Friday, November 17, 2017

Losing the Plot

The number one question I receive from readers: Are you ever going to finish the _____ series? And the answer is: Possibly.

Part of the issue when you walk away from writing for a while due to health issues, family chaos, publisher closings, etc., etc., etc. is you lose the plot--literally. It's real difficult to just pick back up where you left off, because you don't even know where that is!

For instance, when I was writing the Mystic Valley series, I knew exactly what every character's story would be. Now, ten years later, in spite of all my notes, I have to re-read the books and try to figure out where I am in the overall story.

Sometimes things in the 'world' change what you were going to write in your story. Maybe real life events adversely affect your projected plot. Ooooops. I have a shifter/angel series that I'll likely have to completely revamp before I can republish it. History has moved on, leaving my characters behind. Then the question becomes how much energy do I want to invest in a series that may not sell more than a handful of books? How much to I love those characters?

I also have series I planned and never wrote because life intervened. I spent a lot of time on research for those books, so I hate to just dump it in the round file. How can I use the information I've accumulated for different stories than the ones I planned?

Some authors carry a set of characters and story around in their heads for years before the time is finally right for them to write the story. Suddenly, the day comes when the time is now! Perhaps all that researching will pay off for an entirely different book.

In the meantime, I'm writing while I search for those lost plots. I know they're around here somewhere, buried deep in my brain, just waiting to pop out at the most inopportune time. And then... I'll write the rest of the series.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Editing Lite

I have seen a lot of individuals advertising their services as editors--and I wonder exactly what they believe their services encompass. I have read books supposedly edited--and even read the glowing reviews for those editorial services from their authors--and found the books riddled with errors, typos, and misused words (such as shutter instead of shudder or the wrong to/two/too). All of this leads me to ponder exactly what the writer is paying for when they hire an editor.

It seems to me there is a wide range of services that falls under the category 'editing'. Obviously, for some editors, spelling/word usage, isn't part of the editing service. Perhaps the editing they are performing might best be called edit lite. Or perhaps they believe spell check will take care of the issues. I don't know. I DO know it totally throws me out of the story when I'm confronted with glaring errors.

Every reader has a line they reach when they just stop reading and toss the book. For some the story must be engaging. For others, head-hopping is their bugaboo. For me...it's the sheer lack of proofing/editing on the part of the author. Yep, I get that you paid someone to edit your book. But if you didn't ascertain what you were paying for--or you didn't receive the service you paid for--then it's still up to you, the author to do the job. Ultimately, your name is on the cover. When you present shoddy work, it really doesn't matter whether you have a fabulous story or not. The first (and last) impression is shoddy workmanship.

Perhaps the best writer's practice should be to not only ask 'how much' when they're seeking out an editor, but 'what does that cover?' If the editing just covers a quick once over to catch continuity errors, then that's something the author needs to know and understand. And...maybe authors need to be more selective in their vocabulary and grammar and word usage.

Or maybe, my current practice is the only way. I just re-read the books I know were written and edited by professionals who care.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Writing the Apocalypse

I've been planning/researching my incredible book about the apocalypse for...ever. Back when I started kicking around possibilities, no one was writing about it much. Certainly, no one was writing a romance set against that background. It was too depressing, too dark, just...too much of everything.

And now? I suspect the apocalypse will be the new wave, nudging vampires and shifters and zombies to the side. And I wonder what that says about us. Is life that complicated? Or do we just want a bit of  the positive to help us cope with all the negative around us?

Of course, it might just be authors are using their writing platforms to sound the alarm. Whatever that alarm might signify, be it nuclear war/power, climate change, over-population, plague, or aliens, there's something out there for everyone. What I'm noticing, though is the way authors are ignoring realities when the facts get in the way of the story. It's sort of like refusing to account for the effect of tossing a ball in the air--no matter how high you toss it, eventually, it will come down.

With that in mind, I've compiled various scenarios, trying to string out the consequences to the logical end, trying to see what needs to be included in the conclusion. There are a lot of factors, a lot of possibilities that mostly leave us with an ELE (Extinction Level Event).

Quite a few years ago, I wrote a blog, posing a question: What three things would you want to have if you were shipwrecked on a deserted island? You would not believe how many people replied with cellphone/laptop/tablet/bottled water and the one that puzzled me most--lip gloss and sun screen. There wasn't one reply that demonstrated even the least touch with reality.

Is that a true picture of our culture? And if so, how would folks survive? Something to consider. Yeah, something to think about.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Me Too

It's interesting how very divisive the 'me too' movement has become. Personally, I think the original idea was simply to demonstrate just how many humans--female OR male--have been sexually molested, assaulted, or harassed in their lifetime...a visual count. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Some folks chose to tell their stories. Others chose not to participate. Everyone is free to choose how they react.

Will it materially change the situation? Possibly not, but one thing that has happened is it's opened a discussion that's long overdue. Some have said women should be more proactive. But for many, their experiences happened when they were children and had no recourse. I believe this movement gave them the opportunity--possibly for the first time in their lives--to acknowledge what happened to them.

I also believe many men have NO clue how very pervasive the culture is because women--and assaulted men--have had no platform before. As with so many of our cultural issues (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.) for many folks if it has never affected them, then it isn't a problem.

The first time I was molested, I was five years old. We lived next door to the post office in a tiny hamlet and I had wandered out of my yard into the open post office, likely from idle curiosity. A man came in, backed me into a corner and thrust his hand down my panties. And all the time he did this, he told me in no uncertain terms if I ever told anyone, he would kill my parents and little brothers and then he would set our house on fire. And I totally, completely believed every word.

Shortly after that, we moved to another town, but I never forgot what happened, and I was always reluctant to ever be alone again. From five to this day, fifty-two years later, I am a cautious, aware female, even in my own home.

Years later, as a young mother and adult, I worked in one of the first MacDonalds with a drive-thru. For several weeks, we had a male who intermittently ordered, then drove up to the window with his genitals on display. Understandably, our crew members were upset and disgusted. But I had a plan. The next time he ordered, one of the girls whispered it was 'him'. And I took the order myself. When he showed up at the window in all his glory, I dumped his milkshake in his lap and wished him a good evening. And he never came back.

When I was in my forties, I worked in an office with several other women. A new director for our department was hired and as is normal, there were some adjustments. But then a strange thing occurred. This new director, a relatively young man, started standing too close to the women in the office when he was talking to them. Now, everyone understands the concept of personal space and he was certainly violating that. But then he started playing with his genitals, both on the outside of his trousers and then by sticking his hand down his pants. As his secretary, I took the initiative and filed a harassment complaint.

The HR department called me over for an interview. Turns out five other women had complained, but HR felt they all have other agendas because they were generally unhappy with the changes he was making. I, however, did not have a personal agenda so they arranged for an outside investigator to interview me. The upshot was his termination. Not solely on my testimony, but it turned out on further investigation, this was his MO from previous positions. Now I worked for a school and in that state, it was LAW that any potential employer had to be notified, but my employer was the first one who did so when he looked for other employment. And they also notified the state education department. I heard later he had worked for five different counties in schools. And they never notified prospective employees. So...I suppose the buck stopped with me.

There you have it. Three different incidents out of many in my lifetime with three different outcomes. I know there are men and women who have terrible heart-breaking stories. And I've seen where a few protested that they'd never had anything like it happen to them. Well, then they are incredibly fortunate. The truth is, I believe sexual harassment, molestation, and even outright assault is far more common than we are willing to admit. I personally know eight people in my family who have been affected by this scourge.

Until we all stand up. Until we all teach our children it's never acceptable, it's never right, it's always something to immediately tell a responsible adult about...until we support the victims any way we can, it will continue.

So. Me, too.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Silent Voices

I haven't written in a while--partly because I'm not concentrating very well--and mostly because I'm overwhelmed with all I want to say, but cannot. I bet you're confused now, aren't you? Well, so am I.

Every single day, I find myself bombarded with new disasters and chaos, with no time to breathe in between, no time to just absorb the new terrors and loss before the next wave inundates. It's no surprise that folks are suffering from depression and anger and a sense of helplessness. Some people believe this is the worst life has ever been and it pains me to say, "No it isn't."

For each of us, our personal miseries are the biggest, baddest things that have ever happened. I know. I've suffered loss and betrayal and uncertainty just like everyone else. That is the balance to the joy and trust and happiness we also experience. It's a matter of perspective.

Do your feet hurt? Consider the person who has no feet. No, don't push that thought away. Take a moment or two and seriously think about what life is with no feet. Really think about all the difficulties involved. And then tell me--do your feet still hurt?

A while back, I spent about eight weeks in complete, total misery due to a back injury. I needed help to roll over in bed. I needed help to stand. Most mortifying, I needed help to wipe my ass. There were days I lay in bed and wondered if this was my future. And yet...yes, I knew deep within me, there were others out there who suffered so much worse. And because I could see that, I didn't give up.

In the midst of this chaotic, disastrous world we live in, we have an important mission. That mission is one of encouragement. Not the Pollyanna style of unicorns and rainbows, but the encouragement of real service. Folks stand around and wring their hands and say, "I'm praying for you. I'm thinking about you."

Well, so what?

I'm not dissing prayer. I believe it's important. But, people! That's not the end of it! God never said, pray about it and then sit on your butt waiting for the answer. Even at a distance, you can provide support. Get off the computer and make an actual phone call. Talk to someone. Send a real, live card with encouraging words...you know one with an envelope and stamp! Enclose a gift card if the recipient is struggling. Send flowers for no particular reason. Why do we wait for an occasion?

Instead of allowing all the bad stuff to silence us, speak up. Be counted. Don't wait for the disaster to strike. Pick a cause, a need, and pitch in. Don't be silenced.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Distant Vista

I love my country. I can't say the same for the government. But my country, my land where I live is not composed of ephemeral things like the flag or the national anthem or the president. No, my country is composed of the people...all of the people.

Long before we had a government or a flag or an anthem, we were the people. Back then, we didn't waste time worrying about whether someone stood while someone else sang a song. We were too busy for that nonsense. Instead, we were trying to keep body and soul together.

Now, in this new day, our people are more divided than ever. The 'haves' worry about things like whether someone stands when the national anthem is played or not. It's a song. I admit, it has meaning for me, but I was raised in an entirely different era, when most folks took great pride in such things. Now, few care one way or the other, and without the boost of media, no one would care at all whether someone stands or not. After all, I'm willing to bet few home spectators stand for the national anthem. I bet most of them are in the kitchen getting a beer or soda and chips. So that's kind of hypocritical, isn't it?

Now, I have great respect for the flag. It represents our country. But I also respect the right to dissent. Isn't that what our ancestors have fought for over the years? At least, that's what they taught us in school. So...are only certain people allowed to dissent? Peaceful dissent. No one has the right to riot or murder or burn other folks homes or businesses or possessions. No one, regardless of color or religion or gender. Throughout our history, we've protested. I was a young adult during the Vietnam War, and believe me, there was a lot of protest! Folks say they don't remember our country ever being so divided, but I say they just don't remember.

It's impossible to get two people to agree about everything, let alone several million. Every single person has their own agenda. Every one. And it all goes back to personal beliefs, needs, and wants. So, just because you believe something, doesn't mean I have to. That is what our country is all about.

Already, I'm starting to see fake posts about some nebulous person forbidding folks from saying Merry Christmas or calling a decorated tree a Christmas Tree. Just stop it. No one is doing that crap. Fear mongers love to post that crap every year to wind up people. Ignore it and move along. If you want to say 'Merry Christmas' then do so. Go shout it on the street corners.

No one cares!

Why do we spend so much time emphasizing our differences instead of embracing all the ways we are alike? Fear. Bone deep fear encouraged by the few who would keep us divided. Next time you see a post about somebody doing something you don't approve, stop and really think about it. Why was it posted? Whose agenda is being forwarded? What do they really want to accomplish?

I have a dream. I dream of a land where everybody wants the best for their fellow man. Where they appreciate our differences and lend a helping hand to those in need. That's the country I live in.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Inland Sea

The gentleman in the pic above used to be my neighbor when we lived in Houston. He's six feet tall, so...you can judge how much water is on his driveway as he tries to get around his home. Back when we neighbors, his family and our family spent a lot of time together.

Now...as you see, their home is underwater as are their vehicles.

And their story can be repeated, over and over and over. The great inland sea stretching across southeast Texas crept in, covering roads and yards and parking lots, filling homes and businesses, and regrettably also taking lives.

Unfortunately, there are individuals across the country sitting back in their comfortable armchairs, secure in their warm, dry homes and while enjoying the bounty in their pantries, they feel they have the right to critique the unfolding disaster. Well, they don't. They're not there on the ground. They're not spending hours and hours, rescuing folks in the dark, cold rain. They aren't huddling on a rooftop waiting for help. They aren't there.

It's a brutal truth, but you don't know what you will do until you're in that situation. So be quiet. Instead of yapping on like self-important chihuahuas about what the victims should be doing, start asking what you can do to help. Have you stopped to consider that thousands of dollars in school supplies the children of Harvey will need? One small thing. Think about it. Think about medications lost. Think about infant supplies. Computers. Cars. Homes. Even if they can return to their home eventually, they can't live in them until the mold and toxins have been cleaned out. That, alone can take weeks or months. Furnishings are totaled.

When the water is all gone, that's not the end of it. The inland sea is a destroyer. As Mr. Rogers taught us, be a helper.  Helpers offer comfort, solutions, and compassion. Instead of offering negativity, offer love and support. Be a helper.

And for goodness sake, would someone please muzzle the next reporter who asks and evacuee, "How do you feel?"

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Prayer and Action

Harvey--Hurricane or Tropical Storm--is flexing his muscles, showing humans just how puny they are. All over social media, there are sympathetic posts about praying for Texas, Houston, victims, etc., etc., etc... Now there's nothing wrong with prayer, but I'm wondering what you're praying for?

Prayer works best when it's directed and specific. So what are you praying for? Less rain? Sunshine? Safety? Just typing "I'm praying for you," isn't particularly useful. It might be comforting--or not--but when you're trapped in a house with the water rising through the attic floor, it's not useful. What you need at that point is action. Someone showing up with a boat or helicopter.

I know folks reading this are standing there, hands on hips, and yelling, "I live on the other side of the country! What can I do?"

Take action. The folks down there are going to need food. Water. Maybe blankets or clothing. I don't know, but I bet there are folks who do know. Churches. Charitable organizations. Pitch in. They're gonna need help cleaning up. They're gonna need help rebuilding. If you can't go, sponsor someone who can. And if all else fails, they're gonna need money.

I'll tell you what else we all need as a country. A plan. We need to push Congress and the other folks in charge to get off their duffs and come up with a realistic plan for disasters. A comprehensive plan. Right now, help is piecemeal at best. Why does it take so long to call up the Guard when the folks in charge know what a mess things are going to be? Heck, I knew and I live on the other side of the country.

Why do we repeat this crap? Go to the polls and vote the idiots out. Make that a political platform. The people who come up with a comprehensive, workable plan get the vote. Now, I'm not talking about giving people money. We do that, one way or another. Why don't we have a universal disaster insurance? One that covers everything from tornadoes to floods to earthquakes and wild fires? Wouldn't that ultimately be cheaper than the piecemeal approach we have now?

And pass laws to prevent building on flood plains. You might say folks should know better but the ugly truth is they don't. They believe if a builder tosses up a bunch of houses on a field, it must be okay. And it's not. They believe if a builder sells a bunch of houses on the beach it must be okay. Or if a builder plants a bunch of houses on an earthquake fault, it's safe. Well...it isn't. And while you might say those buyers should know better, the end truth is all of us pay when there's a disaster. It's our tax dollars that are used for clean up and disaster relief (whatever form that might take) and however minimal it might be.

Every single year there's a disaster. Some years there are a more. Isn't it time we take action? Really?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Birthday Man

Soooo. The hunk looks pretty good for 71. Fifty years ago today on his 21st birthday, he proposed. His logic when I said yes? It was a present for himself. Back then, we couldn't envision reaching seventy.

Happy Birthday, Babe!



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Blocked!

A while ago we bought a new phone system that identifies incoming callers. Mostly, it lists a phone number with a town/state. If the caller has their phone set up, it lists their name. Once in a great while it simply says 'out of area'. For the record, I never answer it unless I recognize the caller. I figure if it's important, they'll leave a message.

Anyway, yesterday during all the eclipse hoo-hah, we received eleven calls from someplace in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. We don't know anyone in Ft. Lauderdale. I'm not sure we even want to know anyone in Ft. Lauderdale. I was getting pretty ticked off when I noticed a button on the phone that says 'call block'. Hmmmm.

The next time Ft. Lauderdale called, I pressed the button, confirmed I wanted the caller blocked and... there was peace, precious peace the rest of the day. Actually, we haven't had a phone call from anyone since then. About 99% of our phone calls are from unknown sources so we don't often actually answer the phone, but this total phone silence is weird.

Since blocking that call worked so well, I've been anxious to try it again, but there haven't been any calls! How can I play with the 'block call' button if no one calls? 😕 Do you suppose all the robo-callers are connected and now they know I can block their calls? Wouldn't that be cool?

I've never understood why people answer the phone when they don't know who is calling--especially as we have all this great technology now. Why would I want to talk to someone I don't know? And consider--it's hard to be caught up in a scam if you never talk to them in the first place. What if everyone just refused to answer all callers they didn't recognize? What would the robo-callers and scam artists do then? Maybe they'd go back to snail mail or something...

So. It's peace and tranquility at the Cook house. And when it isn't, I know exactly how to fix it.

Blocked!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Defining Success

If you search for success motivation on the internet, you'll find a zillion memes and videos and blogs all listing a zillion paths to success. The difficulty is they all have different measures of success when the truth is each of us must define success for ourselves.

For some, success is making a lot of money. For others, getting out of bed in the morning is success. That's why many of those motivational speeches and videos are worthless. They don't take into account the variety of life styles and circumstances humans live with.

I recently watched a video in which a naval officer posited the key to success was making your bed every morning. Now some folks took that literally, I'm sure, and that's okay. But I think the idea was 'start as you mean to go on'. Have a plan and carry it out. Many mornings making the bed is beyond me, so fortunately the hunk makes it, but I still have a system to get my day going. And everyday, whether I feel like it or not, I keep to the system.

I have read many times (on many social media statuses) authors in particular bemoaning their lack of success at finishing a particular piece of writing...and then a couple posts later, they mention they're still lounging around in their jammies with their hair uncombed or their face unshaved. And here's what I've discovered. The job, any job, doesn't get done as long as you're wandering around in your jammies. Because you're not ready. Get dressed.

Once you're ready, decide what your goal for the day is. Some days my goal is to stay awake. Other days, my goal is to go outside. Success isn't measured in huge leaps. It's mostly measured in small steps. The deal is to keep moving forward. Keep going. Choose your own path. And stick with it.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Memory Thieves

"Dad stopped being dad last Friday..." my cousin, Susan.

My uncle has reached the point where he no longer recognizes anyone in his family, including my aunt. She can no longer care for him so he's been placed in a hospice. It's a heartbreaking scenario played out across the country, over and over, as the elderly population succumbs to various forms of dementia.

For some it's a gradual onset that eventually takes them away. For others such as my uncle it's sudden and devastating. Regardless, it's a catastrophic event, heartbreaking to the entire family, but especially for those close enough to have the responsibility for their care. 

There's not anything useful I can add to the conversation. Except I love my uncle and aunt and my heart is breaking for both of them. They've been together a very long time. In December they'll have their 60th anniversary. And it grieves me that this is the way it ends.

If you have a time and place in your hearts, all good wishes and prayers for them are welcome.