must have had a lot of fun with this book.
I had fun with all of them, but this one was a great experience.

Kim, thanks so much for your time.

(Reader Tip - click on the links in the text to go to the books' FaceBook pages.  Click on the picture of the book cover to go to the Amazon book page.)

Thoughts, comments, questions?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Interview with Kim Townsel: On Non-Fiction, Print On Demand
and Why Boys Wear Their Pants Down (Part 1 of 2)

How do you cope with homework when you’ve got a lot of both history and math to do?  How do you teach kids to learn how to learn?  Why do boys wear their pants down?  As a teacher, how can you encourage attendance, good behavior, and punctuality, week after week after week?

Kim Townsel’s non-fiction Tip books answer those questions and a whole lot more.  Kim (I can call her that, she’s a personal friend, but her students will call her Ms. Townsel, thank you!) took time out of a very busy schedule to answer some questions via Skype about her books, and the POD (Printing On Demand) process.  A National Board Certified teacher, she continues an almost twenty year career at Jacksonville State University, while simultaneously working on her PhD EdD at the University of Alabama.  When she’s not working on a screenplay or jumping out of planes, that is.

Did I mention she’s stunningly beautiful, and has a soft velvety voice like Jack & Pepsi over ice?  It would be easy to be pea-green with jealousy, except that Kim’s combination of Southern charm plus a no-nonsense attitude towards such thoughts blow 'em out the window.

First off - why POD, and not traditional publishing?
I had an agent who marketed the first book, School Skills 101, for two years, and had several publishers who wanted to buy it, only they wanted me to add material. I’d already tried out several other tip books for students in high school classrooms - and the kids, especially the boys, all hated them, because they were too long.  The only way I could get the book out the way I wanted it, short and sweet, was to do it through POD.

 Okay, it has to be asked - what’s with the ugly covers?
<Laughing> I know, I know, all my friends and my nephew who are in graphic design were horrified.  My thought process was to pick an especially ugly cover, so it would stand out, like the Dummies books.  I may revisit the design in the future, but it’s not a priority.

Tell me about the POD process - you went with Amazon’s own POD service, CreateSpace.
I did and they’ve been great.  You create your own covers, upload your edited files, and they send you a proof copy, which is actually a bound book.  If not approved, you upload your changes, then they send you another proof copy.  You pay for all your proof copies and shipping, so you can make as many changes as you want, but it’ll cost you.

How about the editing?  One of the arguments made is that with traditional publishing, at least you have professional editors to review the work.
On my last book, I really, really wanted to have it nice and no errors.  I had 11 different people, most of them very well educated teachers, edit it one after another.  And guess what, it still has errors!  As a teacher, I work with textbooks and other material that is professionally edited - and those have errors, too, sometimes a horrifying number of them.  I’ve come to accept that, as much as it irks me, any book will have typos and errors.

With a Printing On Demand books, there aren’t a stack of them in a warehouse somewhere, they're printed when somebody clicks the “Buy” button.  How long does it take to get the book - is it longer than a “regular” book?
Nope, two days, just like a standard book.

No smudges or wet ink?
No smudges or wet ink.

Obviously, since these are done through Amazon, all the books are available for Kindle download.  What about other markets?
They’re available elsewhere, too - on Barnes & Noble, and sometimes other bookstores will order some of them, they’ve gone into Target sometimes, into other e-campus bookstores.  They’re sold all over the world, although only in English; there are no translated versions.

Marketing - another bad thing about being a POD author is you have to do your own marketing.
That’s one thing I haven’t worried about, much.  I don’t actually have time for much marketing, but the books do have their own pages on FaceBook.  Occasionally I’ll post links or tips on those pages.  I don’t have time to do an author website right now, but it was never the point to make a lot of money anyway, though the books do keep selling; nice little hitch-hikers bringing me in money to pay down my student loans.

I’m sorry - you were not looking to make money?  Excuse me?
I do presentations sometimes, and I would give out these tips for free, and then later, I would get sometimes dozens of emails or calls, “Hi, loved your presentation, could you email me what you said about this-and-such?  Could you mail me another handout about the-other?”  This way, I could say - you want the information?  It’s all in this book here.  I don't have time to give it out one email at a time. 

Let’s talk about content.  Schools Skills 101, and College Skills 101 - some of the information seemed fresh and invaluable, at least to me.  The answer to the question, “How do you cope with homework when you’ve got a lot of both history and math to do?” is (paraphrasing) to use a timer set for 15 minute increments, and alternate:  15 minutes of history, then 15 minutes of math.  Worst case scenario, you’d still have the bulk of homework done for both classes, instead of one completely done, and the other not even started.
I also liked the tip about doing the yucky homework first, then finishing with the subject you like best.  I got through some traumatic eating experiences that way.

But some of the tips seemed, well, pretty basic.  Like not coming into class tardy, showing respect to the teacher by not goofing off in class...  Do kids really need to be taught that?
Sadly, yes they do.  I have taught in very wealthy school districts in California and Alabama, and very poor school districts, and you would not believe the number of students who don’t know these things.  It’s not a matter of poverty, of race, of culture; there are kids who are clueless how to behave from all backgrounds.  They don't know classroom manners, or how to ask a teacher for help in a way that they’ll want to give it (hint, teachers are less eager to help a student “catch-up” if she has been chatting with her girlfriends or doodling on her jeans, while the information was presented the first time.)

(Reader Tip - click on the links in the text to go to the books' FaceBook pages.  Click on the picture of the book cover to go to the Amazon book page.)

This interview continues tomorrow with Part 2.  
You'll have to wait till then to get the baggy pants question answered!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Some of my Best Characters are Crazy - Literally

Carrie Fisher via Wikimedia Commons

We throw the word "crazy" around pretty lightly, but the fact remains - there's a lot of crazy out there.  Estimates are that one in five Americans experience some kind of diagnosable, treatable mental illness in the course of each year.

Much fewer than one in five actually get treated, of course.  Fewer than that talk openly about their mental illness, though in recent years both Carrie Fisher and Catherine Zeta-Jones have "come out" as suffering from bi-polar disorder.

Sadly, there's still a big stigma about acknowledging mental illness, even though research seems to indicate more and more that mental illness is seated in the physical and chemical make-up of the brain, and no more the sufferer's "fault" or choice than being nearsighted or having a gimpy knee.

Then too, one of the symptoms of many mental illnesses is denial by the affected person - not simply because of the stigma, but because many with mental illness feel fine, great, they are winners

Mental illness does not simply impact the person with the condition.  It affects everyone around them: family, friends, neighbors, co-workers.

So, if we are smart writers, it will also inform our writing.

  • Our hero's mother was alcoholic, and he has many unpleasant childhood memories of drunken scenes and next day hangovers.  If his love interest gets slightly tipsy at a social event, he may go ballistic, totally out of proportion to the "offense."  Additionally, perhaps mom didn't die, but disappeared... Will she reappear, still alcoholic and expecting to be enabled?  Or perhaps, totally dried out and wanting to renew the relationship?  Or, did she crawl into a hole and die somewhere?  Our hero may be haunted by a sense of unfinished business and guilt that he didn't "save" her.
  • Heroine's father was OCPD.  He constantly nitpicked at her, any siblings, and her co-dependent mother; now she has a rock-bottom sense of self-esteem, a need to prove herself perfect and to hide any flaws.  Daddy Dearest manages to pull off a jovial, "good guy" appearance around outer circle people, so her new love interest does not understand why she wants to avoid her family of origin, and why even the slightest criticism sends her into an emotional tailspin.
  • Hero had an autistic brother, who he both loves and resents, because the family dynamic was all about caring for the special needs child, and the others were mostly left to fend for themselves.
  • Heroine's mother was hugely obese and a binge eater, and having seen the pain and ostracism her mother received, vowed she'd be different.  She is, but on the flip side of the eating disorder coin, with anorectic tendencies and letting the number on the scale, or the size on the clothing tag, determine whether it wlll be a good day or a bad day.
  • Hero has been diagnosed in the past with clinical depression, and once attempted suicide as a teen.  He's afraid to tell his love interest because she might dump him, and he likes her so much  - but what if they get serious and she finds out from someone else?
  • Heroine thinks she may be bi-polar.  She experiences mood swings of feeling spiritually high, powerful, creative, and energetic, and does most her painting, networking, and partying during those times, but they alternate with days when she can barely crawl out of bed.  She's afraid to seek treatment, because what if medication robs her of the highs and creativity?
Joan of Arc by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Giving one (or more) characters a mental illness not only gives additional dimensions to them, but is guaranteed to add drama and conflict, always a good thing in story, if not in real life.  Mental illness is not new, nor American - every era, every culture has had mentally ill members, even if some have considered it demonic possession or heavenly visitation.  It can be used in any work, from sci-fi to historical fiction.

I'm not suggesting that we cruise the headlines, pick a mental illness "flavor of the month," and crudely staple it into our work.  I do suggest we take a look at our work and characters as they stand, and see if diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illness, on the current pages, or as backstory that influences their current behavior, might fit with their dynamics.  Perhaps part of our heroine's character arc is the epiphany that her mother was mentally ill and it was not her fault that her mother ran away/was half-comatose with prescription drugs/committed suicide.

By highlighting mental illness a bit more, especially if we do your homework and present it in an accurate and respectful way, our work will both become deeper and more real, and also perform the very valuable social purpose of bringing more awareness to mental health issues.

Mental illness has been "done" before, of course, in books, television and movies.  Usually not very well, and often the details and behaviors are distorted for dramatic effect.  Sheldon Cooper (TV, Big Bang Theory) has characteristics of both Asperger's Syndrome and OCPD.  John Nash (film, A Beautiful Mind) in real life had only auditory hallucinations, not auditory and visual ones.

Then there are those, not portraying a role, on Jerry Springer and reality TV.  'Nuff said!

Have you had personal experiences (family, friends, self) with mental illness?
Which illnesses?
Are you working your knowledge & experiences into your blogging or fiction, 
or steering away because of the fear of stigma?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Discovering Our Genre & Voice

I adore reading fantasy and science fiction.  I want to soar over the skies of Pern on my own dragon; travel through time and space on the Dora with Lazarus Long, fight villains and blood-mages with the Heralds of Valdemar.

I just can't write these stories, myself.  (At least, not yet.)  I can come up with great characters, and have done small sketches here and there, warmly received by my writer friends, but have not been able to conceive of a proper Heroic Quest for them.  While great characters are the difference between fantasy that works, and fantasy that doesn't work, IMO - ya gotta have the Heroic Quest.

My first writing mentor would tell a great story about her attempts to write genre romance.  Lydia created a great heroine, a sexy hero... and at the end of chapter one, the hero pushed the heroine off a cliff.

from xchanttelx at Flickr
Lydia said hmm, that's not where I expected to go.  So she began writing another one.  And at the end of chapter one, the heroine grabbed a big knife and stabbed the hero to death.

Talking about killing the romance!  Lydia tried one more time, with similar results; although she loved to read romance, it became clear to her that what she was called to write was murder mysteries.

Up and coming author and blogger extraordinaire Roni Loren has spoken about starting out with a YA novel, or trying to, before realizing that her strength and where the muse spoke for her was erotic romance.

One of my first reading loves, like a lot of girls, was Nancy Drew.  First I wanted to be Nancy Drew; later I wanted to write Nancy Drew, as recently discussed in my Aspiring Author interview over on Liz Sogard's site.

Shortly after I joined a local writer's group, they had a short story contest where we had to pick pseudonyms, to assure our anonymity in the judging.  (I chose Nancy Drew, of course.)  The story was supposed to be a mystery; the prompt was "The room held only a candle..."  I think it was 1000 WOL (Words Or Less.)  I ended up writing an anti-romance, where the man is convinced his wife is cheating on him because of mysterious phone calls broken off when he enters the room, odd looks between his wife and best friend.  He's got a loaded gun in his pocket, ready to shoot them both, when he walks into a surprise birthday party.  (And in the last little snippet, we see the wife & b-f are having an affair, after all.)

The story won first prize ($25 which I have the cancelled check framed and hanging on my office wall, thank you very much!)  out of of all the stories by much more experienced writers.  This thrilled me to pieces, and helped me decide two things:  1) I must have at least some talent, after all, and 2) My strength/voice is writing about the relationships between people.

So for now, at least, I'm writing erotic fiction and erotica, though I also have plans to write nonfiction about certain types of mental illness in the not-too-distant future. 

Your muse may be leading you in a different direction altogether, and that's fine.  Despite what some snobs may voice, there is no "low-brow" genre of writing.  There is wonderful writing in every genre, from porn (which only the pig-ignorant confuse with erotica) to sci-fi to books for very young children.  Is there anyone who can seriously dispute what a brilliant book "Goodnight Moon" is, deceptively simple yet oh so memorable and beloved by every single generation of children since its publication?

There is really terrible writing in every genre, from thrillers to literary novels to biography.  (Even if some books with bad writing somehow become best-sellers.)  Personally, I would rather do a great job writing erotica, than a crappy job writing a literary novel or poetry.

We may need to dabble in many different genres for a while before finding the right fit.  We may think we're a writer of one kind of work, and do a decent job writing it, but find if we try something else, it's like a puzzle piece snapping into place, and suddenly the words just flow.

This is what the writer's journey is all about.  If you've found your voice and your genre, celebrate it, and don't let anyone make you feel ashamed because it's "only" YA, erotica, blogging, a school newsletter....  If you're still looking for that perfect fit, that's fine, too.  We've all been there.

Have you ever thought you were suited to one genre, and made a switch?
Are you still looking for the right fit?
Please share, in the comments, below.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guess Who's Revisiting Rejection?

Today it's all about me, me me!

Only, not here.  I'm participating in a wonderful aspiring author series over at Liz Sogard's site.

Want to know my Nancy Drew connection?  Why I'm saving all my rejection letters (and how very many there are)?  *sob*

(Hmmm, maybe I should start a pool, like guess the jellybeans...)

Click through Rejections Are A Girl's Best Friend and find out all my secrets!

Well, maybe not all of them, but I do explain why (IMO) a great query does not sell your book.

Want to get in on the fun?  E-mail Liz and get on the list to share your trade secrets and tips.  (And to promote yourself on one more site, why not?)

But first, go to her site, please, and leave a comment or two.  Snicker at my pretensions, it's all good.


Coming soon - a guest post from Dafeenah, an interview with Marc Cushman (author of I Spy and an upcoming Star Trek book), and ten questions from the fabulous Roni Loren.

Want to be interviewed or guest post here?  Leave a comment, or e-mail me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Eyes Too Big for My... ???

This is my cat, Metaphor.  Aka Stinky.
Aka holy cat kibble, Batman, that is one BIG Cat!
So, I'm looking for a metaphor.

I do have one, around the house, but although she's very verbal, most of it translates to, "I'm starving!  Feed me now, before I waste away to nothing!"

(FYI, she is on a veterinarian-supervised cat-diet.  Not that it has helped, over the course of several years, but we live in hope.)

Anyway, there's a saying, about food, "Eyes too big for your stomach," which we all know has to do with feeling hungry, heaping one's plate high with food, and then being unable to finish it.  Obviously, it would be very difficult for this Metaphor's eyes to be literally too big for her stomach.

IMO, we need a saying like that for writing.  Because every weekend, my eyes/brain think they're going to get all kinds of writing projects accomplished.  Actually, when it's all added up, I do get a fair amount done.

I just don't come near to "cleaning my plate."  And I need to learn how to be okay with that.

A few years ago, I asked around and got a great adaption for "All talk, no action."  My screenwriter friends came up with, "All pitch, no script."

Here's some English proverbs, adapted for writing.

Don't try to walk before you can crawl.
Don't ever query an uncritiqued manuscript.

The longest journey starts with a single step.
The best novel is written one sentence at a time.

Don't count your chickens before they're hatched./Don't cross the bridge till you come to it.
Don't spend your royalties before you're sold your book.

Or, don't let your chickens cross any bridges.
photo by Living off Grid at Flickr

If at first you don't succeed try, try and try again.
If your first query is rejected, review and query again.  And again.

Practice makes perfect.  (No change necessary here.)

Strike when the iron is hot./Make hay when the sun shines.
Write when the muse is with you.

Right now, I am trusting that all things come to she who waits.

So, how would you adapt "eyes too big for your stomach" for writing?
Have you shared that experience?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Punctured by Punctuation

from me 'nthedogs at Flickr
I love parenthetical sentences.  (Doesn't everyone?)

My problem, however, is knowing how to punctuate them.  One of my lovely readers gently pointed out to me that my method of punctuation in this (and other areas) seems to be hit or miss.

Well, <pop>  Thanks, Pete!  There goes my fantasy that if I read enough, I will intuitively and painlessly absorb all the punctuation and grammar rules I will ever need to know.

From GrammarBook 

Periods go inside parentheses only if an entire sentence is inside the parentheses. 

Please read the analysis (I enclosed it as Attachment A.).
Please read the analysis.  (I enclosed it as Attachment A.)
Please read the analysis (Attachment A).

Seriously, doesn't that first example look wrong to you too?  <Weeping.>

Then there's Purdue Owl: 
Put commas and periods within quotation marks, except when a parenthetical reference follows.
He said, "I may forget your name, but I never forget a face."
History is stained with blood spilled in the name of "civilization."
Mullen, criticizing the apparent inaction, writes, "Donahue's policy was to do nothing" (24).

And apparently, from my research, when it comes to quotation marks, as combined with commas, periods and <in a hushed voice> semi-colons, there's differences between American usage and English style.

Mother-plucker!  Can't we all just get along?

So here's the dealie.  I'm going to work really hard to mind my punctuation p's and q's. (Which, I learned in the A-Z blogging challenge, have to do with Pints and Quarts and drinking, which is what punctuation rules make me want to start doing, heavily.) I may even use a semi-colon from time to time; then again, maybe not.

But if I do screw up, please assume one of the following:
a) I'm applying the American, West West shoot-'em-up, what rules, yee-haw style!

b) I've been reading my Jane Austen again and my behaviour has been flavoured and confused;
c) I tried looking up the rules, I truly did, along with a a few pints to help wash them down easier, and after a few p's and q's, I consulted the cat and she said, "Just click Publish, you damn pussy!  And feed me already, or I will leave such 'punctuation' in my litterbox as you'll wish you'd fed me!"

Does punctuation makes your head pop, too,
or do you know and love all its little rules?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Playing Catch-Up - From WordSmything

Did you experience A-Z or other blogging/writing burnout? Did all the colds/flus/evil curses that have been pursuing you for months finally overtake you and send you into a tailspin?

Well, that happened to me.  And since D.B. Smyth at WordSmything already blogged a fabulous post on How To Play Social Networking Catch-Up, I'm going to borrow steal hers and share.

You've been sick or away or lost in the Bermuda Triangle of life. Whatever the reason it's been awhile since you Blogged, Tweeted, or Facebooked. One missed day in the writerly world can feel like a lost year. A week? Well, you might as well change your name to Rip Van Winkle. That's it. You're done, right? How can you possibly catch up on the endless tweets you missed, the several hundred blogs in Google Reader and the countless entries in Facebook?

You ready...

You can't! Did you see that one coming? Probably. But maybe I should say you can't catch up AND write. You don't have enough hours in the day. So what do you do? Here are some thoughts...

1. Organize Reader, Twitter and Facebook.
This is a pre-crisis step. But it makes everything a whole lot easier!) Mine are organized into "Awesomeness", "Peeps I know", "Authors, Agents and Such", and then by genre. Do whatever works for you. This will make finding the "best" (read: most important to you) posts/tweets/updates an easier task.

Side note: If you're not currently using some type of reader to follow your favorite blogs, I'd highly recommend it!
Crap.  Reader is organized, FaceBook and Twitter... not so much.  I do have Tweetdeck installed on Twitter, and was thinking, someday soon, on learning how to use it.

2. Read only the current blog posts.
Your Reader is organized. You know which blogs continually give you the best info (they are in "Awesomeness" after all). But you show that you're 804 blog posts behind. Give it up. There is no way you can read all that and still be sane. (Believe you me, I've tried). So I go to my Awesome folder and Peeps I know and read only the-current-as-in-today posts. If I happen to catch a title from an earlier post that resonates with me, yes, I'll read it. Otherwise, once I've read today's info, I click "Mark all as read." Let it go.
Except that I stumbled on this post in skimming the old blog titles, and I'm so glad I did!

3. Check your Twitter direct messages and @mentions.
Respond as necessary (read: always). Twitter makes this easy. TweetDeck makes it easier. I actually have these sent to my phone so even if I'm missing the rest of Twitterland, I can make sure to respond to people talking directly to me.

4. Scroll through your Twitter lists.
(What? You haven't made lists yet? Run do that... I'll wait). This is not a "check every tweet one by one" type scroll. I seriously mean scroll. Scan the tweets listed for today and, if you've signed on at 6:30am and no one has tweeted yet, yesterday. Then let it go.

Side note: For an awesome post on Twitter Lists, check out Liza Kane's post here.
Double Crap.  I'm so not up to speed on understanding Twitter.  I feel like the seagull who always gets there after the chips are gone and only gets the empty bag.

5. Scroll through today's Facebook messages.
I'm really not an expert here. So far I only use Facebook for personal use. But when I'm playing catch up, it's easy to get sucked in for hours checking every ones' status updates, new pics, etc. So I limit myself to status updates only and they must be within 24 hours of today. Again, we're talking scrolling, not line by line checking. And again, let the rest go.

Within a few hours (hopefully less if you're better at this than I am), you'll again have your fingers on the pulse of social networking. I know you're agonizing over all the other things you didn't read or didn't comment on. Did you miss my mini-theme?
I'm not too bad on FaceBook as a time-suck.  Now I feel marginally better.

6. Let the rest go.
Radical, I know. But really, if you don't you'll drive yourself mad. As much as it feels like Twitterland has moved on without you and you'll never get published now that you've missed so many conversations, the truth is that the world is still turning. And publishers are still looking for awesome manuscripts to publish. I'm pretty sure none of them are checking your social network attendance (at least not day by day... missing a year of social networking is a little more noticeable).

So instead of panicking and allowing that panic to shut you down, check the most recent entries (ONLY A FEW!) and then clear your Google Reader, stop scrolling through Twitter and Facebook, and choose to start over today. Set a more doable social networking schedule and then focus on your writing because your book won't write itself and Twitter can't write it for you.

Happy writing!
 But, but but... let it go?  <squealing>  OMG, she is so right.  I'm the type who's got "eyes too big for the clock" when it comes to scheduling.  Saturday, I was planning to work on the novel, write 2-3 blog posts, do some housework, and read about 20 blogs.  Instead, I wrote one blog post, read about 5 blogs, and... took three naps.  Obviously, that's what I needed to do, and... it's okay.

<shaking out my SuperWoman Cape, hanging it in the closet behind my Renfaire wench dress and my Mexican poncho.>

How good are you at letting it go when you've fallen behind?
Or have you, too driven yourself crazy trying to play catch-up?  
Please share, below.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rusty Nipple: The Outing of Author Judy Mays

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an intelligent reader in possession of an inquiring mind, must be in want of a good book," to liberally plagiarize our girl Jane Austen.

What constitutes "a good book," is certainly open for debate.  For some, the best reads include murder and/or mystery; for others, they take place in outer space or in an alternate universe; for others romance, with or without explicitly erotic scenes, is a must.  Others are happiest if fangs or fur are involved.

To satisfy readers, obviously there must be writers. The vast majority of published and unpublished writers are not John Grishams or J.K. Rowlings,  but ordinary people who write in our spare time.  While waiting/hoping to "break through," we work a variety of day jobs: shopkeepers, attorneys, accountants, editors, soccer moms, and yes, teachers.

Grant Woods' American Gothic from Wikimedia Commons
Yet some people would like to forbid, or ostracize writers of material they deem "offensive."  Oddly, this is rarely about violence.  Stephen King coached his son's Little League team and nobody once questioned whether the number of fictional people he'd killed in various gruesome ways made him too creepy to be allowed around impressionable children.  Because that was fiction.

But, sex?!  Oh, the horror of exposing children to the idea that the adults in their lives may have had sex!  That said adults may still think about sex, might fantasize about it, even write about it!  (Forget about whether they actually still do the deed.)

Get the pitchforks!

To that end, some mothers in a small Pennsylvania community, who discovered that one of their local high school teachers was a published author of erotica and erotic romance under a pseudonym, embarked on a campaign to embarrass, discredit, and hopefully end her teaching career.

In Publishers' Weekly, Ms. Mays addresses the controversy: 
As some, maybe many of you know, I was recently “outed” in the school district where I teach by some disgruntled mothers who felt the content of my books made me unacceptable as a teacher.  They contacted one of the local news stations to which they revealed my identity as a writer of erotic romance.  It seemed to create quite a hullabaloo.  The television station did try to contact me.  I got an email at school somewhere around two or two-thirty in the afternoon.  It was very short outlining what the parents had reported to them and would I please contact them to give them my side of the story.  That was not something I was willing to do on the spur of the moment; and, before I could turn around, I was on the five o’clock news and then every half hour for the rest of the night.
Now, every writer would like free press - but being ambushed on the local five o'clock news is not what most of us imagine.  She continues:  
However, the entire fiasco backfired on the parents who complained.  The support I have received from around the world has been unbelievable. Two complete strangers started a support page for me; and, the last time I checked, it had over 9000 “like” hits. However, it’s been the support from my current students, many, many former students, and their parents that has humbled me and warmed my heart.  I was always pretty sure I was respected, but the outpouring of support from “my kids” has brought tears to my eyes more than once.  They have rocked my world.
I was one of the first to "like" that page, and I too was impressed by the many students, former students, and former parents who sprang to her defense because she's a really good teacher.  Many more supported her, I am sure, than were requesting she cease teaching.  It's good to know, that even if there are still some ready to sew a red "A" on the chest of those who don't confirm to their views of what's moral, there are others ready to rip it out of their hands.

I sent Ms. Mays a very brief e-mail of support, as the Tweetmosphere was burning up over this, and she took the time to send me back her thanks, despite what must have been a wild time at her home with phones and e-mails and everything else buzzing, chirping, and demanding her attention.  That speaks volumes to me about what a kind and gracious lady she is.

And - back to Rusty Nipple - Judy's a very talented and funny writer.  Along with many others in the romance community, I decided to show my support not only by Tweeting and posting on FaceBook, but by buying her work.  Rednecks and Roses was the first book I read, and I laughed my head off (as well as experiencing other emotions at the pertinent places.)  Rusty is a country boy recently turned vampire, complete with red hair, beard, and flannel shirt discovered by a woman who's retired to the Pennsylvania rural area to write a novel.  Instead of being terrified, she's thrilled with the scoop (as a writer, I am right there with her,) except this darned fellow doesn't want to behave like a proper vampire.  But she'll teach him.  Maybe even get him to dye his hair, shave, and dress better.

How can you not love a vampire named Rusty Nipple?  After my darling friend Kate's Michael Gilroy, I think that's my second favorite vampire name.  There were a few places where the writing was a little over the top.  I had a hangover in the beginning before they'd even finished the margaritas, but on the whole, I really liked it, and am glad I bought and downloaded it to my Kindle.

And Perfumed Heat was a beast of a different scent altogether, though equally tasty.  I'm looking forward to collecting and reading more of her work as time goes on.

I think it's wonderful that there are a variety of writers willing to tackle a variety of subjects.  As writers and readers, I hope we'll always support the freedom to imagine and write about subjects that may be controversial.

Your thoughts?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Verbal Recession by Karen Girard

Verbal recession

Once upon a time, in a land far away from here,
a writer labors over her words, quill scratching,
oak gall ink, pig skin vellum, by tallow candle light.
A book costs the price of a house she's too poor to own.

When the press prints her words onto paper,
her words are freer, her books get cheaper,
she's paid word by word, a writing machine,

then paid not at all. The Internet's free
words, flashing lights and sounds,
permanently impermanent, flit from

scrn 2 scrn, smllr n smallr, ntil
u gt nly 140 ltrs @ a tme.
wrtng, wrtng evrywhre,
n nt a drp of ink.
u pay 4
wht u

In honor of my dear talented friend Karen Girard, who wrote this fabulous poem as part of her answer to Nat Po Wri Mo in April, and in the interests on not totally bailing on my blog though still coughing like it's a competition, I wanted to share this gem.

Your thoughts?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bye Bye Brain, Hello Hiatus

So, as the A-Z blogging challenge wound down, I had all kinds of fabulous ideas, plans to visit all kinds of blogs and leave thoughtful, cogent, witty comments.

Life got in the way.  Came down with a nasty sinus infection and evil cough that won't quit which have sapped all energy and cohesiveness of thought.  Been floating through endless surrealistic dreams, only not groovy, cool visions like Jefferson Airplane...

Mine have been weird shit like silhouettes of Gothic church doors and windows that, when my dream eye focuses in, become plastic canvas patterns.
I'm a crafter and all that, but even I know this is lame.

I have discovered that while I find green appletinis yummy, I find green apple jello absolutely disgusting.

One can have too much of a good thing, when it comes to chicken soup and orange juice.

Somehow, the world has moved on without me.  Will & Kate got married, and they finally caught Osama bin Laden.   Maybe if I keep dreaming, they'll reverse global climate change and bring back $2 a gallon gas.

My doctor says it's all viral, which means I just have to keep on keeping on, though he prescribed something for me to huff to help with the coughing thing.

I will be back, posting, commenting, contributing to the world in my own twisted way, as soon as I am not napping more frequently than a month old infant, and when I can locate two brain cells solid enough to rub together and produce a spark.