Friday, December 27, 2013

Ch-ch-changes and getting inoculated against Comparison-itis?

Ch-ch-Changes (turn and face the strain).  I suspect David Bowie is a bit old for some readers of this blog, but I still think his chorus is apropos. At the end of the year, I always take time to review how the past year went and to plan for the new year.  Windtree Press has done this as well. We've looked at how each of the authors is doing, what we can do differently to be more successful, and what we are willing to let go. Consequently, Windtree Press is making changes that we believe will be good for the authors and for our readers.

You will see a new website in late January that we hope will be easier to navigate, and will definitely provide a much easier way to purchase books from us. We will also be increasing the number of authors at the press which means more books for our readers.

This blog will undergo a change as well. We will be feeding each of our member blogs to the Windtree Press blog. We hope this will give you a one stop means to access all of our author blogs, while still keeping you informed of Windtree Press major developments.

Finally, we will be initiating a quarterly newsletter that will go out to our mailing list of readers. This newsletter will contain news from each of our members, any giveaways and prizes, upcoming events, and new releases. We hope this will keep you in the loop for all the best books that Windtree Press authors have to offer.

Inoculation for Comparison-itis Disease

In my personal review of the past year, I always have to be careful not to contract that dreaded disease known as "comparison-itis." (Thanks to Joanna Penn for coining this term).  That is the virus that causes you to compare anything in your life to someone else and then come up short for the past year. It tends to lead to depression and another disease, especially virulent for writers, known as quitting.

For example, I could easily compare 2013 to 2012 and feel bad because in 2012 I had a job other than writing full time that made significantly more money than I do now.  I could easily envy those who hung on to their jobs and their economic security.

I could also easily compare my book sales to some other author who did better and be upset because "my books are certainly as good or better than that author's books." I haven't made a bestseller list yet like some friends who have. I haven't hit the regular 1,000 books per month sales figures like another author friend. If I let the comparison-itis virus take over, I would end up quitting writing. It is a dangerous virus, not just for authors but for anyone who allows comparisons to stop them from moving forward in life.

If you don't stop comparison-itis in its tracks, the virus will eventually take over every part of your life. How can you recognize the early symptoms? It's when this little voice in your head starts saying things like:  I'm not pretty enough, young enough, skinny enough, fat enough, successful enough, rich enough, fast enough, selling enough...you get the picture. Over the years, I've created a three-step health regimen that I engage in throughout the year. Then for that last week of the year, I always reinforce my regimen with an inoculation against the comparison-itis virus. Just like the flu is most virulent in January/February, I find that comparison-itis is must virulent at the end of December. My regular health regimen has three parts.
  1. Reframe my experience.  Yes, I'm not making as much money as I did in 2012, but I worked on  that career for 30+ years full time to get to that state. I've only been working at writing for 8 years part-time and 1 year full time. I'm doing better than many other writers.
  2. Remember, it's not a zero sum game. I don't believe that when someone does well, it means someone else must do poorly. I've known people in many professions that carry the belief you must squash your competitors in order to get ahead. I don't believe that when someone makes the NYT bestseller list it means that my work is worse or hers is better. I believe that when my friend made the USA Today bestseller list, she earned it and I can too. I believe that when I win, I can bring others along with me. We can all be bestsellers in our time.
  3. The Golden Rule, Karma, Hard Work.  I still believe that what will get me ahead is working hard, writing more and writing better each day. I still believe that treating others as I wish to be treated will make my daily walk easier. I will feel better about my progress and that I made it without crawling over any corpses. 

And here is the end-of-year inoculation. It's an age old mantra credited to Thomas Jefferson. I say it every day during the last week of the year, and sometimes several times a day if the virus has made any kind of foothold. The quote is: "Comparison is the thief of joy." I follow that with my own: "And I won't let anyone steal my joy."



I hope my health regimen and inoculation helps you to enter 2014 without the dreaded comparison-itis virus. Let us all skate into 2014 together with the innocence of children, the hard work of adults, and the belief that we can make our own success by moving forward together. 

Yes, you think I'm done but...I have one more disease where I need your help

I'm looking for help to get moving so I stop suffering from the horrific "butt-itis"--that is the spread of the bottom and hips area of the anatomy because I spend so much time with butt glued to chair in front of the computer. Sometime during this past summer, I used superglue to attach my butt to the chair and I think I used too much. It is REALLY strong. Anyone have a solvent? If so, please send it my way.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Fun by Paty Jager

Ten days to Christmas! I've wavered back and forth over the holiday this year. I was excited in October when our son put in for leave and planned to come. We haven't seen his kids in two years. Then the U.S. ran two raids in the Middle East and all leave was revoked at his air base. But I kept my excitement because our daughter who lives in Kodiak and her family were coming for a month.

Slowly that became less and less until they are here for two weeks, one with her in-laws and one with us and they are leaving back home on the 23rd.

At least this year we'll have our oldest daughter and her family close. The last few years we've had to travel five hours to their house for Christmas but this year they are only 20 minutes away. We are doing all the big shindigs at her house. She loves the season and decorates more than I do. And this year with their new house the can have a huge two story Christmas tree.

I didn't put my usual lights outside, less inside, and a small tree. I did all the other decorating I usually do and made the traditional gingerbread family members. I've been baking various "quick breads" that we give to co-workers, neighbors and friends. When our daughter and her kids get here we'll make sugar cookies in Christmas time shapes. They'll help me decorate and we'll make a big mess int eh kitchen but it will be the highlight of my Christmas!

What is your favorite family Christmas time fun?
www.patyjager.net
www.patyjager.blogspot.com

Thursday, December 12, 2013

'Tis The Season...

I'm not fond of the cold, but I love this time of year. The holidays...being thankful...giving
gifts...Christmas lights...the music...the movies. And when it's all done, I love falling into the new year, looking back over the last one, enjoying that moment when time stands still, then looking forward to where I might go from there.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is one I learned years and years ago from another nurse, while working nights in the labor and delivery department of a local hospital. She taught us how to make a box (lid and bottom) out of a Christmas card. Big, red cards seem to be the most eye catching, or cards with gold or silver embossing. Once you've made the box, thread the lid with colorful yarn or ribbon so you can hang it on the tree. Make one for each family member. When Christmas day is done, and before you take down the tree, have each person write their favorite thing about the holidays that year on a scrap of paper. Fold the note and put it in their box. Then pack the boxes away with your ornaments. As the years pass you'll collect the memories inside the box. It's fun, and a bit nostalgic to read them before hanging the box once again on the tree.

What's your favorite Christmas tradition?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

No More Split Personas

I've been spending the past few weeks taking my three author personas: Maggie Lynch, Maggie Faire, and Maggie Jaimeson and making them one--one website, one Facebook page, oneTwitter account, a primary Goodreads page where I can manage all my books, and one Pinterest page.  It has been an all consuming endeavor, but I am SO glad I did it. I was exhausting myself trying to find unique things to say on 9 media places and remembering to keep up with them all.  I really feel so much more free now--unfurled from a split persona.


It got me to thinking about how all of us really do have different personas that we share with the world.  Even if you aren't a writer with multiple names, you rarely share the exact same person every where.  If you have children, you don't share everything with them. There is the role of "parent" you must become. The person I am as a writer also isn't all of me. There is also the wife person and step-mother person and teacher person. Each of these roles is till me, but not the whole me.  When I think about it, nobody gets the whole me--not even my husband. There are things I reserve for certain people and groups, things that other people or groups don't really care or need to know about me.

Not that I'm hiding things. The truth is not everything is interesting to each person or group. Hey, some things about me aren't even interesting to me!

If I had to say where the real me is most revealed, it is probably in my writing--sometimes even without me realizing it until the book is done. Sure I make up places and people and circumstances; but the emotion is mine--the reaction of the protagonist to the situation is mine. It has to be or I couldn't make it believable. Also the underlying belief that good will always triumph over evil and that love will win in the end is all me. The real me. It is what keeps me going every day.

How about you? What are your different personas? Do they ever become confusing or is it easy to maintain the different roles in your life? Do you ever feel that one of the personas is taking over and you need to fight it back?  Imagine how our fictional characters must feel with all of that too.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Penquins or Literary Fame?

The original title of this post was “In Praise of the 20-Year Novel”, inspired by recent accolades for “Sea of Hooks”, a moving tale with gorgeously executed craftsmanship that took the author two decades to write. Starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly aren’t easy to come by, ditto for sweeping literary praise. 

 Some novels, like some authors, need space, reflection, and time. Years of time. 

And then there’s the rest of us caught up in this crazy digital publishing race of more is more.

But is it really more?

Fifteen years ago the idea of finishing a novel, any novel, seemed as foreign and exciting to me as a penguin-counting expedition in Antarctica. Could I finish a novel? I persisted and what I once thought impossible became semi-routine. There is no question in my mind now that finishing a novel is entirely possible. However, that original question has been replaced by something far more exotic, perhaps something truly elusive, and more daunting than tallying breeding pairs of Emporers on Taylor’s Glacier: 

In my lifetime, could I pen something truly memorable, something of lasting value with lovingly turned prose and exquisitely crafted imagery? A story capable of making readers pause and perhaps reexamine the scope of human life and what it means to be human in this day and age? 

I’m talking big-picture values and lofty aspirations. Issues I’m not even sure I possess the talent, or possibly even the time (decades?), to tackle in a meaningful way. Should my literary inspirations be shuffled off to the mental closet marked maybe in my next lifetime?

Each of us have issues gnawing their way out of our souls. Do mine belong on the page? Once exposed to the light of day, will they be of any help or comfort to others? Maybe it’s just not me. I love writing mainstream fiction. I love entertaining my readers without delving into the dark night of our existence. While I love and admire literary fiction, sometimes counting penguins is good enough.

~Jamie


 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Power of Thanksgiving

Did you know that the first official declaration of Thanksgiving day as a national holiday was done by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War? It must have been hard for families to conceive of a day of thanks when so much tragedy was ranging around them.  Later, Franklin Roosevelt tried to move the holiday up a week--primarily to allow more time for holiday shopping. However, a number of states ignored him.  Then during WWII, only a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Congress finalized the date as the fourth Thursday in November.  Interesting again that a day of Thanks was finalized in the midst of war.

Thanksgiving has power.  Even during war, economic downturns, and personal tragedy people seem to always find a way to give thanks. It is easy to give thanks during times of prosperity. But I think the power of thanksgiving is to be able to give thanks in times of difficulty.  It is then that giving thanks shows hope and belief that better times will come and that we understand what is truly important in our lives.


As a child, our Thanksgiving day tradition was to converge at grandma's house. Each family brought food to share. Of course there were specialties. My Aunt Donna was the pie maker. My Aunt Vickie was the green bean casserole maker. My grandmother spent the week before baking bread. My family usually brought the turkey. Others brought sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and a variety of snacks. I come from a large family (9 children) and in addition to my 11 cousins, both my grandmother and an aunt also took in foster children. Add to that the additional friends or other stragglers kids would bring and it was quite the crowd and more food than all of us could consume in a single day.

Before the meal was served we each had to say what we were thankful for that year. Each person had a turn, including the smallest of children who could understand and speak. Sometimes there were 50+ of us present so it took awhile. Once every person had given thanks a blessing for the food was given. Blessing the food was another tradition that also passed from adults to teens.

I still think of that tradition every year as Thanksgiving approaches and I am grateful to have it as my tradition. I still use this time of year to reflect on the many blessings I've had in my life. I think about the  friends and family I've loved throughout my life and how much they have influenced who I am and what I do. I give thanks for those who have died and for those present. I give thanks for those, like my friend Michele, who have given an important part of their lives to helping others. She is in the Peace Corp in Africa. She lives in a one room hut and is never sure if the village will have water that day or not. That reminds me to give thanks for the water I take for granted.

Giving thanks at this time of year may seem a small thing to do, or to some a silly thing to do. However, I find it keeps me grounded for the rest of the year. As I enter into the world of holiday food, shopping, and events to attend, I often feel overwhelmed by the expectations for my time and attention. When that happens I return to my simple thanksgiving and it puts it all into perspective. I am truly fortunate to be surrounded by people I love, to do a job I love, and even to have the opportunity to share these words with you.

What are some of the traditions you value for Thanksgiving?


Sunday, November 24, 2013

To Herd a Cat

By Danita Cahill

As a writer, I love words. As a menagerie manager, I also love animals. So, it only makes sense that I would appreciate sayings about animals, as well as the history behind those sayings.

Let’s take the saying, “Get your goat” for instance. It’s my understanding this phrase originated from the world of thoroughbred horse racing. In the olden days, owners or trainers routinely provided each of their prized thoroughbred race horses with its own goat. The goat would offer companionship for the hot-blooded horse, and act as a calming influence. When owners and trainers traveled with their horses to the racetracks, the goats went along, too, helping keep the horses mellow and quiet in strange surroundings.

Rivaling horse owners, who, of course, wanted their own horses to win the race, made it a habit of telling other owners, “I’ll get your goat.” They knew if they took a horse’s goat away the horse would flip out with worry, and would not keep its head in the race, thus giving the rival an edge.

Interesting, no?

Lately, I’ve found my mind often wandering to the saying, “Herding cats.” This saying is usually mentioned in a negative, sarcastic or derogatory manner. At a writing meeting I recently attended, one of my colleagues made the comment that she found organizing a bunch of writers to do specific tasks was like herding cats.

But the reason my mind has lately mulled over this particular saying is not because I’m a writer. And it’s not because the phrase was mentioned at that particular meeting.

No, it’s because I see “herding cats” in a literal sense on a daily basis.

I don’t know where this saying came from, but I am fairly certain the first person to utter the phrase owned both a Border collie and several kittens, as is the case at our house.

Border collies, as you probably know, are herd dogs. Working dogs. Dogs very serious about performing that work. If their owners don’t assign them a job – such as herding cattle or sheep – Border collies assign themselves a job. 

Our Border Collie, Zip, “helps” me daily. When I go out to feed our horse and alpacas, Zip races ahead to the fence and “holds” the animals in place while I fetch their feed.

The animals are used to Zip’s slinking motions and alert stance. They completely ignore her.
 
Inside the house, the only animals Zip has to “help” with are a lazy Labrador retriever, an ancient cat, two caged Guinea pigs, and three lively kittens. Zip takes her work as seriously inside as she does out. Since the kittens are the most active of the animals allowed in the house, Zip concentrates her efforts on them.

But even a hard-working, serious-minded Border collie like our girl, Zip, can’t make cats stay in formation or force them to go in the direction she deems appropriate.

I’ve included a visual to illustrate this point. In this photograph, Sophie, the kitten, was following me as I was trying to snap a picture. Zip thought she was responsible for herding the cat where she wanted it to go.

I went ahead and let Zip think that. After all, why burst her Border collie bubble?
  
After watching Zip’s ceaseless efforts to “work” the kittens, I’ve come to a conclusion: The inventor of the saying must have had a good, hearty laugh before first uttering, “It’s just like herding cats.”

If you liked this blog post, you might also enjoy my book Kids are a Crack Up: Humorous Stories from the Mouths of Babes. It’s available as an eBook from
Windtree Press
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Concentration is Hard to Come By by Paty Jager

Concentration lately has been hard to come by. I tend to flit from one "to do" thing to the next and not "lighting" on the work in progress and adding words to it.

Part of this lack of concentration is the time of year. It is always harder for me to remain focused on one thing once the weather turns colder and I start thinking about the family gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The two families that are military are hard to pin down if they will be home or not. Then there's my mother-in-law who wants to know what we're doing for Thanksgiving. I'm waiting to find out if the local daughter and her family will be around. If they will be here, that makes a difference in who else we will invite. Some of the older folks we would invite don't do well around our ADHD granddaughter. But if our daughter's family are going to her in-laws then we can invite the older folks.

And Christmas this year will be in two parts because our daughter and her family who live in Kodiak will be here in December but leaving on the 23rd. So when do I have my brother bring my dad down?  And since my brother will leave my dad here for us to return...how long do I want him to stay? With the Kodiak family headed home on the 23rd, when do we have their Christmas? What do we serve? Will we have the event at our daughter's who will have the large Christmas tree cut from her grandmother's yard or will it be at my house?

I know Christmas day will be spent at our daughter's.

And so with such family dilemma flashing in my head it's no wonder my writing is suffering.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Paty Jager
www.patyjager.net
www.patyjager.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Some Days...


There are days when the day job works. It pays the bills. There are days with the writing works. Saturday I wrote 5 pages at BN, seated at a table against the windows, not far from the romance isle. Monday I wrote one page. Somewhere in the middle of that page I decided to
change the title of my current WIP (work-in-progress for those of you who aren't familiar with writing lingo) from Dragon's Keeper to Dragon's Fire. Tuesday I wrote two pages before I started the day job. Before my first break, I wondered (for 30 seconds) if I should give up writing all together. The day job sucked. Wednesday (today) I didn't write, except for this blog.

This month is NaNoWriMo. Like many others, I'm participating. My goal is to finish the ugly draft of Dragon's Fire by December 31st, and perhaps complete the planning phase for the contemporary romance flailing in my head. It's a really fun story. Next year I'd like to write two dragon stories, and one or two contemporary romances. Ambitious considering the day job.

For the next few months, I'm ignoring social media (except Pinterest). Probably to my peril. Soon I'll launch a new website. It might even have a blog. On my 2014 calendar are two conferences, and one trip to Hawaii, and hopefully four writing retreats to the Oregon coast.

This is the life of a writer. Sometimes it's passionate. Sometimes it's spastic. Sometimes it works.

What aspect of your life are you most passionate about? What really works?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Shout Out to Veterans and Their Families

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day and it is always a special time of remembrance and thankfulness for me.  I have many veterans in my family, and others who have served our country and their communities in other ways that are equally as important. If you are looking for a place to celebrate Veterans Day, the U.S. government website has a nice interactive map with registered events.  Check it out for a place near you.

Our oldest son and his wife served during the recent Iraq war. He was in the Marines and did convoy duty, she was in the Navy. My grandfather served during WWII, and my uncle served during the Korean War.  In all of these service years, my relatives were fortunate to come home alive. Though both my grandfather and uncle have now passed, I feel privileged to have known them and known a little about their service.

I came of age during the Vietnam War. Many of my high school friends were drafted, some never came home. Some who came home were never the same.  So you can imagine when our oldest son went to Iraq I was scared to death--scared he would die, scared he would come home a shadow of his former self, scared he would come home okay but a cynic about life. 

Fortunately, none of those things happened. Did it change him? Sure. All wars cause change. One cannot watch a colleague die and not be affected by it or be filled with questions about life and death, responsibility and duty. Both he and his wife found a way to use their experiences--good and bad-- to move forward in life and to be thankful for those things they have at home like family and friends and the abundance we are so fortunate to have in our country.


I don't always agree with our country's decisions about going to war. I don't always agree with the choices our political leaders make in the direction our country should move or the way in which congress sometimes acts or doesn't act. However, I always admire those who serve our country and their families who wait behind and continue to support them.  It is a difficult mission on both sides, one that requires dedication and faith and hope.  I am honored to have known so many who have made these choices, and I am humbled by the strength of their families both while the service members are away and when they come home and have to readjust to civilian life.

I hope you find a way to say thank you tomorrow, whether at a public event or in private. It does mean something. Take a moment to show support.




Thursday, November 7, 2013

Priorities


This past weekend I attended a book publishing conference and author event sponsored by KOBO. I left with my brain swimming in new to-do lists.

I'd already planned a digital makeover of my website, adding a third column, and updating my lists. Now I'll be adding indie booksellers, making good on my promise to start a newsletter, and overhauling the links. In addition, I need to continue building my sales over multiple sites.  Updating Facebook (adding buttons) is another one of those things on the list. All of this takes time. Time away from writing.

Like most writers, I'd rather be writing. That made me wonder, how do other authors prioritize their to-do lists between online career building and the day-to-day of creation of new work?

At the start of this month, my plan was to wrap and proof my two current projects and call it good for the year. The rest of 2013 would be spent housecleaning and reworking my brand. New photos et al! Except, in a moment of madness, I signed up for NaNoWriMo. And I'd really like to finish that new adult novel I've had in my head for the last year, which is now taking form. 

Help!

Jamie Brazil is the author of The Commodore's Daughter, and other novels. The Commodore's Daughter is a free download on KOBO this month with coupon code jansbooks.
 
 

 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

To Grow an Apple


When my daughter was in the second grade, she wrote and illustrated a little book for me for Mother’s Day. In the book, she answered such questions as what is Mom’s favorite color? And what is Mom’s favorite food? She listed my favorite color as purple, and my favorite food as apples.

It’s true. I love apples. If I had to pick only one food in the world to survive on, I think it would have to be apples.

So, you can imagine my joy when two years ago, for Mother’s Day, my husband bought me two young apple trees. We planted them. They blossomed. The bees did their pollinating thing. Six of the blossoms swelled into baby apples. Pretty exciting stuff. The baby apples grew bigger. The trees flourished.

That is, they tried to flourish.

We live in the countryside in a forested area. We have deer. Interview any deer, ask them their favorite food, and I’ll bet money they’d mention apples near the top of the list, too.  

So much for my first apple crop. And so much for my fledgling trees. The deer mowed off the tips, broke branches and ate the leaves as fast as they could sprout. Not just once, but time after time.  

Alpacas to the rescue!

We brought home our first alpacas that fall. As much as deer love apples, that’s how much they detest alpacas. Alpacas have a few things in common with deer – they sway toward the timid side of the gregarious scale. And they also adore apples, acorns and brush. But, apparently to deer, alpacas smell strange, look strange and act strange.

Shortly after we brought the alpacas home to join our menagerie, my husband watched a deer jump the fence into their field. That doe took one look at the curious, long-necked alpacas, launched right back over the fence, and booked off down the road.

In the past two years, my apple trees have once again flourished. The deer damage was so great that we got no apples last year, but this year we got our first crop.

A crop of one.

That single apple was highly prized. I tied a net bag around it when it was still just a tiny pup. My sons and I checked on its progress daily.

It was a September harvest at the Cahill orchard. We picked that apple, carried it carefully into the house. Washed it. Polished it. Quartered, cored and sliced it. And then we partook of the crisp, sweet flesh.

Hands down, it was the best apple we have ever tasted.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Goal Setting Can Increase Self Worth

Too often goal setting is rife with guilt and game playing.  Somewhere in life, people learn that not meeting a goal is so horrific that they don't make goals at all. Or, if they do, the goals are set at a bar so low that anyone can make them.  I find this truly sad.

Early in life my parents taught me to set goals.  Being the oldest of nine children, I probably felt particularly put upon to also serve as an example for my siblings by meeting my goals. However, that was my own feeling and not reinforced by my parents. Fortunately, my parents' philosophy was that goals should stretch me to reach for the stars--to reach for what I wanted most. Because if I never tried to reach for it I would never get it. They followed up this philosophy be rewarding us equally, whether we tried but failed or met the goal.

I bring this up because two things around goal setting and reaching for the stars are coming up in the next two months.  First, at the beginning of 2013 I set a goal to write 300,000 words this year.  That's because I wanted to complete 6 books by the end of 2013. My books run between 55,000 and 75,000 words. I had one book already started at the beginning of the year, so it really meant completing 5-1/2 books. Some of my colleagues looked at me like I might be a little crazy.  Others applauded the effort but let me know I was unlikely to make it.  I am two months away from the end of the year and I'm currently at about 180,000 words.  I know by the end of this week, I will have at least 10,000 more words. I'm shooting for 20,000. Will I make it? Can I write 100,000 words in two months? I don't know. I've never done that before. But I can sure try.

This brings me to my plans for November. Every year the month of November is dedicated to "National Novel Writing Month" also known as NaNoWriMo.  This is an event where hundreds of thousands of authors (more than 200,000 authors participated last year) around the world set a goal to complete 50,000 words in one month.  Here's the interesting part. About 20% of the participants actually make that goal. I would hazard a guess that almost none of them would have made the goal if they didn't set it in the first place.

This is the first year I'm participating in NaNoWriMo. I figure, if I'm going to make my 300,000 word year end goal this will get me closer.  If I can do 50,000 words in November, then I can do 50,000 words in December and make my goal. What if I don't do 50,000 words?  I'm still happy.  Just trying means I will do more words than I would without the goal. It pushes me in a very public way. Just like posting my progress on my blog is also public. 

Will all my words be perfect? Nope. Not even close. But it's much easier to edit words that exist than a blank page. It's much easier to get a full novel out of 50,000 words, and only have to find another 20,000 than to make it in time with only 10,000 words, or worse a blank page. It may be that on December 31st my goal of making 300,000 words this year will be a dream unmet. However, I can tell you already that the 180,000 I already have is significantly more than I've ever done in one year. I can also tell you that if I don't make my goal, I will renew it for next year. I know I can do it. I know there were many times I could have been writing but I let other things get in the way.  What if I do make 300,000 words? I'll celebrate like crazy. And then I'll decide what my stretch goal for the next year will be.

Whatever your dreams and goals in life, I say reach for the stars. Making the commitment to reach--to try--will get you closer. Celebrate every attempt. If you don't meet your goal, then start again. You will already have a leg up the second time. You will already have ideas about what needs to change to make the goal. When you finally make that impossible dream, take time to celebrate all your hard work. Bask in the glory for a little while. Then make the next goal.

I hope you will root me on to the end of the year. Share some of your goals so I can root for you too. They don't have to be writing goals. They can be reading goals, weight loss goals, exercise goals--whatever you want in your life. Just be sure to dream big!


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Going Against my Linear Self

The current story I'm working on is set in the Yukon during the gold rush or 1898.  I've had trouble finding information about the settlements that were along the route from Skagway to Dawson and then Dawson to St. Michael.  What I have found has mostly been online photos taken 1898 and later. Trying to decipher what I see and then use the little bit I found online, I conclude if they put a telephone in July of 1898 then they should have electricity since in 1899 they were using steam run drills to get through the perma frost to dig to the gold veins.

When I couldn't come up with a concrete answer, I sent an email off to the Dawson Historical Society and while waiting for a reply I wrote two chapters set in Dawson in a hotel using my assumption there would be electricity and running water.

The historical society finally emailed back and they said no, there wasn't electricity or running water. So I asked if they had any suggestions of books that would help me. They gave me a list and I found two of them in the used books on Amazon and ordered them.

The problem with being a linear writer is I either had to sit and wait for the books to continue the story, because I don't like to leave gaps or question marks and move on, but in this case it would be a week before I get the information and didn't want to stop my momentum in the story, so I continued on and should have the book finished by the time the research books arrive. Then I will go back and make revisions on those two chapters to fully capture the living conditions at the time in a hotel, hopefully, if the books I receive will have that information.

This book which I hope to have available in November is going against my usual nature to start at the beginning and keep on writing without leaving gaps in the story. Granted, there isn't a gap because it is filled in, just with inaccurate information but in my thinking that is a gap and there might be something that will happen with the change the could impact the rest of the story. That is what I fear and why I write linear.

As a reader can you tell if the writer is a linear or sporadic writer? If you're a writer are you linear or do you jump around when writing scenes?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Writer's and Speaking

The day this blog posts I will be flying home from my youngest son's wedding.  I don't have wedding photos to post or stories to tell yet, so I thought I dig into my previous Sunday instead. On October 6th I was fortunate to be a speaker at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Trade Show in Portland, Oregon. I presented with fellow Windtree author, Paty Jager, on the Power of Author Cooperatives. The presentation was designed for both authors and booksellers. One of the ways I build relationships with readers, booksellers, and vendors is through public speaking engagements.  For many writers, the thought of this is scary. However, learning to be comfortable in public can be useful to your career.

After doing a reading last month at Bards N' Brews in Hillsboro, one of the aspiring authors in the audience later asked me: "How do you get up there and do that? How do you talk to people so easily." So, I thought I would share a few of my tricks.  This was a great venue for reading by the way. It's in a wine store and restaurant, Primrose and Tumbleweeds. If you can arrange it, try to be surrounded by wine bottles. It makes everything look and sound better. :)

Fake it, 'til you make it. My public speaking self is a persona--a character who is confident and occasionally self-effacing. In other words I am acting.  Certainly, I'm still me but I'm a more confident and occasionally even funny me. Not how I perceive myself inside. I learned how to do this at my first professional job in my twenties.  My boss always said: "Fake it, 'til you make it."  In other words, if you act like you know what you are doing people will believe you--even if inside you aren't so sure.  It really is true. It's also true that if you "act" confident enough times, you get good feedback and that builds your confidence.

Think of Everyone Wearing Only Underwear.  This was advice given to me by a speech teacher. I have to admit, it doesn't work too well for me.  I either end up laughing or grossed out. It doesn't help me speak better, but it does help me relax before I do a presentation. Try it. Peak at the first few rows of people and imagine them in their underwear. Unless you are at a celebrity health club, the picture isn't usually hot. In the right frame of mind you will crack up. Laughing is a great mechanism for sloughing some anxiety.

Practice the Whole Presentation. Before doing the reading from my novel, I practiced several times. I wrote notes to myself on the pages. Things like "breathe" and "female voice" and "talk faster" or "talk slower" in order to emphasize things. Writing it down helped me remember it and seeing it on the page was a comfort. When I do a formal presentation with a PowerPoint, I also practice to make sure I have something more to say than reading the slide.

The key to practice is to go through the whole thing, even when you make mistakes.  Do NOT stop and start over when you make a mistake. That solidifies the mistake in your mind. If you go past the mistake all the way to the end, it doesn't seem as big. You will make a mistake. We all do. Mistakes can actually make an audience like you even more, because they an identify with someone who is human instead of perfect. It's only bad if you stop and fall apart. In the beginning you notice every flaw and may feel like you are juggling plates that will all fall at once. Eventually the practice will become memory and, if you keep breathing and move forward, memory will take you all the way to the end.

Smile.  Always smile when you start. Smile when you have a point to make. Smile at the end. If you are kind and friendly, the audience will forgive all kinds of things. You don't have to be young, gorgeous, or a celebrity. Believe me, I'm none of those things. Friendly and caring will win the day.

Now tell me, what kind of underwear are you wearing?




Thursday, October 10, 2013

There Is A Season For Everything

My favorite time of the year is summer. I love seeing the sun every day. I love the warmth. I love
the color of summer. I love unbundling – this is not a word, but I'm using it anyway – and wearing pants that come just below my knees, instead of down to my ankles. But then along comes September. Kids go back to school. The stores fill up with school supplies. Who can resist stocking up? Not me. And inside I begin to get ready for fall and winter as I slowly back into my winter cave.

This year, here's what my winter cave looks like. I've talked about the ugly day job until I'm sick of hearing the words come out of my mouth, so not going there, but there's been an interesting development at the cave on Surface Road. Most days, before starting work, I go to this little coffee shop, called appropriately enough, The Grind. It opens at 6:00am. If I get there by 6:30, I can write for an hour before starting work. It's fun, and productive, and the same people hang out there every morning.

October will be taken up with a class on plotting. It's called, Quilting 101: Patchworking the Perfect Plot (Even if You're a Pantser). The class is taught by Suzanne Johnson. It's very exciting. I'll be working on two projects: Dragon's Keeper, and for lack of a better title, And Then There Were Three. It might be I'll look at a third project, Her Frog Prince. That would give me a lot to work on this winter season.

November is National Novel Writing Month. Writers from around the world take the month off from their everyday lives, and as best they can, write 50K words on a project they'll then spend the rest of the winter sorting out. It's a challenge, but a lot of published books come out of NaNoWriMo. For me, it'll be a great segue into December and January, when my dream is to forget the world, and spend the deepest months of winter, in my cave, writing my heart out.

How are you going to spend this winter season?


You can follow Susan Lute, author of Dragon's Thief and Falling For A Hero, The Anthology, on Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, and her newest home on the web, Crazy Hair Publishing.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Coffee: My Magic Elixir

As of today it’s been two months since I gave up my morning coffee. And even though I haven’t declared myself 100% caffeine free, breaking from my morning habit of decades has been both a hellish and exhilarating.

I never thought I could live without coffee. My first-ever cup of the stuff was at Dairy Queen. Fourteen-years old and desperate to appear more grown up, I hated the taste. Yet I clearly remember the fireworks that went off in my brain as I sipped the hot liquid. I was hooked.

For a short time – a month – I gave up coffee while I worked swing shifts. By swing shifts, I mean 90% graveyard shifts. Luckily, I moved, found another job,  and plugged the coffee pot back in. 

But this summer I had a health concern. As it turns out, coffee has been linked to fibroid tumors.  Given the chance to turn a corner health-wise I figured this was my best option. Total detox.  Beginning with coffee, which I knew I was drinking too much of anyway.  

The new morning routine around is all about decaf tea, and once in a while a an afternoon cup of Teecchino, an herbal “coffee” which isn’t really coffee at all. I miss real coffee.  I don’t crave it like I used to, but as a compromise, I’ve decided two cups of coffee a month – one every two weeks, is acceptable.  A reward for finishing a project, reaching a writing goal… or just celebrating a new haircut.  On those days you’ll find me at Pete’s coffee, savoring every delightful sip of life’s magical elixir called COFFEE. 

Got a vice you can’t give up? Or one that you’ve given up? 
 
Jamie Brazil is the co-author of The Mayan Sisterhood, currently a FREE download on KOBO. You can find her at http://facebook.com/BrazilBooks  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Who Am I ?

I've been thinking a lot lately about my pen names and whether I should combine them or keep them separate.  That also got me to thinking about my given name and how it has changed at different times of my life and how it reflected specific roles I played with that name.  I think this happens more for women than men--at least in my generation of women.

Our first grandchild was born in July. His name was carefully constructed by his parents. The first name unique, not one in use in the family or by extended relatives. The middle name a respectful homage to an uncle who died too young. The last name one that shows the child's relationship to this specific couple. Being male I wonder if he will ever decide to change his last name if he marries. I wonder if he will grow up loving his first name, or decide to use his middle name instead. Then what about a nick name. How many people are given a "proper" name but called by a nickname all their life?

Now that the Internet remembers everything about us--even when we wish it didn't--it is hard to change one's mind about a name.  Even if a name is changed legally, getting a previous named erased from the Internet is near impossible.

At birth my first name was after my great-grandmother--the woman who raised my father. It was given to me not because my parents loved that name, but because my great-grandmother insisted I be named after her.  My middle name was in rememberance of my father's sister who died when she was young. My last name was my family name.  I was always called by middle name because my mother hated being forced dto name me after great-grandma.

When I married, I took on my husbands name and took the opportunity to drop that hated first name so I could retain my family name.  When I divorced I dropped by husbands name. When I remarried I took on my new husband's name.  When I look back on it, all these names were a reflection of me at that time of life and how I perceived my role in the world.

As a fiction author I have two pen names now, Maggie Jaimeson for my adult fiction and Maggie Faire for my young adult fiction. I kept Maggie so if anyone ever called out my name I would at least know to turn around.:)

Am I a different person with each of these names? Inside I am the same person. I can't help but be the same. I still care about the same things, have the same life philosophy, and I think my writing in both young adult and adult fiction deal with similar issues. However, on the outside, I think I am a different person.  We all show different sides of our personality in different social situations. My Maggie Jaimeson persona is older, more serious, more of a motherly figure. In many ways I channel my counselor training through Maggie Jaimeson.  My Maggie Faire persona is an adult, but allows me to channel some of the freedom and angst of being a teenager. I feel more free to joke, be a little over the top, or emotional.

I believe everyone chooses personas for different parts of their life. They aren't falsehoods, but the desire to only reveal a small part of the whole.  How about you? Do you have different personas? Do you act differently depending on who you are with or what you think is expected in that situation? Do you ever wish you were a little less inhibited?

I love this quote about writers I saw today. It reflects that dissonance between who we portray on the outside and who we are on the inside. Now if only could change my name on all the bad books. :)

"A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him."
--Edna St. Vincent Millay







Saturday, September 21, 2013

We Keep Alpacas. Or do They Keep Us?


The whole alpaca adventure started out innocently enough.

I was reporting for the Scio News two years ago, and went to an alpaca auction in Scio, Oregon to cover it for the weekly paper. I’d never been to an alpaca auction – I mean, really, how many people have? But it sounded interesting. I volunteered to cover it because I’ve always thought alpacas were adorable.

I left my family, and my horse, at home in Lebanon while I went to the auction. Did I mention my horse was lonely? Yes, she was. My husband and I had recently taken our grown daughter’s horse to her, which left my mare by herself with no pasture companion. Did I also mention my youngest child, who loves animals, is allergic to horses? Adding those two things in my head gave me an inkling that I might want to bring home an alpaca from the auction. If my husband was hip on the idea. And if the price was right.

Just one. A little one. To keep my horse company, and give my youngest an animal to love that didn’t make his eyes swell shut.

Being the good wife that I like to think I am, I asked my husband before leaving the house what he’d think if I brought an alpaca home.

He said, “I don’t care what you bring home.” Those were his exact words, and I quote: “ I don’t care…”

I did my journalistic duty at the auction – talked to people before the sale started. Took notes. Snapped photos of the alpacas with their big, round eyes and poufy top knots.

And I fell completely in love with the hilarious creatures.

The auctioneer started off selling pairs – mama alpacas with a furry little baby at their side. When a black mama entered the auction ring with the cutest brown, teddy-bear-looking baby, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sit on my hand.

Butterflies leaped from my stomach to my throat as I realized I had really done it. With one raise of my hand I had just bought not one, but two alpacas. The auctioneer was a friend of mine. He knew this was my first foray into alpaca ownership. He asked the lady who brought the pair if I could have a free breeding. She said yes.

In the course of five minutes, I’d just gone from zero alpacas to nearly three.

The auction ended and I met with the previous alpaca owner for care instructions. She offered me another of her females that hadn’t sold.

“Alpacas are herd animals,” she explained. “They like to have companionship of the same gender.”

I couldn’t have a lonely mama alpaca now, could I? She made me a smoking deal on a white female named Georgia.

I called my husband to bring the horse trailer. When I told him I’d bought three alpacas, he sounded completely dumbfounded on the phone.

And not in a good way.

But he brought the trailer, and we got the alpacas home.

And so started the adventure.

Two years later, we’ve gone from the starter three, to a herd of 11. Two of those are babies born in the past month. Just take a look at little Colonel’s face.  

Now you see why I couldn’t keep my auction hand from flying into the air.

By the way, although my husband might not readily admit it, he is nearly as charmed by these funny, whacky animals as I am. As for my allergy-prone son and lonely horse? They love them, too.

How many of you have seen a baby alpaca up close? Have any of you ever knitted or crocheted with alpaca-fiber yarn?

Catch up with me on facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/DanitaCahill

 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What is Life Without a Happy Ending? by Paty Jager


I’ve always had an active imagination that revolved around romance. I’m not sure if it was from the fairy tales I read, the television shows I watched, or the fact it is just something that is inherent in me. I was a voracious reader through school. But I wouldn’t read any sissy, skinny books. No- I picked the fattest books I could find in my school library. Those were books by Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt. Fat Gothic romances.

In the summer, when I didn’t get to town often, I rode my horse in the mountains and fantasized about an Indian riding bareback toward me, his long black hair floating behind him, revealing a broad, bronze chest, rippling muscles on his torso, and long legs gripping the horse. We’d stare at one another and without speaking he’d lead my horse up the mountain to a secluded meadow—

Yep, as a teenager, I had a very vivid romantic bent. ;)

As a new mother, I read mysteries, with a romance thrown in the mix here and there. Then one day I picked up a LaVyrle Spencer novel. Her book “Hummingbird” took me on a whole new path of reading enjoyment and clenched the genre I wanted to write. I could write about the history I loved and conjure up people who could come to life not only for me but for readers.  I could make characters love and hurt and love again.  And always, always have a happy ending. After all, what is life if you can’t imagine a happy ending in your future?



Thursday, September 12, 2013

From The Gutenberg Press To The E-Reader – Look How Far We've Come Baby!

Something many of you might not know is that I love collecting information. Especially
information that is almost forgotten, or so hard to find, it's nearly impossible to dig up - like ancient civilizations, archaic weapons, how the land masses of the planet have migrated. We would know nothing of these events if historians hadn't started writing them down, or in the case of early cave dwellers, drawing on cave walls.

In the beginning...a little history lesson...pictures were painted on cave walls. Later, the Sumerians made tokens inscribed with pictures. These tokens were pressed into clay to keep a record of cattle, grain and land transactions (remember those days?). There was cuneiform, pictographs drawn with a reed stylus by scribes (some of our first authors). In the forth millennium BC, the first alphabet morphed into Egyptian hieroglyphics drawn on papyrus. Then along came the Archiac scripts, and the Aramaic square scripts.

Along the way, either simultaneously, or independently, alphabets were developed in the Indus Valley, and by the Olmecs and Mayans. Fast forward to the biblical scrolls, the Greek, Roman (wax tablets), Gothic, and Italic alphabets. Soon came parchment, allowing monks to hand scribed books for the nobility. Paper was developed in China.

All this before the quill and the Gutenberg Press made their appearance. Rag paper, made from recycled clothing from the Great Plague (as a nurse, this makes me wince) became readily available. For the first time mass production of books is possible. From there it's a mad dash to digital books and the hand-held reader, though we did linger for a long while with the printed book, which has not totally been lost in the recent rush to the digital age.

Along this historic journey, there have been story tellers, stringing their words together that make me either laugh, or cry, or both at the same time. It's a new world out there, and I think as humans, we can learn a lot about where we're going by knowing where we've been. Today, print along side digital books and the e-reader. Tomorrow … ? Any guesses?

Susan Lute is an avid reader and the author of Falling For A Hero, The Anthology, and Dragon's Thief. You can find her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

I Always Wanted to be a Faery

I know Halloween is still two months away, but they are already putting things in the store and it got me to thinking. When I was young there were two things I always wanted to be for Halloween--an angel or a faerie.  I think the two options were probably one outfit in my mind.  It was the wings that appealed to me.  Wings, flying, appearing whenever I wanted and, of course, always being helpful.  I didn't know about bad faeries then.

However, given our family circumstances Halloween costumes were always made at home from the rag bag.  Needless to say I was always a Hobo.  Hobos are kind of cool because they don't have to be careful with their outfit, and if it is too large it's great because it's more Hobo-like.  If my parents had told me about the riding the rails part, I may have been more interested in the outfit. In my mind, Hobos were more like Emmett Kelley--part clown and part hobo.

Now, when I give out candy each Halloween, I rarely see faeries or angels anymore. The vast majority of costumes are super heroes or warriors. The girls are whoever the latest kick-butt heroine is, and usually that is the kind of person who kicks first and asks questions later. On the one hand I think: Yay! Girls can take care of themselves. They are confident. They don't need a boy to save them.  On the other hand, I think it's kind of sad that no one wants to be that sweet, helpful person anymore. The one who works in the background to help others and doesn't demand attention or kudos for all their wonderful deeds.

I definitely believe in powerful heroines, and I do write them in my books. However, they tend to be powerful because of making difficult decisions and carefully weighing what they do before they do it. They are powerful because they learn to become comfortable with who they are, even if it's not the fantasy they hoped. If they run into the fray without thinking, there is always hell to pay. In the end, I guess I still have a lot of angel or faery qualities in my heroines. They are not retiring and demure, but they also aren't exactly kick-butt.

What kind of heroines to you prefer? If you could choose a costume for  Halloween, what would it be?  I think I'll go as an author. :)


Thursday, September 5, 2013

THE REJECTION COLLECTION – SET YOURSELF FREE


The other day as I opened my inbox and scanned through my email I clicked on a NetGalley review.  Short and sweet, the reviewer didn’t say much, but still it was nice to get some positive feedback.

And that’s when I sat back on my balance chair, slightly awestruck.

Ever have one of those moments?  That epiphanal A-HA that sweeps through body and soul?  Not all that long ago, before I saw e-book publishing light, I’d be sitting there on my balance chair bummed out by the rejections I’d received.

Now, I check my email and rejoice that READERS are READING my books.  

This is so much better than waiting for rejections from agents and editors. And the moment everything changed, the moment that set me free, was when I got crystal clear on the reality that I don’t, and NEVER WILL, have that NEW YORK publishing voice or style. I just don’t.  And it doesn’t matter anymore.  Just because agents and editors don’t get me, doesn’t mean readers won’t.
 
Because some do.  Sure, there are a few critics, too… but there are readers and reviewers who love my voice and style and THAT’S WHAT COUNTS.

All I had to do was find the courage within myself to step away from the madness, leave the old dream in the dust, and believe that I could find readers.

What happened to the old rejection collection, the emails I amassed when I was trying oh-so-hard to get traditionally published?  They sit in file in my inbox, ready for permanent deletion.  Because they just don’t matter anymore.  
 
Are you a reader or a writer?  What do you think of this new frontier of publishing?
 
Jamie Brazil is the author of The Commodore's Daughter as well as other novels.  Please visit her on Facebook at http://facebook.com/BrazilBooks

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Palm Reading

My family entered our 1959 Chevrolet Impala convertible in a car show earlier this month. Besides the car show going on at Cheadle Lake Park in Lebanon, there was also a flea market.

After we got the car registered and parked, and our lawn chairs set up, we wandered through the flea market. I had my camera strapped around my neck, as I so often do. And when an attractive, 30-something man asked me a question, I thought he'd said, "Can I see your camera?"

"What?" I asked back.

"Can I see your palm?"

"Oh. Uh, okay." I flipped my right hand over and he held it and began doing a reading.

It was unexpected, but interesting.

I have had my palm read exactly one other time. That was last November at the book launch party for my romantic suspense novel, "Mist." My friend, Susan posed as a fortuneteller (there is a fortuneteller in my book) and read palms. Susan is not actually a palm reader, although she did read up on the subject and she dressed the part.

So, while this male fortuneteller was running a finger along the lines on my palm and telling me the sort of person I am - very good communicator, kind, caring to the point of sometimes caring more for others than for self - I was comparing what he said to what Susan had "read." Her reading was more about the amazing success I would have in the future.

My husband and sons were hanging out as the male palm reader did his thing. "You are the leader of your household," he said.

That one didn't set so well with my husband.

I asked the palm reader about my life line. He said it was long, but I would have a big decision late in life and then I would come back. He tried to usher me into his booth for a more in-depth tarot card reading about the life line question, but tarot cards freak me out, so I passed.

The car show was a satisfying (we won a trophy and several raffle prizes) but a long day in the sun ( I sunburned my knees of all things). To help pass the time we wandered through the flea market a second time that afternoon. The tarot card booth was gone. Instead, my palm reader was manning a booth selling ceramic skulls and other knick knacks.

Very interesting, indeed.

Have any of you ever had your palm read? If so, what did the psychic say about you?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Importance of Local Bookstores

There has been a lot of press lately about bookstores going the way of the dinosaurs.  I don't believe that's true.  I do think that big box bookstores are going away, or at least shrinking.  But I still see a lot of smaller, local bookstores run by people who truly LOVE books. Even though I read a lot of my books electronically, I still love going to my local bookstore. I love browsing the shelves. I love sitting in a little alcove and letting time slow down for a moment while I read a few pages of a book I'm considering.

What do bookstores do?  The employees actually read books and make recommendations. They know if you liked a particular young adult novel, that you might like this other one you've never heard of. Because a lot of smaller bookstores sell both used books and new books, they know how to help you find a book that's been out of print for a few years. If they don't have it, they may know another store in your area that does have it. In other words, your small local bookstore is dedicated to making you happy as a reader.

Bookstores are also great for bringing readers and authors together. They provide venues for book signings or readings from a local author. If you ever wanted to ask an author why she did something in a novel, or what her inspiration might have been, bookstores provide that opportunity.  And it's not just print book authors anymore.  Many bookstores also provide opportunities to meet ebook authors, because they now have the ability to sell ebooks through their store and to make money off of them. 

At this point, you are probably saying something like: "Yeah, but it's so much easier to go online and buy it electronically and download it." Yes, but would you like the ease of that AND still be supporting your bookstore?  You can do that now thanks to relationships the bookstore can build with ebook companies like Kobo. Other bookstores use other affiliate relationships to provide their customers with that opportunity.

I hope you take some time and visit your local bookstore. Click on the Indie Bound logo above to find a bookstore near you. (For non U.S. readers, I've put the links to IndieBound International stores at the end of this blog. Let me know if I missed any.). Find out how you can have the best of both worlds--downloading ebooks as well as buying print books.  If you haven't been to a bookstore recently, I bet you'll be surprised at how many have joined the electronic world right along with you.

Happy Reading!

IndieBound UK | IndieBound Australia | IndieBound New Zealand

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Do You Really Want the Truth? by Paty Jager


I started watching the movie “Bernie” with Jack Black a couple weeks ago. It had been recommended by a friend. Well, my husband and I were bored to death it moved so slow and was kind of like a documentary about this guy Bernie’s life. It was based on a true story about a mortician who befriends an older widowed woman.

The movie opens with Bernie teaching a class at a mortician’s school on how to “present” the deceased.
He showed how to “fix the face”, put make up on, and pose the hands. Things I’d never thought about and have since researched because I couldn’t believe some of the things he did. Were they the truth or added to make the viewer question? 

From the info I found on the internet(two reliable sources by morticians), I believe the movie used methods to evoke an emotion other than “Ick”. In the movie “Bernie” super glued the eyes and the lips shut. But first he placed a piece of plastic in the corpse’s mouth to make his lips stick out rather than suck in. 

I discovered there is an adhesive used to keep the eyes closed (they don’t shut after someone closes them as they show in the movies and TV)  And they do a whole lot more to the mouth to keep it closed, but I won’t go into that. (Let’s just say, I think I’m going to just be cremated rather than have so much evasion on my person when I die.)


The reason I’m bringing this up, is, as I researched, I found out a whole lot of information that would make most viewers turn the movie off way before I did. So, when writing or reading a book, how much do you want the writer to stick to the truth? Enough to make it interesting without boring you or making you sick, or do you want all the gory or boring details? 


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Everyday Heroes

I have a very good friend who is serving with the Peace Corps in Swaziland.  She is not the usual Peace Corps volunteer--the young, just out of college person who is serving before moving into their career. Instead she is 64, a cancer survivor, and in a life transition where she decided to return to her roots of helping others.

Personally, I can't imagine volunteering to go to an African nation where it fills like camping all the time. She bathes with a pan of water that she hauls herself from a stream. At every turn she is confronted with extreme poverty, lack of education, a very patriarchal culture, and the highest HIV infection rate in Africa. She is an educator and during her two years of service hopes to make a difference in educating girls about HIV. She is a hero in my eyes. When she could be enjoying retirement she is off helping others, truly making a better world.

Every time a get a new message from my friend, it makes me even more aware of those around me who volunteer--people of all ages from young children to senior citizens. From those in large organizations like the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders to the man who provide rides to doctors appointments, to the meals on wheels delivery people, to those who care for neglected animals, and to the lady who coordinates coffee service every Sunday at my church, I am awed by their consistent commitment to their work--most for very little or no pay. Each of them give up some comfort in their daily lives to do this volunteer work. Each of them choose to quietly make a difference.

In a world where it seems we hear only about evil, or people making choices to stagnate rather than move forward, I am mindful of all these silent, yet amazing, volunteers around the world. It reminds me of the chorus to the song "Everyday Heroes" by Dave Carroll

Cause you know heroes come in every shape and size
Making special sacrifices for others in their lives
No one gives a medal, the world don't know their name
But in someones eyes their heroes just the same.

I say Thank you to all of them!