Friday, July 31, 2009

History Isn't Boring!

They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot & then once a day it was taken & sold to the tannery.......if you had to do this to survive you were "Piss Poor" But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn't even afford to buy a pot...........they "didnt have a pot to piss in" and were the lowest of the low.

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June. However, since they were starting to smell . .. . brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water!"

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, "Dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: a thresh hold.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, "bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat.

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, saved by the bell or was considered a dead ringer...

Note from Ginger: I can't verify the validity of all these claims, but think they make sense to my feeble mind. I don't know the originator of the information, but I'd like to thank them for spending time, putting such interesting facts together and allowing us to share it. Sayings had to come from somewhere. :) As ususal, I've punctuated my blog with images from Cartoon Clipart, a site that has never let me down, no matter what I type into the search block. Amazing!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Getting to know Phyllis Campbell

I'm very pleased to have Phyllis Campbell as my Thursday Tourist this week. Phyllis and I met under difficult circumstances with a particular publisher, but our friendship has flourished and I'm proud to call her "sis." I'm interviewing her because I want you to get to know and love her like I do.

Phyllis, you know I'm always happy when you visit, so sit back, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and answer these questions as best you can. You know me, I'm going to get personal. *lol*

1. What age were you when you first got bitten by the book-writing bug?
Oh, dear…you expect me to remember that far back? lol Let’s see…my youngest daughter was in kindergarten, so I was probably 28. Although I was bitten by the writing bug, I only wrote for fun the first five or so years.

2. Since I'm familiar with your writing, I know your books are always a tad on the spicy side. What prompts you to add such flare to your writing... are you a sexy person by nature?
Hell yes!!! heehee Okay, I’d like to hope I’m a sexy person by nature. I don’t know what it is…lack of sex, don’t know, but I love writing sexual tension! I love the tingles I get when hero and heroine want each other but don’t know what do to about it. I love those shy caresses, those brief, but earth-shattering kisses, and heaven help but I love when the hero’s hands start wandering… I don’t think of my stories as spicy, more like steamy. heehee

3. Did you read as a child, and if so...did you have to hide your reading material from your parents?
Believe it or not I hated to read as a child / teenager. Of course the books the school told me to read were just awful! No romance or happily ever after at all. Maybe that’s why I didn’t fall in love with romance novels until I read my very first from Kathleen Woodiwiss, A Rose In Winter. Then I was hooked on reading.

4. When you picture a sexy hero in your mind's eye, who do you see?
Tall, dark hair, and muscular. Sexy eyes. Warm smile. And he’s got to be funny as hell. I don’t have one face because each of my heroes are very different. I like variety.

5. Describe the place in your home where your write? Is it perfect for you or do you wish for a different type of environment?
My computer is in my bedroom. I have a very large bedroom (thank heavens) so my desk in here in the corner. Then I can write at night (after I get home from my yucky full time job) and my husband can lay on the bed and watch tv (with an earplug of course). At least we’re spending time together, right? lol

6. Tell us what you like most about being an author?
CONTROL! heeheee I love making my characters do what I want since I can’t control my own kids. But seriously, I think I like creating love stories that make me sigh. I like falling in love over and over and over again.

7. What do you like the least?
Getting rejected by agents and the big publishers.

8. How do you feel about critique groups? Best feature? Worst?
I love critique groups. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t joined several years ago. I’ve been through many, and some people are just too mean and rude and don’t know what they’re talking about. But when I finally found those who knew my thoughts before I did…those are the ones I call sisters! Just like you, Ginger!

9. If you had an opportunity to do one thing over in your life, what would it be?
Only one thing? Shoot, I want to do over so many. A while ago, I would have wanted to do over when I met my husband and got married...but then I realized if that would have happened, I probably wouldn't have married him. Now I think I'd like to do over the younger years of my daughter's I could spend more time with them. The years go so fast, and next thing you know they're adults with children of their own. Now it's too late. Would they have turned out differently if I had been more attentive? I'll never know.

10. I a new author walked up to you, recognized you, and asked for your guidance, what would you tell that person?
Do you mean after I passed out from being noticed? heehee I would tell them - Don’t ever give up. If writing is what you love, then don’t ever lose your dream. Keep learning until you can make your dream a reality.

11. Anything else you'd like to share with us? Feel free.
I like to think I am the kind of author who can please all readers, mainly because of the different genres I write. Although I adore historicals, I also write contemporary, mystery, and romantic comedy. One of these days I’m going to sell my two paranormals, too. But I would like readers to visit my website – and check out all my books on my bookshelf. (and check out the AWESOME trailers, too, since Ginger created them for me!)

My latest release, Love Comes Blindly, is with Champagne Books and getting great reviews. But really, I want to think I have something for everyone. Please feel free to email me and ask questions. I really don’t bite…hard.

Thanks Ginger for having me as your Thursday Tourist. I’ve been privileged to call you friend!

Thanks, Phyllis, for always being my go-to girl. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have you as friend and fellow author. You've been so instrumental in keeping me motivated. I hope I've returned the favor.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tune in Tomorrow

My Thursday Tourist will be non other than *drum roll*
Phyllis Campbell. I can't think of anything better to describe her than her own banner:

What Day Is It?

I had a dental appointment yesterday, and I can honestly say, I remember nothing past sitting in the chair. Sedation dentistry is made for cowards like me. For years, I've made appointments, only to cancel them when my nerves got the best of me. I'm even driven to the parking lot, turned around and went home.

People can make fun of me all they want, but the symptoms are real and frightening. The smell inside the door sickens me the moment I walk in, and since I have claustrophobia, I can't stand anything over my mouth or nose, so that rules out Nitrous Oxide. God bless my dentist for being a participant in sedation dentistry. The only problem...I don't remember anything past 10:00 yesterday morning. I slept the whole day and night...don't even remember the ride home or getting into bed. All I know is that I woke up this morning, relaxed, happy that the appointment was over, and I have CLEAN teeth. was only a cleaning, but to me that's a major event...or was, before those wonderful little pills.

Trust me, I've tried and tried to deal with dentistry on my own. I realized I couldn't do it anymore when the dentist put one of those rubber dams in my mouth to prepare for a root canal and then left the room. I was already hyperventilating over simply being there, now I've got claustrophobia because the dam blocks my mouth and part of my nose. If you've ever had this contraption, you know you cannot close your mouth, and only the tooth to be worked on is exposed. Imagine how lovely I must have looked when I staggered out into the hallway looking for relief. can't talk or scream either. Pointing and grunting was the best I could do. Oh...and then there was the time I had impressions done...using the kind of forms that hook to the faucet so cold water can gel the gook in the trays...not my greatest moment. The dentist can't remove the trays until he turns off the water and breaks the seal...I almost pulled the pipes out of the wall because I couldn't breathe, plus I was gagging. So...I think you can understand why sedation works for me...and everyone concerned. *lol*

If you're like me and suffer from fear of the dentist, than I recommend you find one who understands cowardice. The folks in my dental office are the nicest and most understanding around. I even got a blanket to keep me warm. I love Dr. Glass and his staff.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Still Whining about Aging!

Okay, okay, I realize I've beat this topic to death...sort of like my whining about my inability to find a decent brassiere, but so far, the only plus I can find to growing older is NOT being dead.

I honestly think we should have a handbook so we know exactly what to expect. Life has become like an amusement park ride...remember the old "E" tickets from Disneyland years ago--the most frightening attractions. Or the box of chocolates that Forrest Gump commented on. I can stand a surprise or TWO, but what the heck?

This is how I feel when I look in the mirror now. My question? What happened to whatever it was that held up my skin for all those years. That old joke, I have more chins than a Chinese phone book, is suddenly ringing true. After I lost a lot of weight several years back, I developed what I jokingly called, marionette mouth, but now it's all become jowls. My lip line disappeared years ago, and now my lips are following suit. I can't wear lipstick because I don't know where to put it. *lol*

And what the heck is this all about? I absolutely refuse to wear anything sleeveless now. You can always identify me. I'm the person in a turtle neck and long sleeves during summer. It's not a style I expect will catch on anytime soon...especially with 95% humidity and 90 degree days.

I'm not asking for a "bathing suit" body, just one without excess skin that has assumed a life of its own.I don't want more muscle than my husband, I'd just like my knees to resume looking like knees and not another set of thighs.

The final I have to wear a bra so I can type. The first line of this blog started outwwwwwwwwwwwwwwffffffffffjjjjjjjjjj until I got dressed. very sad.

I think Woody Allen says it best!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Chautauqua Experience

I recently got back from Chautauqua, New York, from the Highlights Foundation writer's conference. To say it was awesome is simply not enough. Consider it being awesome, and then raise it to the nth degree, and you'll have it.

There were 45 classes offered, and each conferee took 15 in the afternoons. There was a morning class, critique sessions with your mentor, lunch, and the three afternoon classes back to back. Then you had 45 minutes of "free" time during which you got ready for the evening meal, and another speaker. Usually we got back from dinner around 8:30 to 9:30. As you can see, there was hardly time to breathe!

What did I learn? Oh, so many things. I learned that once you know the rules, you can break them. I learned to write what I care about...passionately. I discovered the hero's journey all over again. I learned about how to write non-fiction, to research historical novels, and to spread my wings and soar.

Truly, this is simply an overview of all that happened. My mentor was Stephen Roxburgh, a legend in and of himself. I was SO intimidated before I met him. He set my mind at ease, and we talked about my young adult novel, "My Name is Bib" and showed me how it could be better, more relevant. I went from being stuck to being non-stuck on this book.

I met the most marvelous people! I tried to sit with a different group during each of the meals, so that I could meet and enjoy as many people as possible. The presenters also sat at different tables for the meal, so that the writers could ask questions of them. They were warm, friendly, and extremely helpful. I don't know how the conference could have improved to make it better.

That's Chautauqua in a nutshell. Check out my blog for more updates!

My Thursday Tourist - Katie Hines

You'll remember my author friend, Katie. She's a return visitor, and will be here later to entertain you again. I know you'll make her feel welcome.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday's Wit

Actually, I do love Wednesdays, but it's habitual. For all those years I worked, it meant the work week was half over. Now I can't really explain why it holds any significance as one day just blurs into another now that I have no "life." Now I just wake up to see how many more wrinkles or pounds I've added. *lol*

Got this cartoon via email today....finally a logical explanation of why I've gained weight so easily. *rofl*

Just a final comment on the pirating post from yesterday. I appreciate all who responded. It's very evident that this topic touches people in different ways, and I in no way meant to minimize the problem. I personally believe this is a war we won't win because sharing reading material is habitual. I totally recognize the difference between posting downloads for profit and checking out a book at the library, but I think there are too many others who don't give a thought to the author who labored over a manuscript for months. Shameful, but true. Evidently, I don't have a worry since I haven't found ONE of my books being pirated. I don't know whether to celebrate or cry. *lol*

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday's Tidbits

Book pirating,especially ebooks has become a hot topic on the net of late. I just received an invite to join a group comprised of authors committed to track down those who "pirate" and stop them dead in their tracks. I joined, not so much because I fear a mega loss in my own sales, but because I was interested to see what concerns my peers and what tactics they use to combat the problem.

There is one huge site that deals not only with books, but music, videos, etc. People can actually become a member and post requests for books, etc they wish to read/view/hear. I found some of my peers 'requested' there, but none of my work.

Strangely, I was jealous. While I don't encourage the free sharing of ebooks because it would minimize royalties barely enough to cover a Happy Meal at Mcdonalds, I think I would have preferred seeing a least one of my books coveted by someone. *lol*

I'm still conflicted. I guess I'm having a hard time seeing the difference between someone passing a PDF file to a friend or lending an actual book. I totally understand the concern of authors who feel this limits their income, but haven't used books stores done that for generations? I've used them, and lord knows I've shared books back and forth between family and friends.

Are we failing to realize that once a book is purchased, it becomes the property of the person who paid for it? What they do with it beyond that point, short of plagiarizing it, is beyond our control. AND... What actually constitutes a "pirate?" If I lend a book to someone, have I joined the dastardly eye-patch wearing brotherhood? Are we silly enough to believe that all those PDF files we submitted for reviews over the years stayed with the one person who read and reviewed the manuscript? All the years before I became an writer, I read hundreds of books and saved them. When I sold them at a garage sale for a fraction of the original cost, I didn't once give a thought to the author. I doubt those sharing their PDF copies consider they are doing a disservice to us. Are they?

I understand the concern at the ebook level. Let me explain the vast difference between Mainstream and e-published authors and maybe you'll understand too. Bigger publishing companies operate with a budget that allows them to do mass printings and provide their contracted authors with an advance check on their projected sales. The big houses promote their authors, where smaller houses do not. If books go to print with a traditional e-publisher, they are Print On Demand (POD) and cost more money to purchase. I've always had a hard time expecting people to dish out more cash for me than they would a Nora Robert's book at Walmart. Unfortunately, POD books are not printed in quantities large enough to be carried in stores, UNLESS the author foots the bill and finds a place willing to carry them. It's a major investment because our discount isn't very significant in the first place.

I'm not aware of any e-publisher who provides an advance upon signing a contract, and I know from experience that all houses who have published my work made it clear that all promotion was at my expense. Websites, blogs, conferences, promotional items, video trailers, not to mention the massive amount of time spent on the computer requires a deep investment. I had hoped e-publishing would be a foot in the door for me, but I've come to the realization that given my competition, the rising numbers of new authors adding to that factor, and my inability to write in the current HOT genre, Mainstream is a pipe dream for me. But, being a dreamer, I'm not giving up. *lol*

So, even if you're like me, and write because you love it and not because you consider it a career, being an author is a costly job. I figure, based on my current royalty check (indicating I sold only 35 ebooks this last quarter, despite all the promotion time I spent), I made less than a nickel an hour. Convincing people who prefer turning actual pages over sitting at a computer to read a book still remains the hardest obstacle to overcome.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Mania

EPIC is once again hosting their writing contest. You'll notice they are no longer calling the award an EPPIE. I wonder why.

This year, submissions are being accepted earlier. Here's the information taken from the EPIC site:

* Entries must be an "as sells" e-book with a publication date between October 1, 2008 and May 31, 2009.
* Entries must be submitted in non-DRM PDF format.
* Codes and Divisions: Please be sure you understand how this might affect your entry.
* EPIC's EBook Competition will open for submission entries from July 15, 2009 through August 15, 2009 midnight (CST) ONLY.

Complete instructions and division listings are available on the EPIC site.

So, with that announced, I'm wondering if I should enter again. Last year, Embezzled Love was a finalist, and although not a winner, the thrill was almost as great. To know that your book is selected among the many entered is an honor. I know personally, from interacting with, critiquing, and reading excerpts, the competition in the industry is tough, and getting tougher by the moment.

I'm considering Hope Springs Eternal because I truly love the story, and the reviews I've garnered indicate people can identify with my heroine. All I need to do now is come up with the entry fee. Why does money always screw everything up?

I'd be interested to hear from my fellow authors how they feel about the EPIC award.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's Thursday!

It's a shame that something as marvelous as the Internet has brought out the worst in people. Pedophiles, cyber-bullies, stalkers...the list goes one. This is one email I received, and whether it actually happened as portrayed or NOT, it really is an eye-opener into how something that seems so innocent can turn deadly.


After tossing her books on the sofa, she decided to grab a snack and get on-line. She logged on under her screen name ByAngel213. She checked her Buddy List and saw GoTo123 was on. She sent him an instant message:

ByAngel213: Hi. I'm glad you are on! I thought someone was following me home today. It was really weird!

GoTo123: LOL You watch too much TV. Why would someone be following you? Don't you live in a safe neighborhood?

ByAngel213: Of course I do. LOL I guess it was my imagination cuz' I didn't see anybody when I looked out.

GoTo123: Unless you gave your name out on-line. You haven't done that have you?

ByAngel213: Of course not. I'm not stupid you know.

GoTo123: Did you have a softball game after school today?

ByAngel213: Yes and we won!!

GoTo123: That's great! Who did you play?

ByAngel213: We played the Hornets. LOL. Their uniforms are so gross! They look like bees. LOL

GoTo123: What is your team called?

ByAngel213: We are the Canton Cats. We have tiger paws on our uniforms. They are really cool.

GoTo123: Did you pitch?

ByAngel213: No I play second base. I got to go. My homework has to be done before my parents get home. I don't want them mad at me. Bye!

GoTo123: Catch you later. Bye

Meanwhile.......GoTo123 went to the member menu and began to search for her profile. When it came up, he highlighted it and printed it out. He took out a pen and began to write down what he knew about Angel so far.

Her name: Shannon Birthday: Jan. 3, 1985 Age: 13 State where she lived: North Carolina

Hobbies: softball, chorus, skating and going to the mall.. Besides this information, he knew she lived in Canton because she had just told him. He knew she stayed by herself until 6:30 p.m. every afternoon until her parents came home from work. He knew she played softball on Thursday afternoons on the school team, and the team was named the Canton Cats. Her favorite number 7 was printed on her jersey. He knew she was in the eighth grade at the Canton Junior High School She had told him all this in the conversations they had on-line. He had enough information to find her now.

Shannon didn't tell her parents about the incident on the way home from the ballpark that day. She didn't want them to make a scene and stop her from walking home from the softball games. Parents were always overreacting and hers were the worst. It made her wish she was not an only child. Maybe if she had brothers and sisters, her parents wouldn't be so overprotective.

By Thursday, Shannon had forgotten about the footsteps following her..

Her game was in full swing when suddenly she felt someone staring at her. It was then that the memory came back. She glanced up from her second base position to see a man watching her closely.

He was leaning against the fence behind first base and he smiled when she looked at him. He didn't look scary and she quickly dismissed the sudden fear she had felt.

After the game, he sat on a bleacher while she talked to the coach. She noticed his smile once again as she walked past him.. He nodded and she smiled back. He noticed her name on the back of her shirt. He knew he had found her.

Quietly, he walked a safe distance behind her. It was only a few blocks to Shannon 's home, and once he saw where she lived he quickly returned to the park to get his car.

Now he had to wait. He decided to get a bite to eat until the time came to go to Shannon 's house. He drove to a fast food restaurant and sat there until time to make his move.

Shannon was in her room later that evening when she heard voices in the living room..

"Shannon, come here," her father called. He sounded upset and she couldn't imagine why. She went into the room to see the man from the ballpark sitting on the sofa.

"Sit down," her father began, "this man has just told us a most interesting story about you."

Shannon sat back. How could he tell her parents anything? She had never seen him before today!

"Do you know who I am, Shannon ?" the man asked.

"No," Shannon answered.

"I am a police officer and your online friend, GoTo123."

Shannon was stunned. "That's impossible! GoTo is a kid my age! He's 14. And he lives in Michigan!"

The man smiled. "I know I told you all that, but it wasn't true. You see, Shannon , there are people on-line who pretend to be kids; I was one of them. But while others do it to injure kids and hurt them, I belong to a group of parents who do it to protect kids from predators. I came here to find you to teach you how dangerous it is to talk to people on-line. You told me enough about yourself to make it easy for me to find you. You named the school you went to, the name of your ball team and the position you played. The number and name on your jersey just made finding you a breeze."

Shannon was stunned. "You mean you don't live in Michigan ?"

He laughed. "No, I live in Raleigh It made you feel safe to think I was so far away, didn't it?"

She nodded.

"I had a friend whose daughter was like you. Only she wasn't as lucky. The guy found her and murdered her while she was home alone. Kids are taught not to tell anyone when they are alone, yet they do it all the time on-line. The wrong people trick you into giving out information a little here and there on-line. Before you know it, you have told them enough for them to find you without even realizing you have done it. I hope you've learned a lesson from this and won't do it again. Tell others about this so they will be safe too?"

"It's a promise!"

That night Shannon and her Dad and Mom all knelt down together and thanked God for protecting Shannon from what could have been a tragic situation.

NOTE: My EPPIE 2009 nominated book, Embezzled Love, deals with a real life story of someone who thought she found love on the Internet, but instead got a ticket for the worst roller coaster ride she's ever experienced. It happens every day, even to those who think they are exempt.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday's Wisdom

Another wonderful email I received and have to share. So true, so true. About the only good think about growing old is that it beats the alternative. :)


A row of bottles on my shelf
Caused me to analyze myself.
One yellow pill I have to pop
Goes to my heart so it won't stop.
A little white one that I take
Goes to my hands so they won't shake.
The blue ones that I use a lot
Tell me I'm happy when I'm not.
The purple pill goes to my brain
And tells me that I have no pain.
The capsules tell me not to wheeze
Or cough or choke or even sneeze..
The red ones, smallest of them all
Go to my blood so I won't fall.
The orange ones, very big and bright
Prevent my leg cramps in the night.
Such an array of brilliant pills
Helping to cure all kinds of ills.
But what I'd really like to know..........
Is what tells each one where to go!

There's always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for it. For example I am sitting here right now thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don't hurt.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rules? What Rules?

Oh, if only there was one set of rules to follow...a lesson you could study and know it all. I've been writing fiction since 2002, and I learn some new 'rule' every day. It eventually becomes so frustrating you wonder why you want to be an author in the first place. At least I do. I'm surprised I still have hair.

I recently reclaimed the rights to White Heart, Lakota Spirit, which I wrote in 2005. Our last camping trip was so uncomfortably hot, I pulled out my copy and read it...this time as a reader. I couldn't believe how differently I would have written it today, so rather than renew my contract, I asked to have the rights revert back to me so I could redo the story. I've spent nearly three weeks, eliminating instances such as:

*Describing a person's voice before they spoke. I've learned that tags should follow the dialogue, especially when you're saying something like, 'Her voice quivered.' Unless she speaks, how would you know how she sounded?

*Using a character's name far too many times, especially when only two people were having the conversation. Example: "Did you have a nice day, John?"
Yes, Steve, I did. And you, John?"
Get the picture?

*Over explaining (RUE = Resist the urge to explain). For example, if an author does a good job of setting the scene, there is no need to write, 'She widened her eyes in disbelief.' The reader will know why SHE widened her eyes. "Her heart pounded with fright." If I've SHOWN my reader the scene, hopefully, her/his heart will pound and they'll know the reason. *smile*

*Using words that didn't exist during the era. I only found a few, but I'm surprised they slipped by without notice. I've become much more proficient in using my Online Etymology Dictionary

*Overdone words. Starting too many sentences with "Oh," and "Well." Honestly, what was I thinking? Was my editor snoozing? I've rewritten many of the paragraphs simply to improve the flow.

*Action before reaction. Sometimes you have to stop and think about how you can word the sentence so that you are showing the reader what happened before you show the character's reaction. You can't have someone jump before the gun fires...well you can, but it isn't correct, or so I'm told.

*Internal thoughts. This story was fraught with way too many. I've since learned that most publishers prefer having very few internal thoughts and instead prefer using dialogue or just posing questions for the reader. Instead of This can't be happening. I have the worst luck. I'd now write, Luck wasn't with her. How could this be happening again? Or something like that. It's almost 4:00 a.m. and I'm wondering what in heck I'm doing blogging. *smile*

*Telling instead of showing. This is a biggie. "She opened the door. It was heavy," is telling. Okay, so that's an amateur example, but wouldn't you rather read, "Clare tugged the massive oak door open." of "After twenty jumping jacks, her breathing was heavy. She told John she was out of shape." Doesn't this work better? Clare completed the last of fifty jumping jacks. Sweat dripped into her eyes and her breath came in ragged gasps. "I'm out of shape." She looked at John and stated the obvious.

*Starting sentences with "It". I've discovered using a pronoun as the subject often weakens the writing. Readers don't always remember what "it" is. Better to identify. "It bothered him." Really....what was it? A rash? Tight jockey shorts? A nagging wife? See what I mean?

*Removing needless phrases at the end of sentences that are inferred. "To him, for her, at him..." The list goes on and on.
Honestly, there are so many instances where these phrases add nothing. For instance...If John and Mary are playing tennis, and you've set the scene with them on opposite sides of the net, why would you need to tell the reader she hit the ball "to him." Who else is she going to hit the ball to?

*Eliminating unnecessary instances of "that." This has been a hard habit for me to break. I feel THAT it's much better to explain THAT my bad habits may result in a poor presentation, than to admit THAT I just forget sometimes. If you take out the capitalized "THATs", the thought remains the same. *lol*

I'm sure there are changes I've made, but the story already reads so much better. I'm hoping I can sell White Heart, Lakota Spirit again, because the story is really a good one. I just didn't do a very good job of promoting. Bad, bad girl!

I'm pretty sure that if I am successful in selling it, buy the time the manuscript becomes a novel again, I will have learned many more rules of fiction writing that I'll wish I had known. Being an author is like riding a Merry Go Round...and endless circle that sometimes make you sick to your stomach. *rofl*

P.S. Can you tell I love Cartoon Clipart?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Snicker

George and Harriet decided to celebrate their 40th Wedding Anniversary with a trip to Las Vegas .. When they entered the hotel/casino and registered, a sweet young woman dressed in a very short skirt became very friendly. George brushed her off.

Harriet objected, "George, that young woman was nice, and you were so rude."

"Harriet, she's a prostitute."

"I don't believe you. That sweet young thing?"

"Let's go up to our room and I'll prove it."

In their room, George called down to the desk and asked for 'Bambi' to come to Room 217. "Now," he said, "you hide in the bathroom with the door open just enough to hear us, OK?"

Soon, there was a knock on the door. George opened it and Bambi walked in, swinging her hips provocatively.

George asked, "How much do you charge?"
"$125 basic rate, $100 tips for special services.."

Even George was taken aback. "$125? I was thinking more in the range of $25."

Bambi laughed derisively. "You must really be a hick if you think you can buy sex for that price."

"Well," said George, "I guess we can't do business.. Goodbye."

After she left, Harriet came out of the bathroom. She said, "I just can't believe it!"

George said, "Let's forget it. We'll go have a drink, then eat dinner."

At the bar, as they sipped their cocktails, Bambi came up behind George, pointed slyly at Harriet, and said, "See what you get for $25?"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Writing & Marketing Humor

Writing humor is often perceived as being difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. It is not that you write something that is fall on the floor funny, but it is that you take a fresh perspective on old things. For example, I wrote "Red Hot Scooter Mama" after going to the grocery store and encountering little demon kids from alien planets with non-existent parents. The article begins with a bow to the width of my feet. I could have just said, my feet are really wide, and because of that I have to ride a scooter around the grocery store.

But that wouldn't have been near as effective as, "Some woman are blessed with slender feet. Not me. Mine are as wide as the Mississippi, and have never sported an arch as lovely and delicate as the one in St. Louis." Immediately, you get a visual image with a spot of humor about my feet. But, by gosh and by golly, who even CARES about my feet? Yet, this article garnered more hits and comments than most of my other posts. Not only that, but it was taken off the blog and posted about on the different groups as a lively conversation ensued.

All about feet and little bratty kids!

The point is, humorous writing can be about anything. You may be thinking, I'm not Erma Bombeck. Exactly. You're who you are, and you write humor with your own bent.

Is there even a market for humor? The answer is a resounding "yes!" For about a year, I wrote a humor column for our local newspaper. If you're willing to write for free, most of the smaller newspapers are open to publishing humor written by local authors. You can post your humor on your blog, or personal website. Additionally, your humor column can grace almost any others website. Google "humor columns" and you'll see where others have marketed their humor.

Some people are under the impression that to be humorous, you have to be a Jay Leno or David Letterman. No, you don't have to tell jokes, you don't have to write cartoons. All you have to do is write about something that is humorous from your point of view. Perhaps about a trip where you lost one of your kids? How about the family cat that got caught in the tree? Or a baby who is just beginning to walk? Humor can be about anything! And once published, you'll find that a lot of people are interested in that spot of humor, too.

So dispel the myth that you cannot write humor. If you find something funny, chances are someone else will find it funny, too.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tomorrow's Tourist

Help me welcome, Katie Hines. She and I met through a publishing association, and she'll be here tomorrow to share details about an upcoming release. I'm happy she agreed to grace my blog, and I 'pirated" this from hers:

Although I've been writing for as long as I can remember, I didn't get serious about it until I decided to write a memoir. That's when I realized I didn't know what I was doing. So I started researching and learning about writing do's and don'ts. I wrote quite a few newspaper pieces, and then completed a middle grade novel.

You can find find her at Walking on Water. Gotta love her blog title.

Monday, July 6, 2009

There Oughta Be a Law

You already read the good part of this trip, but get a cup of coffee and pull up a chair. If I don't blog about the injustice of how Kelly was treated, I'm going to explode. *smile*

When we moved to TN in 2004, jobs were hard to come by. The community we moved to had already been stripped bare by businesses moving to Mexico or Europe in order to keep operating. That problem has continued and even worsened. There is really only one industry that offers hope for the unemployed, and that's the trucking industry. Unfortunately, the games they play with people are just downright cruel.

Before my husband could become a truck driver, he had to graduate from a truck-driving school. The cost: $5995. If you have cash, they'll discount it, but if not, they finance it for you so you actually end up paying another couple thousand. If you are unemployed, don't have a healthy savings, then what other choice do you have? Of course, they promise the trucking company who hires you at the completion of your training will pay a portion of the loan back.

So, Kelly took the training, we incurred the cost, and he went to work for Werner. The twenty-six cents a mile you earn is great as long as your wheels are turning, but they don't tell you about all the time you'll sit in desolate lots, bad neighborhoods, or truck stops, waiting to be dispatched. You don't earn anything at all, and that's where my husband spent most of his time. He quit several times, but the inability to find other work, drove him back. The last time, after spending ten hours broken down on the side of the road because a bad load shifted, then being penalized for driving the truck to a safe spot off the freeway for the night, was the final straw. Our check that week...$17.57. Our monthly payment for the school...$175.00. Luckily, he landed something local.

For the last 2 1/2 years, he's worked at a local distribution company, delivering goods to Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. But the economy has closed so many stores his employer had to lay off over one half of the work force. Imagine our surprise to discover that most big trucking companies don't recognize his current experience as over-the-road because he came home every night. So. we're back to trying to find him a job in an industry that is still hiring. President Obama's stimulus package is providing new infrastructure jobs, but my husband isn't qualified for any of them. Nice to know we'll have new bridges to empty buildings. *lol* Oops...that remark should have gone on my other blog. Sorry!

Let's dissect that experience theory. Hubby went to work, got in a 'day-cab' but pulled at 53 foot trailer on the roadway , but because he parked it in the company lot at night and came home...he's lacking experience needed for several companies. I'm confused. Are you?

I guess if he'd driven a sleeper cab and bunked in the parking lot, it might have made a difference in his eligibility to drive. Some how, I doubt it.

BUT...I haven't even got to the meat of this post. The driving schools are like 'puppy mills'. They turn out thousands of students to various companies every week. New orientations and hiring start usually on each Monday. That's because so many people wash out or discover they can't handle the stress. Trust me, I know there is tons of stress because I rode with my husband on several occasions. Bad directions is one of them. Dispatch sent us in the wrong direction so many times, I couldn't count them. You can't just whip a u-turn in one of those over-sized monsters..and you have to be sure you aren't on a truck-restricted road or approaching a low bridge. See...I'm off track again.

Anyhow...with no work in our area of Tennessee...or anywhere nearby, my husband applied via internet to C.R. England. You work through a "Recruiter," and if you're lucky, you get one who actually returns your emails and keeps you informed. I won't tell you which he got. :) Anyhow...the recruiter is charged with checking your DMV and DAC reports and making sure you are hire worthy.

After three weeks, Kelly was given instructions on what to bring and provided with a confirmation number for a glorious 15-hour Greyhound bus ride to Gary, Indiana. Upon his arrival, he was shuttled to an old, but fairly decent motel. During the day, he underwent a physical ($35.00 charge), a drug test, and a road test. The next day was spent filling out forms (application all over again, insurance forms, tax forms, bank information for automatic get the drift. Wouldn't you think this indicated you were a GO? Shouldn't all nasty secrets have come out BEFORE they sent you to orientation? All around him, people were being disqualified. Some for reasons they clearly indicated on their applications via recruiter, and others for reasons he didn't know. One guy just disappeared, left his belongings, and never was seen again. And...if you are DQed, you have to foot the bill for your own way home. Hard to do for some of those he met there...they couldn't even afford to bring food with them for the days required.

On the third day, after being grilled for one entire session with persuasions about signing up to lease a truck rather than be a company driver, Kelly made it through the orientation with hair still on his head. He was transferred to another motel, this one supposedly easier for trainers to pick up their new teammates. Since Kelly hadn't drive OTR for the past 2 1/2 years, he was required to ride with a trainer for ten days before he could be assigned to his own truck with a teammate. C.R. England only allows solo driving if you are a lease-owner. Okay...he was fine with that.

The money he thought he would receive for orientation turned out to be a farce. The REAL earning was supposed to begin the moment he stepped toe into his trainer's truck. The recruiter said he must have misunderstood her.

Of course, the holiday weekend interfered in the worst way. He was told, unless he heard by 4:00 in the afternoon on Thursday, he would be expected to lay around the flea-bag they delivered him to until Monday sometime. Now mind you, Kelly uses a CPAP machine for his sleep apnea, and it's something he had to declare to remain DOT compliant. He told the woman who arranges the trainers...not once, but THREE times, that he needed to be assigned to someone with a converter installed to handle it. I believe him...he tells me the same things over and over. *lol*

So...the motel was horrible. People checking out at the desk were scratching and complaining of being bitten, rumors were flying about crabs being discovered (and not the kind you order in a good restaurant), and Kelly said his room smelled putrid...a combination of bug spray and body odor. The shower bottom was brown (white tub...not supposed to be), and the accommodations were more suited to...well, not anyone human with taste.

Shortly after check-in and avoiding his room at all costs, he received a phone the same time, realized he'd been bitten by something on his forearm. While he talked, he scratched, and watched his arm swell. The trainer was on his way to pick Kelly up.

Now remember, these people are supposed to train new drivers. Most without a lot of experience. Kelly's needs are more in learning the paperwork and qualcom (computer in the truck) than actually road experience. The trainer mentioned he was a lease operator and in order to make his payments, needed to run hard and fast. He drove a dedicated Walmart run and averaged 6500 miles per week, which would require them to each drive a full eleven hours per day. When Kelly asked when training would take place, the guy suggested Kelly would have to sacrifice some of his sleeping time and ride passenger and study, etc. In the end...he had no converter, so the point was moot.

You see, the only way these people can keep up with their $500 weekly truck payments and expenses is to run pedal to the metal and get the best routes by being an owner-operator. They get ninety cents per mile and pay their trainees ten cents per mile during their time on the truck. And anyone can be a trainer. That's why, after the ten days or thirty in some cases, you have to return to the orientation site (and the flea-bag motel) and test out to assure that you received proper training. This is another point where you can be DQed as was the young lady Kelly met in the motel. She was on her way out because she couldn't parallel park her big rig. question one!!! Why didn't her trainer teach her...and number two...when would you need to parallel park a truck that big? Kelly learned to jacknife his cab to park the trailer at school, but C.R. England evidently wanted the whole shebang parked. Of course this is just her word...she may have failed for an entirely different reason, but just to show that after all that time, you still aren't safe.

Back to reality and facing three days in hell. His arm continued to swell, redden, and itch. The employees for C.R. England had left for the holiday weekend, and Kelly had no resources for medical help. Hell, there wasn't even any eating establishments nearby, and calling for delivery cost an arm and a leg. Most of the fellows there were stone broke, starving, and desperate. But for the Grace of God, Kelly wasn't in that predicament...yet!

After we talked on the phone, I gave him two solutions...move to another motel and pay for it, or come home. He hadn't told me about the bite on his arm yet, but my preference was still the later. If an employer treats you like this before they hire you, you really can't expect much better, can you?

So...another fifteen hour bus home, this time on our dime. Kelly left a message for the lady in charge, telling her he had an emergency and needed to go home. Not a lie. His arm looked horrible when he arrived. Of course too late on Friday to get into a doctor, but he went today. The doc suspected a bite (big shock), but because of the huge knot, prescribed an antibiotic. In the meantime, Kelly's ear started hurting. One ear is severely infected, and the other has a foreign object in it. (are you thinking what I'm thinking? Yuk) Kelly has to see a specialist to have whatever it is removed. In the meantime, I'm cringing, thinking what it might be after he spent so much time in crummy, nasty areas...and that includes the Greyhound depots. I've never seen such filth in my life. Their new slogan should be...Go Greyhound, get infected!

Is he going back? No way. My husband deserves to be treated a whole lot better, and we've written to C.R. England and told them so. He's not turning down employment, rather stating what happened and telling them if they can pick him up in Nashville, put him on a qualified truck so that he doesn't violate DOT regs, then he'll be happy to become their employee. Something tells me it ain't happnin'. He's just one drop in a great big bucket.

Oh, and I also wrote to 20/20 and Sixty Minutes to ask them to investigate what kind of kickbacks the companies get from the government that allows them to shove lease options down people's throats and then watch them fail. We've heard rumors about it, and I would truly like to know. Like my title said...There Oughta Be a Law against companies who treat people in need like they're dirt.

I guess we should have believed what we read on the trucker's forum where drivers report bad companies. C.R. England had pages and pages of entries, and none of them good. So...It's not like we weren't warned. We just gave a family owned and operated company the benefit of the doubt. Wrong call on our part.

I guess what I'm trying to stress with this post, is "driver beware." Ask tons of questions, make sure you don't "misunderstand" the payment terms, and listen when someone warns you. You know that saying you've seen on tee shirts: My folks went to Disneyland and all I got with this crummy shirt. We're getting one for Kelly that says: I went to C.R. England for Orientation and all I got was a big doctor bill. Office call, antibiotics...and Forty dollars for eardrops....pahlease!

Thankfully, because orientation wasn't paid and Kelly never actually WAS hired, then he didn't forfeit his unemployment. Think of all those who did. Now what do they do? I discovered a new-found respect for truckers when Kelly started the first time, but now, I really, really respect those who can wade through the B.S.and actually make the grade. You guys and gals rock!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Paying it Forward

As we mark a special day in history, some with the traditional cookouts and fireworks, and others only noting the day but going along in their own routines, I'm going to share a story that reflects how someone, even unemployed and struggling financially can think of the needs of another. He's the man I married.

Kelly, returning on a Greyhound bus from a really, really horrible experience with a truck driving company (and a story I'll share on Monday) met a young lady traveling alone, and seemingly despaired. Her belongings were packed in a folding laundry hamper and her disheveled appearance drew him to her. He assisted her onto the bus, carrying her heavy bag, and helped her find a seat. As they traveled, he heard how her step-mother had put her out of the house, paid her the $29.00 she was owed, and gave her a one-way bus ticket to Arizona where her mother lives. She was left at the depot to fend for herself with a cell phone with no minutes left and an innocence sure to call attention to herself. She'd spent five dollars for minutes that weren't usable on her phone.

The whole experience left her in a state of confusion, and although she seemed intelligent enough, my husband noted that something wasn't quite right with her. He offered his cell phone so she could call her mother, and actually spoke with her mom to assure her he wasn't a pervert or someone out to take advantage of a nineteen-year-old. The woman explained that her daughter suffered from seizures, mostly brought on by stress, and failure to eat or take her medication.

At the next stop, both had to switch buses, so Kelly assisted the girl off the bus, made sure she got in line to continue her next leg of the journey, and having overheard her tell her mother she had $3.00 left, my wonderful husband reacted as I expected he would.

In his wallet, he had tucked away $50 that he scrimped to save and bring home. He gave that money to her with instructions to make sure she didn't flash it about and when she broke it, to do so in the presence of a clerk. Panhandlers abound in bus depots, and he didn't want her to fall victim. During the wait, he also befriended a nice American Native man and requested he watch out for the girl. The gentleman agreed. Kelly gave her his email address, hoping to hear that everything worked out for her, and wished her well...probably with ten more warnings because he's that kind of guy.

When he shared his story, I choked with tears. Most would have disregarded her and left her to fend for herself, but knowing my guy is the one who stops and helps people stranded on the road or picks up things someone drops, I would expect nothing less of him.
When he apologized to me wasting time and money on this venture, I was quick to remind him that things happen for a reason. Maybe God had a plan that included Kelly being this young ladies guardian angel, and if going to this farce of a job was the cost, it was well worth it and the $50 dollars Kelly donated to a young woman in need. If this was God's plan, he couldn't have picked a better person. That's my husband, and he would be embarrassed if he knew I shared this story, because he didn't do it for recognition of any kind. He did it because that's how his heart works. Gotta love the man!

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