Summer Vacation Brain Funk

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Some people forget to pack their shorts or extra underwear or hairspray when they go on vacation, but this summer I forgot to pack my brain.

My “brain funk” began to show its ugly face in full force when I paid for parking at a meter that did not need to be paid after 7 p.m. Yes, it was indeed past 7 p.m. Although I will share only half of that blame as the meter should be rigged NOT to accept payment during the free hours. I’m just saying…

On another night, I left a restaurant with friends, having forgotten to A) sign for my bill and B) take my credit card with me. I’d never done such a thing before and it, quite frankly, scared me a little. I’m not sure who was more relieved when I re-entered the restaurant- me for finding my card safe and sound, or the waiter who likely wanted a tip for his work.

Later, when settling down to read a book (The Girl on the Train), I was disappointed when I couldn’t find my reading glasses. After an intensive search of all my bags and around my mother’s house where I was staying, I spun into full panic, realizing I’d actually lost my glasses. My new glasses!

Unfortunately, I didn’t stop there; I also suffered bouts of direction amnesia. Twice I went to my cousin’s house, passing her street both times, turning down a different road each time, losing my way. Honestly, it was as though my mind had been removed the minute I crossed state lines.

I did go back to the restaurant to retrieve my credit card (and actually pay my bill!); I found my cousin’s house AND took the correct route without incident upon my third trip there; and I did indeed find my “lost” glasses in my suitcase when I returned home from the trip. This “brain recovery” gave me some solace that I hadn’t totally lost my mind, but I’m still a little shaken from so many incidents. The good news is that there is a cure for vacation brain funk: arriving back home and diving into familiar routines. Simply getting back to work on daily work projects has settled my brain back into my head and strapped it in place. Well…as in place as It ever can be.

I hope I pull off my next vacation without incident. I shall put brain at the top of my packing list! One should, in my humble opinion, not leave home without it. Though, admittedly, doing so can lead to some interesting adventures. But…I’m not sure I want to take my chances as interesting could easily be replaced with horrifying, or just plain frustrating. 😉

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Help marketing your book

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As an Indie author I’m fully aware of the difficulties of getting your book noticed. I’d just like to create stories and have the marketing end of things fall magically into place. Is that so much to ask? I’m guessing yes. Unfortunately, to get readers to gravitate to your book, you need to be “known” or have excellent marketing skills. I can assure you, I don’t claim either point. But I do what I can, learning as I go, and I like to share what I know.

Here is a link to an article about a site where you can place your book and get more eyes on it. It’s free, which is a good thing for many of us, and very simple. The site is called Bookchoice4you. Take a look. I hope it’s something you find useful. I know I have. All the host asks of us (authors) is that we share information about the site with others. That’s a good thing for us as well as the host of the site.

Here is the article (nice and short, too!):http://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2015/05/13/30511/

If you are aware of any other helpful marketing tools, please feel free to share that information here.

Thank you so much, and happy writing (and reading!).

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Okay, I’ve written yet another short story. A “real” short story, not a short, short for a contest entry. But I’m not going to print the story here or say what it’s about (Ooh! How mysterious, right?). I’m mentioning it because as I take baby steps and sometimes giant, scary leaps into this “side adventure” of writing short stories while still working on my second novel, I hope and plan to share with you what I discover on my journey.

So if you have any interest in venturing into the world of writing (and hopefully selling) short stories, stay tuned. Or at least check in every now and again for tips and even some possible (probable?) stories of me tripping over a crack in the “sidewalk” as I follow this new path. But don’t despair, I will also share with you how I pick myself up and continue forward. Because I’m crazy like that. Optimism and hope fuel me, so I can assure you I do pick myself up.

Here is what I’ve learned so far:

1- Writing short stories is like writing novels only shorter. The writing is tighter.

2- I love writing tight.

3- Writing is “easy”; marketing is the hard part.

4- The more you read, the more you learn about the craft of writing and the business of writing.

5- Short stories CAN have happy endings!

6- Blogging does not come easy for me.

Okay, so I’ve learned a lot more things (thankfully!), but sharing 1-6 is a good place to start.

What you’ll notice if you check in on my blog now and again is that I prefer to write for inspiration and encouragement (giving those things, that is) more so than instructional or what have you. But I’ll do my best to supply a mix of all those things.

I haven’t been a fan of reading short stories in the past, but when I found myself drawn to writing some, I needed to venture out and educate myself on the process. What I found pleased me. There are a LOT of short stories and a myriad different ways to write them. The only rule is to keep it tight and, of course, short. Or at least shorter than most novels. Even the length varies! But mostly I was thrilled to discover that any story is acceptable. Meaning, write what you want, what you like, what thrills and interests you. Make your story precise, interesting and short, and voila! You have yourself a short story.

I sum it up this way because, being someone who likes precise instruction, I read through books about how to write short stories only to find I already knew all that stuff. Not to say I’m a know-it-all, but to express that if you know how to form fiction into a story, you are ready to write a short story (or novel!). So get to it. Take on the task with confidence and knowledge that you already possess what it takes. And keep reading! Long or short, doesn’t matter. Reading is your teacher.

So, aspiring short-story writers, I leave you know with a book recommendation. An oldie but very goodie. Guy de Maupassant. His personal story is tragic, but his short story collections are wonderful. Read and learn. It’s better than any “how-to” you’ll read.

http://americanliterature.com/author/guy-de-maupassant/bio-books-stories

Enjoy!

Writing inspiration

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What inspires me to write?

This is, I know, the burning question on everyone’s mind, so I’m finally bringing you the answer: reading. It’s as simple as that. When I’m reading a book I truly enjoy and connect with, my entire body hums with the desire to write. Honestly. I can’t wait to sit down in front of the computer and create a totally awesome piece of fiction (or at least the beginning of what will–surely?–become totally awesome).

Don’t misunderstand, I don’t read a book then write about the same topic. It’s really the writing that inspires me more than the specific story I’m reading. Does that make sense? When I read a book where I feel the writing is smart, witty, tight (not a lot of blah blah blah descriptions of scene or emotions), relatable and entertaining, I go nuts. Not every book fulfills those points for me, unfortunately, so when I find those that do, I can’t wait to sit down and attempt to do the same thing (again, not a duplicate of the story, but of the art of the writing).

An example of SOME of the books that have inspired me to keep writing:

“The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, “London Falling” by Emma Carr, “Blackberry Winter” by Sarah Jio and “Bridge of Scarlet Leaves”, by Kristina McMorris.

Of course there are many more, and there are also those that inspired me in general (not just my writing) such as “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, The “Josephine B.” trilogy by Sandra Gulland as well as all three books in The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett. Again, only a few listed here, but there are more.

Ironically, growing up, I wasn’t much of a reader. I wasn’t one of those girls who disappeared into the world of a book for any length of time. I read for school (required reading only) and that was about the extent of it. Not until my mid-thirties did I really develop into a true reader, a lover of books. Now, I’m not happy unless I have at least one book to read. And sometimes I’ll alternate between reading two books at the same time. That is to say I have them both in my house for reading at the same time and alternate between them at different times of the day, not actually reading them literally at the same time. Just so we’re clear.

So reading is as much of a gift to me as my (presumed) talent in writing. I “need” both of them in my life for the sake of happiness. I feel out of sorts when I don’t have a book at home to read and I’m even deeper out of sorts when I go too long without writing.

It’s good to know and follow our passions (unless that passion is very naughty… You fill in the rest). So I encourage all of you to do just that. Find what makes you feel fulfilled and inspires you to want more, then make it happen. And I’m not talking chocolate, though it does both those things for many of us, am I right?

Happy reading!

Foot in mouth moment

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As I stood in Pete’s waiting for my tea order, I noticed how few people were there that morning. In fact, I was first (and only) in line. Then a man walked in with a baby in the stroller and ordered a drink. Moments later, the barista made eye contact with me and assured me my drink would be ready in just a minute.

So when he placed a drink cup on the pick-up counter shortly after his statement, I naturally took the cup and turned to go. I stopped, however, when I sipped the drink and was greeted by a bitter swallow of yuck. Coffee! I ordered tea!

That’s right, I ordered tea. When I informed the barista he’d made a mistake, he informed me I was drinking someone else’s coffee. As the only other customer at that moment was the man with the baby, there was no doubt who the coffee belonged to. When my gaze reached his (or rather my look of horror!), he simply stared at me, looking a little dumbfounded, but not upset.

Embarrassed and wanting nothing more than to slink out of the establishment, I stepped to the side and waited for my order to come up so I could in fact run like hell.

Unfortunately, while I returned to waiting for my tea, I chose to open my mouth (mistake number one) and make nervous conversation with the other barista about my error. Never ever speak when you are nervous and feeling slightly abashed and humiliated. Trust me.

When I rattled on about what a dumb move I’d made, she smiled and reassured me it was a common error and not a problem (in spite of Mr. Grumpy Barista’s facial expression). So, to thank her for her kindness, I proceeded to insert my foot in my mouth at her expense.

“I’m really a blonde,” I said with a self-deprecating giggle, smiling innocently at the… You guessed it. The blonde barista whom I was speaking with. Mistake number two.

Could I curl up in a corner and pretend none of this ever happened? Or better yet, disappear?

Finally, after what felt like at least 30 minutes, I got my tea and walked out as fast as I could without actually running.

Is there a point to this story? Not really; except to caution against speaking (at all!) when you’ve already cast yourself as the least-sharpest-tool in the shed once. Why go for two?

All the Ways I Love Tea

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“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
Henry James

Okay, so maybe I don’t dedicate a full hour of my time to taking tea in the afternoon, but the half hour I manage to carve out is very agreeable. For me, drinking tea is a calming and soothing activity while also stimulating my mind. I can take two hours to finish one cup of tea as it sits beside me on a hotplate while I type out story after story (a slight exaggeration? I think yes), sipping between bursts of brilliant ideas. Well, maybe not brilliant ideas, I’d hate to take my exaggerations too far, but a flow of ideas at any rate.

I also enjoy a nice cup of tea in the middle of the afternoon or at the end of the evening. During both of those times, the tea (the same caffeinated black tea) is consumed for comfort rather than stimulating my mind. I’m a little fascinated at how the act of drinking tea can play different roles at different times, yet still be the very same tea in each instance.

I’m sure many “experts” and casual tea drinkers could go on about the numerous medicinal properties of several kinds of teas, but I’m not one of them. Tea is just tea to me; a simple, warm drink that is good for me as well as something that brings me comfort and at times (like when I see a Starbucks or Pete’s or any tea house or café!) joy. I also love iced tea, but I do not react to it in the same way. It’s simply a cold drink I enjoy the taste of. Hmmm, it seems I might be on to something. Could it be the warmth of the drink I’m being effected by rather than the content? I think maybe.

I believe it’s important, however, to find the things that comfort you. As long as those things are not harmful to ourselves or anyone else, they are necessary. So I encourage you to drink tea! Just kidding. But I do encourage you to find time in your days for activities that bring you comfort, especially in a world so full of things that do the opposite.

“While there’s tea there’s hope.”
Sir Arthur Pinero